Thursday, 1 April 2010

Summit-wide campaign to find missing stars

A campaign involving all the telescopes on Mauna Kea starts today. It's being heralded as one of the most ambitious collaborations between international observatories in recent history and involves telescopes observing at optical, infrared and submillimeter wavelengths. Mauna Kea offers the perfect environment, both physically and spiritually, for such a coordinated project.

Some of the telescopes in the campaign getting ready to search for the missing Ophiuchus constellation.

The astrophysical mystery the telescopes are attempting to address is the missing constellation of Ophiuchus. Centuries ago ancient astronomers knew there were 13 constellations in the zodiac but today there are only 12. It appears that the missing stars lie somewhere between the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius and this is the perfect time of year to search that part of the sky, hence the reason the project is starting now. More importantly, there are some additional factors that come into play when it comes to the chosen start date.

The same telescopes again, but with some other ones as well. Note that they are all on Mauna Kea hence the unheralded collaboration.

Mars is in Leo and squares Venus yet is sextiling Saturn. The crucial point is that Venus has some poor malefics but will trump one of them because it is retrograde and it symbolises wealth and valuables. Saturn is in Libra which indicates something lost, possibly due to carelessness, and there was nothing more valuable to ancient astronomers than stars and planets (and constellations). Venus also enters Taurus at about this time which is excellent for relationships, hence the chosen start date for such a large collaboration between usually competitive observatories.

These planetary configurations were discussed in a conference last summer which involved all the observatories' staff (except Virgos). The conference also included staff from the orbiting space telescopes The Canadian Ultraviolet Telescope Experiment (CUTE) and the British Infrared Telescopic Continuum and Hetrodyne Energy Surveyor (BITCHES) and those space observatories are also taking part in the hunt for Ophiuchus.

It's hypothesized that many of Ophiuchus' alleged stars are hidden by a massive molecular cloud in our Galaxy hence the need for submillimeter and infrared telescopes which can peer through those clouds. The wide field survey instruments on at least a couple of the smaller telescopes are ideal for searching large areas of space in one go while the larger telescopes with their atmosphere-busting lasers will be able to identify the stars once they are found using laser-tagging technology. This will also mean that once the stars are tagged it will be difficult to lose them again in the future.

How ancient astronomers saw the constellation Ophiuchus. Modern astronomers believe Ophiuchus might look somewhat different these days.

I know many groups are opposed to the venture because once found Ophiuchus will mean some fundamental changes will have to take place and the astrology books will need to be rewritten. This has happened before though when Pluto was demoted as a planet by the IAU and all previous astronomical knowledge involving Pluto was subsequently deleted from all new editions of academic text books.


IanC said...

Always wondered what you did up at the summit at night to while away the hours....

Keera Ann Fox said...

Wow, this is an amazing coinkydink, Tom: You and I were recently connecting over our past on alt.astrology, and then this happens! According to some books, I'm actually born in the sign of Ophiuchus, not Sagittarius! What are the odds???

Andrew Cooper said...

Our team had half a night last night. Looking over some of the preliminary data, we may have found those missing stars;)

Beep said...

Like Keera I guess I've been doing some reminiscing with someone, cozy connecting though...someone of the same sex, with both of us saying things like

"Whoa, do you remember when suchandsuch happened?"

"God, yes. Damn, how did we survive that one???"

"I don't know, but I don't want to talk about it."

"Hell, I don't want to even THINK about it."

"I'm going to say a prayer now because I don't want to ever go through anything like that again."

"Just a PRAYER? I feel like taking a bath in Holy Water!"

Hmm, guess it's Good Friday. And I don't have any planets in Ophiuchus, not that I care if I spelled it right.

Maren aka hilobeads aka Palms, Etc. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maren aka hilobeads aka Palms, Etc. said...

tried to post a Usenet giggle, but it didn't show because of the markup.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Ah, yes, good ol' monospace. Post a link. ;-)

Beep said...

I am so glad I went back to this post because I was not able to read the captions that went with the images before. Too funny :)