A billion stars

March 29, 2012

Funny old day yesterday at NAM2012. I gave an emergency talk (filling in for a cancellation), picked up my share of the RAS Group Award for UKIDSS, sloped off to the pub with co-conspirators Nige Hambly, Mike Irwin, and Steve Warren, and then went to the RAS Dining Club for only the second time ever, at the Midland Hotel, where apparently Rolls met Royce.

Today is another fun day, especially for WFAU chum Nick Cross, who is giving a talk today announcing the public release of VISTA data.To make this a bit more fun, WFAU wizard Mike Read stitched together UKIDSS GPS data and VISTA VVV data in the Galactic Plane to make a zooomable mega image containing a billion stars. There is a press release here , Nick is on the Beeb here, and you can play with the zoomi-map thingy here. See if you can spot the Milky Way’s nuclear star cluster.  When you are ready for a spot of serious science however, do a few SQL warm up exercises and then zip off to the actual VISTA Science Archive.

Update : nice plug on BBC News web site  which for a while was the No.1 most-read … and is still number 3 !

WISE is Go

December 15, 2009

Its the year of infra-red astronomy … UKIRT is still going strong (for now…), but now we have Herschel, VISTA, and … WISE.

WISE launched successfully yesterday from Vandenberg. The PV phase is expected to be very short – an amazing one month – followed by a seven month sky survey. My IPAC chums tell me they intend to get the data within a year, so you ain’t got to wait long.

Just thought I’d cheer you up before tomorrow’s doom and gloom.


December 11, 2009

VISTA, our shiny new IR survey telescope, is ready for rock and roll. Check out the ESO press release . There some lervely pictures, including a zoomable mosaic of the Galactic Centre.

I am excited (and relieved) both scientifically and in project terms. Data is being processed by a combined Cambridge-Edinburgh team. The data will be deposited in the ESO archive, but also of course will be available in a flexible queryable interface pretty similar to what we already do for UKIDSS at the WFCAM Science Archive (WSA). (The VSA is ready but I am not sure I am allowed to show it to you yet…) Enjoy.

Next up : WISE. This is a spacecraft that will survey the sky in the mid-IR, nicely complementing UKIDSS and VISTA. It is due for launch on Monday from Vandenberg. Gad, the IR is getting exciting.

VISTA mirror at last !

April 17, 2008

I am in Heidelberg, at a meeting of the PanSTARRS science consortium. PanSTARRS is a very ambitious project : four identical telescopes with very wide field of view cameras, scanning the sky repeatedly. Right now we are doing the pilot project with just one telescope. Its built and currently under test and should start a three year survey programme pretty soon, doing dark matter mapping, killer rocks in space, acceleration from supernovae, and all that trendy stuff. Its not quite as fast at surveying as the planned LSST, but thats years away yet …

Meanwhile in the infrared … the survey speed is nowhere near good enough for this kind of repeated sky scanning, but since the UKIRT Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) arrived, the speed is at last fast enough to make proper sky surveys plausible. My own baby of course is UKIDSS (get your data at the WSA page, or write a Python script and run it through AstroGrid). In the Southern Hemisphere, the great hope has been VISTA, a 4m telescope entirely dedicated to IR surveying, and with a camera thats even bigger than WFCAM. Its been nearly ready for months, but we have all been waiting for the primary mirror – its been stuck in Moscow, getting polished. Its not just that we are itching for the data … VISTA was promised to ESO as part of the UK joining fee, and the contract had penalty clauses .. another financial problem looming over STFC.. But its arrived in Chile at last !!

There is a press release and multiple web site splashes : at QMW , at ROE, at STFC, and ESO.

I don’t know whether we finally finally avoid the penalties .. but at least the good PR should help cheer up our STFC chums.