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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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Man in a Tub
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: GlennLeDrew]
      #5491010 - 10/26/12 11:06 PM Attachment (20 downloads)

Quote:

Eventually my own web site will feature, among other stuff, an observer's guide to the Gould Belt and other associations.




Please let us know when that mission is accomplished.

The following parenthetical comment is all there is in the Hayden Planetarium's Digital Universe Guide.

Quote:

(The Gould Belt is a grouping of bright stars inclined to the Galactic plane that demonstrate recent star formation.)




A little skimpy. However, you can display something of the Gould Belt in a box.

(OK! OK! Just another plug for Digital Universe.)


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Dennis_S253
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Man in a Tub]
      #5491064 - 10/26/12 11:58 PM

Todd, how do you like this? I have seen this mentioned before. I guess u just start by downloading the atlas?

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Man in a Tub
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Dennis_S253]
      #5491174 - 10/27/12 03:09 AM

Get the "uncut" version for either Windows or MAC. Unzip to some location on your computer, e.g., "My Documents" in Windows. No installation needed. You run everything from the inside the unzipped folder. Follow the instructions/tutorials in the Digital Universe Guide.

Since 2005, I've downloaded several updated versions. Don't let the GUI put you off. The more you learn from the DU Guide and the Partiview User's Guide, the more you will enjoy the entire package! The Partiview User's Guide teaches you more about the Parti(cle)view(er) program that runs the 3D datasets.

There are only 100,269 stars in the Milky Way Atlas. Doesn't seem like a lot? I have a new computer and still can't display all 100,269 stars smoothly! There are commands to reduce the number of stars displayed.

The image I posted is full screen mode. The Partiview User's Guide tells you how to do this.



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DarkSkys
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Man in a Tub]
      #5491189 - 10/27/12 04:05 AM

coolio, just downloaded that. I've seen animation's done useing that, but I never knew were it came from.

Edited by DarkSkys (10/27/12 04:37 AM)


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Tony Flanders
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: drollere]
      #5491235 - 10/27/12 06:48 AM

Quote:

You raise an interesting point, namely -- which stars are in an association? ... you *can* find academic papers with exhaustive lists ...




Actually, what I usually find is academic papers arguing with other academic papers about which stars are members -- and for that matter, about how many different associations there really are.

Membership of star clusters is already a vexed subject, and associations are an even looser concept than clusters. It's fairly easy to make broad statistical statements, but often impossible to pin down the information for one particular star.


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CounterWeight
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5496116 - 10/30/12 12:35 PM

Hmmm After maybe 30 or so years in the hobby I had my decks cleared of most infomation by virtue of several brain strokes which left me quite diabled for several years. Astronomy is one of the few hobbies i am left to do now that I am as recovered as I can hope.

I sort of bristle a bit when anyone has something negative to say about mentality and GOTO and the hobby. I've never felt pinhole vision or reduced by it or anything else. GOTO works because there is a reference system. Funny that a converstaion about referece systems might start by slighting one that is so extraordinarily useful to so many from professional to child looking at a star chart.


I've never learned the constellations directly, don't see them as connected to astrometrics, astrophysics and cosmology at all except in an almost abstract sense. In determining location, apparent and so called 'proper' motion it more about spectra / magnitude and co-ord's as measuread at various times and places. As we get more information and better instrumentation the half life of 'facts' increases in proportion, or evaporates entirely.

Visually... Arc to Arcturus and speed on to Spica... this points at that and there is something interesting near there has always been my mode. Odd rhomboids or triangles pointing to others. I remember finding humor in folks that did know the constellations (somewhat) visiting first really dark skies and being somewhat confused, just too many stars

In ways I had no idea just how much I had tucked away until after my strokes and it was nearly all gone. Like a well known book and you turn to a favorite chapter and the pages are all blank. So I began again... here is where the planets transit, here is where the (i cannot actually see it from my white LP zone) disk of the galaxy is... that big square has pointers to that triangle... and there is M13!


Much of what we think we know is built upon reference systems of one sort or another and the methodology and classification criteria we build from these is copious. A good example of the transient nature of this is the thinking on quasi stellar sources over the last 40 years starting with their somewhat accidental discovery.

