Use the net to go ‘around the world in 80 telescopes’

Use the net to go ‘around the world in 80 telescopes’London, April 3: In a live 24-hour webcast today, anyone on the Internet will get a unique opportunity to explore some of the most advanced astronomical observatories both on and off the planet, as part of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) initiative ‘Around the World in 80 Telescopes’.

The webcast would start with a broadcast from the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii at 10am BST, night time in Hawaii, moving around the globe for whistle-stop tours of the international observatories, while the large telescopes are exploring night skies, observing distant galaxies, searching for extrasolar planets around other stars, or studying our own solar system.

It starts off at the Mauna Kea peak in Hawaii, one of the best places in the world for observatories thanks to the altitude and clear air conditions and the home of UK participating telescopes like the United Kingdom Infra-Red Telescope (UKIRT) and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT).

The telescopes include gravitational-wave detectors such as GEO600 which search for ripples in space-time, space-borne telescopes like SWIFT, STEREO and XMM-NEWTON, and ground-based telescopes such as the Very Large Telescope VLT at the European Southern Observatory’s site in Chile, plus the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in Cheshire.

According to Robin Clegg, Head of Science in Society at STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council), said, “Exciting astronomical discoveries and indeed the range of telescopes in use are inspirational and stimulate young people to get engaged with science and technology subjects at school,” Clegg added.

As the Earth turns on its axis and the sun rises on Hawaii, the webcast moves around the world, visiting the Anglo-Australian Telescope at 1pm BST, Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester at 6pm BST, the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands at 12.10am BST (Saturday morning), finishing up at the Palomar Observatory in California at 09.40am BST, along with dozens of other observatories in between.

“As thousands of local events are being held around the country to celebrate the 400 years since Galileo made his first revolutionary observations and sketches of the Moon, Around the World in 80 Telescopes gives everyone the chance to see the amazing work that professional astronomers do, furthering the boundaries of our knowledge and helping us understand our place in the Universe,” said Steve Owens, UK coordinator for IYA 2009.

Around the World in 80 Telescopes is happening as part of the IYA 2009’s 100 Hours of Astronomy project, which runs from 2-5 April. (ANI)

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