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A big week for astronomy March 30, 2009

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100hastronomy

This week, starting 2 April, one of the biggest events in the International Year of Astronomy will take place. 100 Hours of Astronomy, one of the year’s Cornerstone programmes, will get thousands of people looking through a telescope at the skies, just like Galileo did 400 years ago, over the course of 5 nights. Tons of great events are taking place, from star parties organised by local astronomy organisations around the world to global webcast events.

The webcast events look particularly fun. The first, called Live Science Centre, will allow anyone with a weblink to participate in discussions about space and astronomy throughout history with scientists in places as far-flung as Germany, South Africa and the US. The Science Centre webcast takes place on 2 April at 17:00 UTC (follow the link to see the time at your location). Around the World in 80 Telescopes is a really cool continuous 24-hour webcast, starting on 3 April at 09:00 UTC that hops around 80 world-class telescopes scattered around the globe and in space to follow live what astronomers are up looking at.And yes, that does include the space telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer and the newly launched Kepler!

This is really one of the big highlights of the IYA and it will be well worth your while to take a peek. So follow the jump over to the website to see what’s happening in your area and mark the webcasts in your diaries. You can also get updates via twitter (@100Hours and @telescopecast). If you own a telescope, take it out onto the street and get your neighbours out.

Prime real estate for astronomy November 12, 2008

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Cordon Macon, a candidate site of the E-ELT

Cordon Macon, a candidate site of the E-ELT

I recently spotted this great image on the ESO website, where it was “ESO Chile Image of the Month” a while ago.  It’s an eastward view over Cordon Macon, located in the Argentinian province of Salta and one of the candidate sites for the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT. The equipment used for monitoring of the site is just a tiny speck on the ridge, shown enlarged in the inset.

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400 Years of Telescopes in the Media October 3, 2008

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Giant Magellan Telescope/Carnegie Observatory

Artist's rendering of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Image credit: Giant Magellan Telescope/Carnegie Observatory

Scientists generally know of only one direction: forward! But sometimes it’s good to look back and take stock of what scientists have done in the past and what it all means. This week marked the perfect opportunity for retrospection for astronomers worldwide, precisely 400 years after the invention of the telescope, right here in the Netherlands. I’ve blogged about this important anniversary before, and I  wanted to flag up some nice media coverage. The uptake hasn’t been great in the mainstream media actually – but maybe I’ve missed it. Post a comment if you find a good story!

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Borg Astronomy September 25, 2008

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One thing that became clear from the talks at .Astronomy is that the days of our traditional model of observational astronomy are numbered, and the Web 2.0 lies at the very heart of the transformation. A shift is occurring in the philosophy of astronomical research.

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Beyond Hubble: Gearing up for JWST September 21, 2008

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NASA JPL-CalTech

This model of the MIRI detector (in green) is similar to the charge-coupled devices in digital cameras. It's housed in the brick-like unit called a focal plane module. Credit: NASA JPL-CalTech

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, has enabled some amazing advances in astronomy and enthralled people around the world with stunning imagery from space. A final servicing mission will travel to the Hubble later this year for one last upgrade to carry the telescope through to the end of its life.

Meanwhile, in laboratories across the US and Europe, preparations have been in full swing for Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. Just two days ago, NASA issued a press release reporting on a crucial milestone in the development of JWST’s instrument for the mid-infrared wavelength regime (from 5 to 28 microns), MIRI – website here. For the last 4 days I’ve been holed up in the lab over in the UK to help prepare for the final flight testing of MIRI, due to take place in a year’s time.

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