Workshop: Not enough room for the universe

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By Roger Snodgrass

SANTA FE – The universe, in all its scales, frequencies, bits and chunks, is becoming too numerous for astronomers to handle.

The Great Survey Workshop this weekend in Santa Fe brought about 75 astronomers together to compare datasets and share algorithms about the vast new wave of information that is flooding in from the cosmos.

“There is a sea change in the way people are doing astronomy,” said Salman Habib, speaking of the trend in astronomy to try to study large number of objects. Habib is a Los Alamos National Laboratory astrophysicist and as leader of the Astrophysics and Astronomy Center, was one of the organizers of the conference

“If you look at only one or two objects in the universe, you don’t know what’s interesting,” he said. The tendency now is toward large collections, epitomized by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which is based in southern New Mexico and now in its third evolution.

But the information revolution in turn is putting more strain on the many aspects of gathering, selecting, analyzing, comparing, storing and getting the correct information into the right hands at the right time, some of the hot topics at the workshop.

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