May 28, 2020

28.03.11: Einstein@Home Bags Pulsar #2.

Crowd-sourced citizen science bagged another astrophysical biggie this month. Einstein@Home, everyone’s favorite desktop screensaver program, announced the discovery of a new potential pulsar pair earlier this month. Like SETI@Home, this program utilizes idle computing time to analyze avalanches of data looking for signals. In the case of Einstein@Home, the data received comes from LIGO,VIRGO, and more recently, Arecibo.

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31.03.10- S.E.T.I. Turns 10!

Tired of waiting for E.T. to call? Late last year, the distributed computing program that started it all,, turned ten. One of the most scientifically ambitious programs run before bedtime, SETI@Home showed us that computers could do more than display flying toasters in their spare time.  In fact, word of the first SETI@Home way back in ’99 initially convinced us here at Astroguyz that we probably should get a home computer, and we’ve been hooked ever since. Sure, the Vulcan home world has yet to present itself, but this is one of those experiments that even one confirmed positive hit would have some amazing implications!

In 2001, SETI@Home essentially became the world’s largest collective super-computer. But what you may not realize are the changes that have been made, and the ones that are in store. In 2006, a multi-beam sky survey was introduced. Then in 2007, the Astropulse Survey was launched. Further upgrades to come are a Near-Time Persistency Checker, searches beyond the current 2.5MHz Band, and new methods of limiting terrestrial radio interference, as well as a means for users to share new data. What we’d also like to see is a dedicated SETI@Home platform, perhaps via the Allen Telescope Array. SETI currently piggybacks off of Arecibo data, which itself spends most of its time staring at extra-galactic sources, not prime alien country. Anyway, if you haven’t, now’s the time to donate that idle CPU time for what could be the discovery of this or any other century!

02.11.09:The Low-Down on LOFAR.

European radio astronomers at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) have recently opened a potentially new window on the universe with an exotic new instrument. Dubbed LOFAR, or the Low Frequency Array, this unique instrument will examine the sky at extremely low radio frequencies, with a low band of 30 to 78 MHz and a complimenting high band of 120 to 168 MHz. In contrast, the radio dish at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico operates in a range of 400-5000 MHz. We’re talking very low frequencies, in a range not well understood. Three arrays currently centered on Exloo in the Netherlands saw first “radio light” earlier this year, examining the powerful radio source Cygnus A, a suspected black hole candidate. As computer power increases, scientists hope to add arrays across Europe from Britain to the Ukraine to increase the resolution of the array. The low gain antenna masts are simple and cheap to construct, and are basic omni-directional dipole antennas utilizing a synthetic aperture. LOFAR will map events at low radio frequencies, from ionization in the Earth’s atmosphere caused by gamma-ray bursts to corneal mass ejections on the Sun to re-ionization of neutral hydrogen in the primordial universe. And that’s not to mention any surreptitious discoveries that always seem to crop up when a new portion of the electromagnetic spectrum gets analyzed… perhaps some ultra-advanced race communicates via low frequency black hole resonances? I seem to remember a plot in Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth that involved intelligent aliens and low frequency waves… watch for LOFAR “antenna farms” cropping up along the European country-side soon!

Astro-Event of the Week: 19-25 August 2008; Spot the globular cluster M13.

As the Moon wanes from the evening night, thoughts here at Astroguyz turn towards the wonders of the deep sky.

One of the finest sights in the northern hemisphere is the globular cluster M13  in the constellation Hercules. [Read more...]