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Does astronomy and new media have anything in common?

04 December 2009

Astronomy image

A PhD student from the School of Physics and Astronomy is on a mission – to connect space with the likes of myspace.

A student of star formation, Robert J Simpson has teamed up with other early-stage researchers from the UK and the Netherlands to explore the interaction between astronomy, the internet and social networking, which this week is under the spotlight at a European conference.

Until 4 December, Robert and his colleagues will be holding an unconventional workshop in Leiden, The Netherlands, to discuss novel concepts of thinking and working in astronomy today. One of the objectives of the meeting is to come up with a new citizen science project, where the general public is invited to be directly involved in producing new scientific results.

Participants of the .Astronomy conference (read: dot astronomy) will also explore new ways of exploiting the data deluge that will be produced by upcoming surveys and instruments for the benefit of their science and of society as a whole.

Robert says: "No science is better suited to engaging the general public in real scientific research and discovery than astronomy. Online communication and network-based technologies are changing the face of science, for professional astronomers as well as for the general public.

"Things like mass-participation citizen science projects, online datasets and networked services are perfectly suited to astronomy and we are keen to take full advantage of new technologies for research, development and outreach."

This is the second conference organised by Robert and his fellow researchers. In 2008 the first .Astronomy conference took place in Cardiff. This year such themes as citizen science projects, new media for outreach and communication, network-based research tools and data visualisation will be covered.

This week has also seen the first images revealed of atoms and molecules involved in the birth and death of stars taken from the Herschel Space Observatory, including the SPIRE instrument. A number of academics from the School of Physics and Astronomy are involved with the latest European Space mission, and SPIRE was designed and built by an international team led by scientists from the School.

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