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Internet Link Moves Gemini Closer to Becoming First "Cyber Observatory"


A unique combination of international cooperation and the latest Internet technology will allow Gemini Observatory to become the first international "cyber observatory."

Gemini, with funding and support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is blazing an Internet pathway that will provide its globally separated telescopes with a reliable data transfer connection. The connection will allow real-time remote observations and sharing of scientific data generated by the twin 8-meter telescopes located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and on Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes.

The link was enabled by the support and technology of Internet2, a university-led networking research and development consortium, and AMPATH, a Florida International University Internet portal to research institutions in South America. It was inaugurated today at a four-way videoconferencing event at NSF in Arlington, Va., at Florida International University in Miami, in Hawaii and in Chile.

Wayne Van Citters, director of NSF’s astronomy division, said, "Gemini has laid the foundation for a new way of doing astronomy that will allow us to see farther, fainter and sharper than ever before. This exemplifies what can be achieved through international scientific cooperation." Gemini is a partnership of seven countries--the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. NSF serves as executive agency for the partnership.

"With this successfully completed final Internet phase, Gemini Observatory now becomes a valuable global resource for the worldwide scientific community," said Thomas Greene, of NSF’s computer and information sciences and engineering directorate, who coordinated the contributions of the various scientific and governmental agencies.

The new link will mean Gemini can achieve its "cyber observatory" goal at about one-tenth the cost of establishing a similar high-quality connection through commercial channels.

The connection has been under development for five years. While networks to support science already existed within the United States and several other nations, connecting these networks across international boundaries posed obstacles such as locating a high-speed, high-capacity access point in South America.

"Gemini South is the first U.S.-managed research program in South America to access the Internet2 network infrastructure," said Gemini Director of Operations James Kennedy, who led the Gemini initiative to establish the link. "Now all we are limited by is the speed of light."

At today’s event, Gemini Observatory Director Matt Mountain also announced a new teacher exchange program between Hawaii and Chile. The program will allow educators to share their science interests and their respective cultural heritages using the new Gemini technology in an Internet classroom that will connect the two communities.

Amber Jones | EurekAlert!
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