Israel to lead int’l ‘virtual space journey’ tonight

Bareket Observatory teams up with NASA for a "journey through a telescope" available through an international webcast.

April 10, 2011 01:20
2 minute read.
Whirlpool Galaxy

whirlpool galaxy 311. (photo credit: Bareket Observatory)


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On Sunday and Monday evenings, galaxies located millions of light years away from Earth will seem a whole lot closer to the human eye.

In honor of Global Astronomy Month, the Bareket Observatory, located east of Maccabim, near Modi’in, will team up with NASA and American experts to lead a live “virtual space journey through a telescope,” available to audiences through an international webcast, and will incorporate “sonification” – musical representation that turns light photons into sound – for blind listeners as well.

“The public will be able to reach this content that, most of the time, is only available to a very specific region of the population,” said Ido Bareket, a physicist and team member at the observatory, whose parents opened the observatory 25 years ago.

The telescope will hone in on images of nebulae, galaxies, asteroids, minor planets, distant quasars (quasi-stellar radio sources) and extra-solar planet systems, the observatory reported. These images will be captured through the Bareket remote robotic Internet telescope, with accompanying musical representation by Marty Quinn of Design Rhythmics Sonification Research Lab in New Hampshire and expert commentary by Dr. Mark Hammergren of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

The hope is that individuals, museums and schools will tune in all over the globe. The two webcasts will occur on Sunday and Monday at 9-11 p.m. Israel local time, 6-8 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, 2-4 p.m. in New York, and so on.

This is the observatory’s second international webcast, the first having occurred in 2009 to commemorate the International Year of Astronomy, as told in the still-available video from two years ago. During that presentation, viewers were able to see and learn about “birth, life and death of stars,” which are “just like people; stars have unique stories to tell,” as narrated by Hammergren.

Unlike the 2009 webcast, which was shown on the Bareket Observatory website alone, this year’s content will be hosted on NASA’s website –“so you can think of NASA as a platform that will enable as many people as possible to reach the content,” Bareket said, hoping that this will become an annual event.

This year’s program cannot specifically focus on stars because they are most visible during the summer – when the 2009 webcast occurred – and the types of images captured must simply be “based on the sky,” Bareket explained. But some specific images he expects the public to get to see include galaxies such as the faraway M87 (Messier 87) giant elliptical galaxy, the planet Saturn, several asteroids and one of the brightest nebulae, the M42 (Messier 42) Orion Nebula. These views will be available for observation through different types of visible light, such as infrared and hydrogen-alpha wavelengths.

Interviews will occur during both webcasts with “astronomical celebrities” such as John Dobson, creator of the Dobsonian telescope; possibly David Levy, a famous “asteroid hunter”; a representative from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute; and the CEO of Global Astronomy Month. Viewers and listeners will have the opportunity to type questions during the cast.

With the accompanying sonification, Bareket stressed that the webcast will be just as much for blind participants as for those who can see the images projected on the screen.

“It should be much more than only a visual experience,” he said.

Viewers can join the “Voyage into Deep Space” webcast live at ograms/national/dln/webcast/webcast.html

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