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Space Science

Bill Gates and Microsoft Fund Telescope 171

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the he's-still-a-nerd-people dept.
coondoggie writes "Bill Gates and the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences this week donated $30 million to an ambitious telescope that researchers say will be able to survey the entire sky every three nights — something never done before. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project got $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates. Expected to see its "first light" in 2014, the 8.4-meter LSST will survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its 3 billion-pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move. With the telescope scientists will be able to quickly find Earth-threatening asteroids and exploding stars called supernovas and will be able to map out 100 billion galaxies, according to researchers."
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Bill Gates and Microsoft Fund Telescope

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  • by Laguerre (1198383) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:38AM (#21923066)
    There is no place on earth where you can see the entire night sky over three days. There will always be stars hidden.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:53AM (#21923188)
    Indeed. Cerro Pachon [gemini.edu] is at 30 degrees south, in central Chile, meaning that a fair portion of the northern sky won't be visible.
  • by $random_var (919061) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:56AM (#21923220)
    ...not Bill Gates and Microsoft. Anybody making that misattribution clearly didn't even read the headline of the actual article, let alone the chunk of text quoted in the summary.
  • Re:ah! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Chief Camel Breeder (1015017) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @12:12PM (#21923386)

    Yes, it probably will.

    All modern control systems for research telescopes and instruments involve a supervisory layer and that is often run on a Unix or Unix-like system. LSST also has to do an unprecedented amount of soft-real-time processing on the data stream (see their tour page [lsst.org], and this kind of astronomical software typically runs on Linux and/or Unix.

  • by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @12:29PM (#21923550)

    Galactic rotation curves are only one of the pieces of evidence of dark matter. There is also a lot of evidence due to weak lensing that there are large invisible mass distributions. The Bullet Cluster is an especially impressive observation of two clusters colliding. The shockwave from the baryonic gases smacking into each other has separated the hydrogen from the dark matter, as seen when you overlay the xray map and the mass distribution reconstructed with weak lensing. Modified theories of gravity can most easily explain discrepancies when the visible matter and apparent invisible matter are concentric (such as in rotation curves). Then you just need to tweak the radial force strength at large distance. But in a system like the bullet cluster, the visible and dark matter have been separated, and that's a lot harder to explain with modified gravity. (Not that people aren't trying, of course...)

    Astronomers fought long and hard against dark matter, but grudgingly accepted it after it became more and more difficult to explain galactic rotation curves, weak lensing, the large scale structure of galactic clusters, and the power spectrum of variations in the cosmic microwave background without it. It all fits together much better when you introduce a very weakly interacting source of mass into the soup that makes up the universe. (Weakly interacting enough to become a nearly collisionless fluid early on during the expansion of the universe.) The smoking gun will be the detection of dark matter in a controlled lab setting. Those searches are just now beginning to ramp up.

  • Re:ah! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2008 @12:50PM (#21923826)
    Wrong. Most use TRON, QNX, or other real-time OS. Linux, even with the real-time patches, doesn't cut it.
  • Re:ah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by NixieBunny (859050) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @01:03PM (#21923970) Homepage
    I work at Steward Observatory, who is a major collaborator in the LSST project (and will make its mirror). The telescopes that Steward makes usually use Linux for the control systems, since it provides a reasonable level of real-time control capability and is fairly sane to administer. Telescope control requires getting rather close to the hardware, some thing that Windows is not especially good for. Our office is pretty much a 50-50 mix of Windows and Linux machines, with Windows used grudgingly in most cases for engineering software.

    But they may use a big honkin' Microsoft data server farm to manage the images if they get that much money from Microsoft-enriched folks.

  • by johannesg (664142) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @01:51PM (#21924442)
    These things don't show up with 4-hour warning. If you look carefully, you can see them coming years, even decades in advance. That gives us a reasonable amount of time to deflect it (which could be as easy as painting one half of it white!).
  • Re:ah! (Score:4, Informative)

    by chrisd (1457) * <chrisd@dibona.com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:39PM (#21924930) Homepage
    Please note that the LSST -isn't- about os politics, but about near earth object detection, and the telescope is going to create a crapton of data that needs storing and processing but last I talked with the engineering team, they were planning on running Linux across the -many- machines they need to process the data.

    Chris DiBona

  • Re:ah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Your.Master (1088569) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @03:25PM (#21925384)
    His version of Hungarian notation was a bit different from the one used now. For him, it wasn't type as in string vs. int vs. pointer to a long, it was about different kinds of data within types. For instance, a string guaranteed to be valid & null terminated would have one prefix and a string with no such guarantee could have another.

    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Wrong.html [joelonsoftware.com]

    sName and nCount is a bit of a perversion on that theme, given that a good IDE will show you the type if you want it and a compiler will throw errors everywhere if you use the wrong type. Arguably, things like typedef also make Simonyi's Hungarian obsolete.

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