Going from very large scale to very small scale we indeed must use pinholes at times, if we need to be extremely precise, if that is the goal - as there are always folks that feel compelled to say things and it's the reference systems used that allow them to communicate about those objects and their relationship to other objects. So we have a need for perhaps more than one system of reference, but I for the life of me do not understand how RA and DEC or parsec/angle somehow hobble the amature astronomer (or professional for that matter). A reference system, if it is used in a motor driven computer or setting circles and paper charts is in many ways far more a help than a hinderance. I greatly prefer it to the somewhere in Orion approach, though if using binoc's or hand pointed scope "in the sword in Orions belt" is more than adequate assuming the person I am talking to understands what I mean by Orion and etc... same can be said for the spout or handle of the teapot? So in a sense you have to consider what is adequate to the task at hand? Here I refer to those often Arabic names and (at least for those of us in the west?) constellations that were and are quite useful for guiding across a desert with few landmarks for reference, and found equally useful by mariners transiting large bodies of water with sextant and clock.


I heartfelt agree that from a dark site, much becomes obvious in light of what those with a large scope and pinhole mentality - like Shapley - have contributed. From regions with LP issues (where most humans reside) it is 'IMO' at best a bit abstract even with some assistance by way of images, charts. Some classification schemes are a bit broad side of the barn like that of constellations, others like the H-R diagram a bit less so, and IMO the least arbitrary is the most precise which in many ways tells us the least - and that is the 'were exactly' in spacetime as we communicate about it. I don't think of it easy at all to do if I step back and consider what it took to get here.

I certainly am not recommending to have several brain strokes to really clear the boards as a good place to start. But I think whatever works for the task at hand is useful enough, whatever it might be.

Looking at anything with telescope or binoculars... easy to do? Posting it here on the internet with our computers and broadband providers? ... having the leisure to do so...

There are millions out there scrambling to get something to eat, and worse... count your blessings -I do.


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derangedhermit
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5496443 - 10/30/12 04:17 PM

The current observing forums here at CN:

NEO(Near Earth Objects)
Planetary and Solar System Observing
Lunar Observing
Deep Sky Observing
Double Star Observing
Solar
Variable Star Observing and Radio Astronomy

Or, grouped by distance:
Solar System:
- Solar
- Lunar
- NEO(Near Earth Objects)
- Planetary and Solar System Observing ("Solar System Observing" being "everything else" I guess

Milky Way:
- Double Star Observing
- Variable Star Observing and Radio Astronomy
- Deep Sky Observing

Extra-MW:
Deep Sky Observing
(Variable Star Observing and) Radio Astronomy

You could split "Deep Sky Observing" into "Milky Way" and "Other Galaxies", I suppose, to make more of a distinction and "make room" for discussion of the various local dark clouds and star groups. Other than that, the only overlap is in Radio Astronomy.


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drollere
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5499379 - 11/01/12 12:49 PM

Quote:

Membership of star clusters is already a vexed subject, and associations are an even looser concept than clusters. It's fairly easy to make broad statistical statements, but often impossible to pin down the information for one particular star.




yes, that's fair, and it's one aspect of the general problem that the galactic structure at almost any scale is very difficult to examine beyond the local neighborhood. and as i said, the fact that de zeeuw et al. reject six traditional associations as lacking a common proper motion put me on guard to treat the more distant associations skeptically.

this discussion spins off the wish of one poster to observe (look at, visualize) the members of an association. nobody ignores open clusters because they are hard to inventory ... my theme is that nearby associations, like nearby open clusters, are not part of the average astronomer's mental map of the Galaxy and our place in it. it's more likely to be an enormous roof with quaint mythical figures pasted on it, each figure ornamented here and there with the pinpoint locations of tiny specific objects.


