The Future of Astronomy

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"The Future of Astronomy"
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Astronomy has been studied in some way or another for thousands of years, but I think this is still just a mere beginning. In the future, we will see a shift from astronomy requiring a huge investment and being studied only by actual astronomers and hobbyists to a world in which millions of people around the globe can actively contribute to the study of space with little more investment than their average home PCs and an internet connection.

A small insight into this new world came in January, 2006, when a project called [email protected] opened on the Internet. With a quick tutorial and a test, anyone could create an account and start assisting in real research from their own homes. [email protected] used a virtual microscope which allowed volunteers to peer through aerogel in search of pathways of dust particles captured in outer space. With so many eyes on the project, the research could be done at fractions of the cost and time it would otherwise take. Additionally, the human eye can pin point exceptions and patterns better than a computer, so this project demonstrated the power of people compared to the mere analytical power of our software today.

As recently as July 2007 a similar project came out, but not in search of particles of dust, instead in search of those amazing formations called galaxies. utilizes that same ability of the human eye to detect patterns and exceptions better than computer technology. With thousands of eyes on millions of pictures, the analysis is well on its way. These two projects are what the future of astronomy will look like.

In the future, hobbyist astronomers will not need to spend their paychecks on expensive equipment and drag them up mountains and to distant locations to take a peak into the distant worlds. We will have access to satellites and telescopes online, perhaps for a small fee or subscription, but we will be able to zoom and view the worlds around us from our home computer. And of course with that technology, one hobbyist could e-mail another with coordinates to a great view, or take pictures of discoveries and send them to all their friends and family.

Just imagine your child's or grandchild's fifth grade science class involving computers, and the assignment is to find a spiral galaxy spinning clockwise and counter clockwise, as well as a galaxy colliding with another. Or to capture an image of a certain mountain on Venus, or find the ice cap on Mars!

More about this author: Laura Lee Winger

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