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Earth Space Science

1,400 Megapixel Pan-STARRS Telescope Comes Online 54

Posted by timothy
from the don't-get-your-panstarrs-in-a-bunch dept.
ElectricSteve writes "Astronomers in Hawaii have announced they've successfully managed to boot up the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) telescope. Working from dusk to dawn every night, Pan-STARRS is able to map one-sixth of the sky each month, allowing astronomers to track all moving objects, calculate their orbits, and identify any potential threats to Earth. There are four Pan-STARRS cameras in total, each capable of capturing around 1.4 billion pixels over a sensor measuring 40 centimeters square. The focal plane of each camera contains an almost complete 64x64 array of CCD devices, each containing approximately 600x600 pixels, for a total resolution of 1.4 gigapixels."
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1,400 Megapixel Pan-STARRS Telescope Comes Online

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  • by symbolset (646467) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:23AM (#32687752) Homepage Journal
    Automation is good, but where are they going to get the humans to evaluate the gigabits per second of data? Are they looking for a volunteer effort, or have they got it?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's where the automation comes in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by aramosfet (1824288)
      No, they wont be snapping an image every second, They'll be taking long exposure pics to gather enough light. so you'd be snapping just a few pics every day. That being said analyzing all those pics could take lot longer, unless they have image analysis softwares which scan, analyze them all and and flag anything unusual.
      • by Kentari (1265084) on Friday June 25, 2010 @04:51AM (#32688040) Homepage

        Actually, accumulation time for Pan-Starrs survey images is typically only around 30 seconds, which is not dramatically different from other surveys. At 2.8 gigabytes of data per image (16-bits per pixel) you are looking at a data rate of 1.50 gigabit per second.

        Most of processing (calibration, star detection...) and object detection (asteroids, supernovae and other transient objects) is very automated, with minimal interference from humans. Next to the asteroid/supernova search the project will create a master sky image, adding all good images into one to create a comprehensive and deep survey of the cosmos.

        Source: Pan-Starrs Website [hawaii.edu].

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by inKubus (199753)

          I think this is a really exciting project because it's the first in a long line of possibilities to take whole-sky digital movies. You could conceivably add more of these arrays to the four corners of the globe and have a whole sky image even more frequently, up to daily. Then it's just a matter of "how deep" into space you're looking, and that's where the resolution comes in. More megapixels per frame means they can use a wider focal length to see a given depth into space. The next step after you reach

    • by imakemusic (1164993) on Friday June 25, 2010 @04:34AM (#32687984)

      I'm no astronomer, but presumably a computer can...

      1) Compare image to previous image.
      2) Highlight areas where there has been a significant change.
      3) ?????
      4) Show these bits to a human.
      5) Profit (for the human, not the computer).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by strack (1051390)
      id say its gonna be along the lines of ZOMG GUYZ SUPRNOVAR OVER HERE! QUICK POINT UR LOLASCOPES THIS WAI! to other large telescopes over the internet.
    • They could start up a SETI-like initiative, or a STARRS-picture-a-day with people (amateurs who don't know what to look for) reporting and analysing the pictures.

      But then they'll have to show the pictures with UFO's as well, so they have to first process the pictures and detect metallic floating objects, and pas those to the airbrush department before releasing them to the public, obviously.

      Point being, they'll always need the automated processing: be it to airbrush the UFO's out or to detect things of spec

    • They're going to automate the process, much like the people at the LHC have to automate particle track finding and fitting in their terabytes of data.

      http://www.cacr.caltech.edu/hotwired/program/presentations/htn.2007.pdf [caltech.edu]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      it's kind of sad, but in today's big cities you can't see stars. Light pollution, smog, whatever.
      personally, at some point I am going to miss them enough to go to a website where they want me to watch starry skies.

    • by radtea (464814)

      It may be a lot of pixels, but I have no idea what kind of particle they are detecting. Is it neutrinos, like the "telescope" reported yesterday, or cosmic ray muons, or something else entirely? All I know is that the system is imaging and can be focussed, and it uses CCD detection elements, which hardly narrows the field down at all.

      Since apparently "telescope" no longer means "optical telescope" I'm at a loss to understand what this one is looking at without more information than what is provided in the

  • by Capt_Idle (1830658) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:29AM (#32687768)
    "General, we've identified a potential threat to Earth - the machine is paying off."
    "Great news, colonel. What's the next strategic step."
    "Bring a towel".
  • Are there still areas in which amateur astronomers can contribute to science?

    Wasn't hunting for and tracking of objects in the solar system one of the last refuges for those amateurs?
    • by lollacopter (1758854) on Friday June 25, 2010 @04:32AM (#32687970)
      Some amateurs assist these kinds of projects via sites such ash http://www.galaxyzoo.org/ [galaxyzoo.org] which is a site that asks you to classify galaxies into types such as clockwise-spiral or elliptical etc. I know I like doing this as the skies around where I live are very light polluted so its nice to assist in some way I can, and there is just so much data to go through that all eyeballs are appreciated
    • by Kentari (1265084)

      With the advent of Pan-Starrs and LSST, discovering objects will become a lot harder for amateurs, which is already quite hard with LINEAR, CSS, SDSS, ... taking the bulk of discoveries of comets, asteroids and supernovae. There will still be some opportunities. I these surveys generally do not operate during dusk and dawn, creating a gap where amateurs can look for comets and supernovae. Some amateurs [cometography.com] already do this to beat LINEAR, CSS and other surveys.

      Amateurs have two huge advantages over professionals

    • by Threni (635302)

      Look for asteroids between the earth and the sun. That's where the threat to life on earth is, and no-one's taking it that seriously.