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drollere
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5499586 - 11/01/12 04:19 PM

Quote:

I certainly am not recommending to have several brain strokes to really clear the boards as a good place to start. But I think whatever works for the task at hand is useful enough, whatever it might be.




counterweight, i enjoyed your dissent and the fact that your health issues don't seem to have impaired your verbal skills. best wishes to you.

but, like others, you seize on the wrong end of my argument.

i am at present primarily a double star astronomer, and there is no way i could productively observe those critters without a reliable GOTO and equatorial coordinate system.

i also grew up in the era of Cave telescopes and i firmly believe that starhopping is an essential observing skill and a very effective route to learning the place and shape of asterisms -- not the ridiculously cobbled stick figure myth markers but all those simple geometric forms and angles that allow you to find something you can't see in the finder with visible stars -- that "Y" of naked eye stars that brackets M31, for example, or the curve of stars that leads to M11.

and of course ... why are we looking except to look *at* something significant. the fact that the "something significant" is visually very small means we need a telescope and examine a very tiny area of sky, one area at a time. so there is nothing misplaced in any of that.

but by "bristling a bit", you seem to have overlooked my four key points:

1. for many amateur astronomers, even relatively advanced astronomers, tiny objects distributed inside tracts of constellation real estate is "all there is". that is fundamentally how most astronomers conceptualize the contents of the sky.

2. if any amateur astronomer wanted to go "beyond the constellations", or "unlearn the constellations" (so that the visual sky could be organized with explicitly astronomical or physical concepts), there is a dire paucity of reference material to help him (with gratitude to the posters above who have pointed to a few exceptions).

3. worse, the lack of resources, and the constellation constriction in the standard literature, teach the amateur astronomer, explicitly, that "this is the only way," that there really *isn't* any other meaningful way to organize astronomical lore: learn the constellations, learn the messier list (and the silly names that go with it -- "owl," "crab," "wild duck," etc.), and be satisfied.

4. which is too bad, in my view, because knowing the galactic landscape leads you naturally into fundamental questions about galactic structure and galactic processes; knowing the celestial myths takes you into cultural archaeology, comparative religion, and 17th century celestial iconography.

our eyes look at the hubble images, but our heads organize the images with nothing more sophisticated than bayer's uranometria. the first step is to discard uranometria, unlearn the myths, and approach the sky with fresh and uncluttered eyes.


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Tony Flanders
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: drollere]
      #5499647 - 11/01/12 05:15 PM

I think you're conflating two utterly distinct issues.

First, you're urging people to go beyond the 2-dimensional appearance of the sky and grasp the true 3-dimensional distribution of the objects that you're seeing -- and what it signifies.

I completely agree. Though it's worth remembering that there are actually two utterly distinct 3D structures out there -- our own galaxy and the clusters, strings, and filaments on which it and the other visible galaxies hang.

Second, you seem to have a specific animus against the traditional constellations as a means of organizing the 2-dimensional apparent sky. Frankly, I think that's a bit frivolous.

Yes, the traditional 48 or 49 constellations are mostly quite arbitrary, and the 40 newcomers are, by and large, much more ridiculous still. However, they're what we've got, and they're not about to be replaced -- any more than the ridiculous spelling of the English language is about to be rectified.

It's all very well to go beyond the 2-dimensional apparent sky, but before you go go beyond it you have to learn it. And that requires some organizational structures. I certainly have some private organizational structures all my own, but it's mighty handy to share some with every other stargazer in the world -- which I do via the 88 constellations.

Moreover, the constellations are dignified by their truly immense history. If they were good enough for Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, and Herschel, they're good enough for me.


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Crossen
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5499715 - 11/01/12 06:47 PM

Unfortunately the books most of us began our astronomical adventures with taught us the constellations through the associated Graeco-Roman astro-myths. However, most of those myths were created to explain what was already in the sky because about 60% of the 48 Classical constellations were inherited by the Greeks from the earlier Sumero-Babylonian civilizations of Mesopotamia. The early Greeks did do some of their own constellation invention: in particular, some of the constellations of the Perseus-Andromeda and Argo groups are Greek innovations. However, the majority of the constellations even in those two groups have Mesopotamian antecedents.

Because most of the Mesopotamian constellations we can identify seem to have been organized in the early 3rd and the 4th millennia BC, it is difficult or impossible to know why most of them were formed. Certainly many of them reflect early Sumerian religion. However, soon after they were invented, the Sumerians placed the 4-wheeled wagon, the 2-wheeled chariot, and the plow among the stars--which had nothing to do with religion.

