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Nick Howes reports on the dot astronomy 3 conference
BY NICK HOWES
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 05 April 2011


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This three day conference at New College Oxford is unusual in the world of astronomy, in that whilst being primarily acamdemic driven, it focuses on new media and associated technologies and how they can best aid and assist the astronomical community, from citizen science projects, like the hugely successful GalaxyZoo, through to more esoteric topics, such as the best programming languages to use for astronomical application development. Sponsored by companies like Amazon web services and the LCOGT network amongst others, the event kicked off with a truly brilliant talk by the eminent Jill Tarter of the Seti institute. She outlined their latest project SetiQuest, which will work closely with the existing Zooniverse projects, and described how difficult it is to detect even with the huge amount of computing power now available the key signatures in the radio domain that could indicate intelligent life. Read more about SetiQuest in our report here.


SetiQuest aims to take the popular SETI@home project (the screen saver software which analyses radio data from the Arecibo telescopes is shown here), to the next level.
 

Following on from this were talks about the LCOGT Robotic telescope network by Dr Ed Gomez, who presented their plans to install up to 42 telescopes globally, which will open up the previously education based LCOGT network to a more amateur community. Then followed a talk by Mike Peel on the use of Wikimedia in astronomy, and Matt Wood of Amazon discussing cloud computing and data management, a key problem when some projects are generating 100TB of data/day. Rounding off the morning Dr Chris Lintott of Oxford University discussed the problems associated with the mindset of the Internet, a very enlightening talk.

Following lunch in the beautiful environs of New College Oxford with its Harry Potter-esque dining hall, the conference split into groups, each discussing in a more informal relaxed manner, specific areas. I joined two talks on development of sub £1000 space satellites using almost matchbox sized off the shelf components, a project which would appeal to the engineers of the future in schools and at undergraduate level, but also enable some quite remarkable exploration projects in our Solar System. For example, the micro satellites would tag onto existing space missions before seperation into unique missions (discussions on Mars and Lunar landings were abound). This proved to be a truly heated and fascinating debate. Wrapping up the day was a presentation on a new and quite unique project for robotic telescope collaboration managed from Spain, using completely new and open source connection technologies funded by EU grants.

The conference continues over the next two days; key speakers include Jonathan Fay, the developer of the incredible Microsoft WorldWide Telescope, Francisco Sancheez-Moreno, who's team are developing the GLORIA network of robotic scopes, and Dr Pamela Gay who many of our readers may know from her work on the Astronomy Cast broadcast on Astronomy.FM. Find out more about the conference here.

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