Call it a cosmic Wikipedia: A massive catalog of astronomical data collected over four years using one of the largest digital cameras ever built is now available to scientists around the world.
The Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, began observing the night sky in 2010, using a 1.8-meter telescope at the summit of Haleakala, on the island of Maui in Hawaii. In four years, the telescope scanned about three-quarters of the visible sky 12 times (using five different light filters), gradually registering about 3 billion unique objects, according to the project collaborators.
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“The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies,” said Dr. Ken Chambers, Director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories. “Pan-STARRS has made discoveries from Near Earth Objects and Kuiper Belt Objects in the Solar System to lonely planets between the stars; it has mapped the dust in three dimensions in our galaxy and found new streams of stars; and it has found new kinds of exploding stars and distant quasars in the early universe.”
“With this release we anticipate that scientists – as well as students and even casual users – around the world will make many new discoveries about the universe from the wealth of data collected by Pan-STARRS,” Chambers added.
The roll-out is being done in two stages. Today’s release is the “Static Sky,” which is the average of each of those individual epochs. For every object, there’s an average value for its position, its brightness, and its colors. In 2017, the second set of data will be released, providing a catalog that gives the information and images for each individual epoch.
The Space Telescope Science Institute provides the storage hardware, the computers that handle the database queries, and the user-friendly interfaces to access the data.
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