Moreover, the earliest constellation lists we possess from Mesopotamia, which were written down in the centuries around 2000 BC, were NOT organized according to religious or mythological criteria. They begin with the Pleiades, which were simply called "The Constellation." Then comes the Pole Star. Then comes a section of planets and constellations with bright stars: Venus, Sirius, Orion, Centaurus, Taurus. (Of course I use the Classical, not the Mesopotamian, names.) Then follows a group of three constellations with names preceded by a determinative meaning that they were objects made of wood: the Plow, the Wagon, and the Chariot. Finally there is a section that lists several constellations in basic west-to-east order: specifically Corvus, Hydra, Libra, Scorpius, the Altar, and Sagittarius (with a couple groups interjected).

Thus these lists are ordered by a mixture of lexicographic and astronomical criteria--NOT by religious or mythological criteria. They represent the effort to see the heavens according to intellectual principles. Indeed, they are truly scientific documents, because the beginning of true science is classification (species in biology, rock-types in geology, clouds in meteorology) and organization.

The constellations therefore are an integral part of the history of the science of astronomy. Tony is right: when we use them we are simply following in the footsteps of great early astronomers like Eudoxos, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy. What we should "unlearn" is not the constellations themselves, but the historically inaccurate idea that the constellations are merely residuals of ancient religion, mythology, and superstition, inaccurate notions that have been perpetrated by older writers of introductory astronomy guidebooks who themselves seem to have been ignorant about the true nature of constellation history and Mesopotamian civilization.

Craig Crossen


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GlennLeDrew
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5499824 - 11/01/12 07:57 PM

Bruce,
DeZeeuw and gang didn't reject more distance associations because of lack of common proper motion. There was in at least some cases sufficient commonality of motion. Rather, their work also relied on parallax measurements (from Hipparcos) for the determination of space motion. Beyond some 600 pc, the errors on the parallax were too large.

If and when the ESO's Gaia mission gets going, the two orders of magnitude improvement in astrometric accuracy will inaugurate a revolution in spatial mapping and dynamics.


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MikeRatcliff
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Crossen]
      #5499829 - 11/01/12 08:00 PM

Just wanted to thank Bruce and the others for this fine thread! One of the best I've read.

I'll mention Atlas of the Universe as a source that has helped me see how things are organized.

www.atlasoftheuniverse.com

Mike


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Plan9
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5499921 - 11/01/12 08:58 PM

Quote:


Second, you seem to have a specific animus against the traditional constellations as a means of organizing the 2-dimensional apparent sky. Frankly, I think that's a bit frivolous.




"Animus" sounds harsh, Tony. I took it that Bruce's complaint (if you want to even call it that) was that the current way of organizing things interferes with seeing them any other way. I was kind of imagining a new set of constellations that actually represent stars in proximity to each other; I wouldn't expect that to be as easy to visualize or memorize, but might be more instructive.

Quote:


If they were good enough for Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, and Herschel, they're good enough for me.





Didn't Galileo rearrange our conception of the heavens? *

Bill

* OK, Copernicus first


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Dennis_S253
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: MikeRatcliff]
      #5499976 - 11/01/12 09:32 PM

Hey Mike, thx for that link. Bruce, maybe we just don't speak the same language??? I am not hung up on the constellations. To tell the truth, I maybe know 15 or so. The only one that (to me) looks like anything is scorpius. I see that big tail with stinger and the claw. I'm not into the myth story's per say. Yes, I have heard a few. The thing that makes me wonder is "how" did the old ones get all there idea's? They didn't have light pollution, I don't think. And as some have said, from a dark sky there are so many stars that it is hard to pick out constellations. Orion is just a bunch of stars. Bright stars that make a pattern that is one of the most reconized. I'm sure that (I know) all them stars are not all associated with each other. They are however associated with Orion at this time. What it looks like 100,000 years from now??? I'm sure there are ways of finding out.

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Dennis_S253
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Dennis_S253]
      #5500019 - 11/01/12 09:56 PM

Also, how in your 3D, how do you show 2 stars, that are 2 degrees apart but, 1 star is 28LY away with a mag of 4.35 and a star 1000LY away with a 5.10 mag?