      • by Sperbels (1008585)
        No-one except everyone who's searching for asteroids...like Pan-Starrs, LINEAR, CSS, SDSS, and all those amateurs. If you're thinking we can't see asteroids between the earth and sun because of the sun's glare, you might want to go look at a sky chart and check to see if you can see Venus and Mercury in the night sky. And anyway, near earth asteroids aren't necessary always between the earth and sun, they cross outside the earth's orbit too.
  • If we could build giant LCD with 38,400x38,400 resolution, what would you call it, UUUQSXGA+++ ?
    • 1400 megapixel cameras will be standard in cell phones within 5 years. And their pictures will still look shitty and blurry.

      (cue the mmm ... 1400 megapixel pron jokes in 3 ... 2 .. 1 ... )
  • This story [slashdot.org] started back in Nov 2008, it took them 7 months to boot this thing up?! Must be an embedded system.

  • by Cyberia (70947) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:55AM (#32687844)

    AWWW RIGHT!!!! Where do I sign up? oh wait, Pan-STARSS... nevermind... thought it read 1,400 Megapixel Porn-STARSS.....

  • by cybereal (621599) on Friday June 25, 2010 @04:01AM (#32687862) Homepage

    Well that's great, it's nice to be able to see distant objects.

    But what if you want to SMELL distant objects! yeah! That's why it's no match for my smell-o-scope here. Now that I've perfected the stench coils and installed an automatic lens-cheese remover, you can rest easy knowing you'll soon be smelling astronomical odors thanks to me! // Yay Futurama is back!

  • What is 40 centimeters square? Is it 40cm x 40cm, or 40 square centimeters (40cm)?
    • 40cm is 40cm. And stop calling me a square.

    • A centimetre is a measure of length. Therefore a square centimetre is a centimetre horizontally, and a centimetre vertically, making one centimetre square. 40 centimetre square is 40 centimetres horizontally, and 40 centimetres vertically. It gives you one dimension (horizontal) and the "square" implies the shape of the object, so the second dimension is also 40cm.

      It's a 1600cm^2 sensor.
    • 40 cm square = (4 0x40) square cm === segmentation fault => EARTHQUAKE!!!!
  • Bad article (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kentari (1265084)

    Better information, though not of great quantity is found on the Pan=Starrs website [hawaii.edu].

    What is now online is the PS1 prototype on Haleakala. PS4 is the final goal of this project, which is basically 4 PS1 units each equipped with 1 1.4 Gigapixel camera, to be build on Mauna Kea. As usual there are delays and the project focus is now bringing PS1 to "full survey" status (which seems to be completed) and building the PS2 telescope, also on Haleakala.

    • by Shag (3737)

      Parent nailed it. To fill in a little bit - Pan-STARRS 1 was supposed to be operational for science by mid-late 2008, and the PS1 funders had agreed that if that were the case, they'd fund PS4. Due to some glitches in design of the secondary mirror truss or something, PS1 didn't give good results on time, and had to be reworked a little bit before it finally got rolling back around this February. They're looking for new/additional funders to finish the final system on Mauna Kea.

      I worked for the Institute

  • by Psaakyrn (838406) on Friday June 25, 2010 @05:05AM (#32688098)

    Somehow, I think there are more threats to Earth down here than up there..

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If only there was more than one human being alive on the earth so that we might be able to address more than one threat at a time. Oh wait...
    • by turing_m (1030530)

      Somehow, I think there are more threats to Earth down here than up there..

      At least the ones up there might be easily preventable, and immensely catastrophic if not corrected. If we knew an asteroid was on a collision course towards earth, we'd find a way to stop it, given enough time. And it would be worth it.

      The threats to earth from down here... most of them are higher probability but less devastating. And doing something to prevent them would mean that people might have to tolerate a bit of discomfort

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Somehow, I think there are more threats to Earth down here than up there..

      There's an effectively limitless supply of threats "up there". Any good-sized rock could kill us all. You could rephrase your statement in terms of probability...

    • by Sperbels (1008585)

      Somehow, I think there are more threats to Earth down here than up there..

      I hope you're not suggesting that we just abandon all non-humanist spending and use it to feed the poor, or build wind turbines? I can understand (barely) diverting money from the human space program...it's fairly expensive. But a ground based telescope? If you don't think there's a threat to earth, just ask a dinosaur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretaceous%E2%80%93Tertiary_extinction_event [wikipedia.org]) or maybe ask Jupiter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Shoemaker-Levy_9 [wikipedia.org])

    • Nah. Nothing on Earth will destroy the planet. Now wipe out all life that supports humanity... possible. Wipe out all life? Also nah. If nothing else lives, there will still be bacteria somewhere.

  • by aiht (1017790)
    STARRRRRRS! [neoseeker.com]
  • So who do I sell the hard disks to?

  • by Len (89493) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:10AM (#32691066)

    The article says Pan-STARRS can "identify any potential threats to Earth", but it can only find asteroids and comets that are about to hit us. They don't claim to be able to spot other threats, such as:

    • Dalek invasion fleet
    • Berserker machines
    • Chain reaction of supernovae
    • Radiation front from the collapse of the galactic core
    • Borg attack from the future
    • Galaxy-wide iPhone recall

    Stupid gadget blogs, over-hyping stuff as usual.

  • Why are they using 600x600 CCDs? That's only 0.36 megapixels. Surely there are more advanced CCDs than that.
    • by Genda (560240)

      Because the 600 x 600 pixel chips are large and fantastic light buckets... each pixel is capable of collecting many photons because it's relatively large. Light gathering is the name of the game in astronomy.

      • But large isn't the factor that matters - you can always change a secondary mirror to make the image as large or as small as you want. If by "fantastic light buckets" you mean they are very sensitive, that could be a reason.

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