A group of South African astronomers announced on Saturday the discovery of more than a thousand galaxies never before known to have been seen or recorded by human beings. The astronomers “were showing off the first taste of the ultimate cosmic feast of what is to come, at least as seen from this particular dusty crumb called Earth,” writes Dennis Overbye at the New York Times:
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When it’s done, sometime around 2030, the Square Kilometer Array, as it is known, will be the largest telescope ever built on our planet. It will consist of thousands of radio antennas that will collectively cover a square kilometer (hence the name), spread out in mathematically intricate patterns in South Africa and Australia.
The telescope is being built by an international collaboration with its headquarters at the University of Manchester in England. The first phase, to be completed in 2023, will cost 650 million euros.
Astronomers estimate that it will pull some 35,000-DVDs-worth of data down from the sky every second. So much that it would take 2 million years to play on your smartphone.
For now the bounty consists of the radio glow of some 1,300 distant galaxies spotted in a patch of sky about 20 times the size of the full moon, where only 70 galaxies had been counted before.
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Science isn’t the only concern at Arecibo. In fact, the majority of people at the meetings discussed the role the observatory plays in inspiring and training Puerto Rican students, some 20,000 of whom visit the site every year.
Though it’s hard to quantify, the value of inspiration and education is not insignificant, especially considering how underrepresented Hispanic students are in the sciences.
As evidence, several students involved in the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy spoke about how important their time at the observatory was, and how this pre-college program gave them hands-on research experience that continues to affect their lives.
“I can say that AOSA has had a great impact on my life,” said Adriana Lopez, a 14-year-old space academy alum. “Always, in my life, I’ve been fascinated with space, and it has led me to join several camps, but none of them have affected me like AOSA.
The agency says that the angle of the sunlight that strikes its tracks creates glare that blinds the CCTVs that train-drivers use to ensure that the platform is clear before pulling out of the station. Read the rest
TV astronomer and author Mark Thompson uses a pig eye he got from his local butcher to demonstrate what happens to people who make the mistake of looking at the sun through a telescope. Read the rest
For amateur astronomers, tonight is an exciting night.