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drollere
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: GlennLeDrew]
      #5501115 - 11/02/12 03:18 PM

Quote:

DeZeeuw and gang didn't reject more distance associations because of lack of common proper motion. There was in at least some cases sufficient commonality of motion. Rather, their work also relied on parallax measurements (from Hipparcos) for the determination of space motion. Beyond some 600 pc, the errors on the parallax were too large.

If and when the ESO's Gaia mission gets going, the two orders of magnitude improvement in astrometric accuracy will inaugurate a revolution in spatial mapping and dynamics.




glenn, i don't have the doctoral thesis, but the published de zeeuw paper states that only CPM was analyzed in the modified convergent point method (p.358) and radial velocities were not used in the "spaghetti method" because "high quality radial velocities are available only for a small subset of the stars" (p.359). they did use parallax to limit stars within a common radial distance, but in effect the allowed range is (reading from their graphs) 1.5 to 6 mas (~500 pc).

i agree: GAIA is an amazing technical ambition and execution, even with the limitations imposed by budget ... as you say it will give an extraordinarily refined view of the local Galaxy. and papers, papers, papers of analysis.


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drollere
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5501173 - 11/02/12 04:07 PM

Quote:

You seem to have a specific animus against the traditional constellations as a means of organizing the 2-dimensional apparent sky. Frankly, I think that's a bit frivolous.

Yes, the traditional 48 or 49 constellations are mostly quite arbitrary, and the 40 newcomers are, by and large, much more ridiculous still. However, they're what we've got, and they're not about to be replaced -- any more than the ridiculous spelling of the English language is about to be rectified.

... Moreover, the constellations are dignified by their truly immense history. If they were good enough for Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, and Herschel, they're good enough for me.




tony, i have to thank you for expressing with flair the point of view i called out in my point #3 above. the point of view that: the constellations are how we do things, they are the only way to do things, they are the only way we have ever done things, there is no other fruitful or useful way to do things ... so shut up.

yes, they're ridiculous, arbitrary and antique, but i've made them mine! so make them yours!

i can understand how young or novice astronomers might find that viewpoint intimidating, but to my old ears it is the familiar squealing argument that always greets the proposal for fundamental change. it is, in fact, as time hallowed and empty as the constellations themselves.

my "animus" is not against asterisms per se -- as i said, the whole point of "unlearning" the constellations is to free up the raw visual stuff in the sky so that it can be organized according to other principles and objectives. my "animus" is against the baggage that comes with the constellations. why learn to pick up and haul around baggage, when you'll just put it down later?

i'm proposing the next step in what actually has been a long term, incremental and perfectly reasonable process of constellation deconstruction, from babylonian symbols and uncanny supernatural entities to empty tracts of IAU real estate. in the modern era, constellations as lore, as figures, as myths, have no justifiable relevance to a basic understanding of our place in the galactic landscape. we may as well use galen to learn anatomy.

of course, as cultural history, as comparative religion, as the stuff of burnham raptures over old coins and flaking frescos, some people will find pleasure in the pursuit -- and as tristram shandy well said, everyone has their hobby horse, and they should be able to ride it as merrily as they please. just don't block the doorway to something different.

aside from my objection to your tone and obstructionist premise, i don't have any objection. that really is the point that you and others fail to concede. and that indicates that you cannot argue against my proposal in good faith. indeed, false argument is your game. i doubt that universal orthography and grammar have the same weight of tradition as the quaint pictorialism of antique charts, or that the history of mythical iconography is as "immense" as, say, the history of britain. but make those falsely grand arguments if you like -- others can use them to test their own gullibility.

all that points up the fact that i do not have a *substantive proposal* to replace the constellations, only a proposal in concept and in principle. but you're motivated to hinder rather than help, so that's not an objection that you're qualified to raise.


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derangedhermit
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: drollere]
      #5501283 - 11/02/12 05:45 PM

Should it be based on the galactic coordinate system?

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mountain monk
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Re: unlearning the constellations new [Re: derangedhermit]
      #5501339 - 11/02/12 06:34 PM

"...papers, papers, papers of analysis."

According to Harvard Magazine (May/June, 2012), researchers in astronomy are generating 7,000 articles a month and one robotic telescope can generate 10-20 gigs of data a night. There is plenty to analyze.

An interesting thread. Thanks.

Dark skies.

Jack


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