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Discovery Channel Telescope Snaps Inaugural Pictures

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the space-is-always-cool dept.

Space 66

eldavojohn writes "Two decades ago ... Discovery Channel teamed up with Lowell Observatory and embarked upon a $53 million adventure: the fifth largest telescope in the United States funded entirely without state or federal money. The very first photos snapped with its 16 million pixel camera are in and they look beautiful. Yet to be seen are the simultaneous spectroscopic and imaging observations that should be provided to researchers by the DCT's Ritchey-Chretien instrument cube. Located near a dark-sky site (Coconino National Forest), scientists hope to use this new telescope to answer many research questions including how our solar system formed and how dwarf galaxies evolve. For more telescope porn, check out the DCT's photo tours. Luckily 'the process of planning and building the telescope is due to be featured in a one-hour Discovery Channel documentary set to air in September 2012.' Perhaps there is hope for Discovery Channel to return to its former glory?"

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What's the Matter? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742789)

Did my original submission [slashdot.org] strike a little too close to home?

Two decades ago (before it went to shit [discovery.com] ) ...

Seriously, when I submitted that I was staring down ~10 hours of "Swamp Brothers," "Swamp Loggers" and "Gator Boys." Seriously. Now NatGeo is following suit [youtube.com] ... am I just getting curmudgeonly? How is this happening?

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

zippo01 (688802) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742859)

Try SciFi Channel Much better. They atleast run How It's Made when they have nothing else.

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

digitalsolo (1175321) | more than 2 years ago | (#40748315)

Do you mean the Science Channel? I've never seen How It's Made on the syphilis channel (SyFy). The Science Channel has a few decent shows. Through the Wormhole isn't bad, but anything with Morgan Freeman narrating is at least nice to listen to.

Discovery OCCASIONALLY has good stuff, but unfortunately not like they used to. Much like the history channel. Other than Modern Marvels, there is much history related on there (though it is occasionally interesting to see the shit people find in their attic on Pawn Stars, sorta like Antiques Roadshow).

Re:What's the Matter? (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742893)

How is this happening?

Their goal is to earn money, not to generate quality content.

Re:What's the Matter? (4, Funny)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743371)

Yep, why bother showing educational programs about astronomy when you can instead show a puerile drama about a couple of retards building shitty motorcycles and constantly arguing with each other?

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743545)

Yep, why bother showing educational programs about astronomy when you can instead show a puerile drama about a couple of retards building shitty motorcycles and constantly arguing with each other?

Let the market decide?

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743685)

The "market" consisting of the cable company oligopoly, right? Or do you seriously have a say over what channels you can have, outside of Package A, Package B, or Package C?

Re:What's the Matter? (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40744015)

It's worse than that; each package is usually a superset of the preceding package. And channels like Discovery tend to be in the basic package, so you don't get a choice to have it or not, unless you don't subscribe to cable at all.

What I'd like to know is how they determine ratings these days. In the old days, the "Nielsen families" had extra boxes monitoring what they watched. These days, with cable boxes, they can have them report back to the cableco what people are watching, so I imagine they do that, but that doesn't cover people who only subscribe to basic and don't have an extra cable box. They probably just ignore those people.

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40746261)

The "market" consisting of the cable company oligopoly, right?

Good point, but the market I was thinking about is the mass people who decide whether to tune in to educational programs about astronomy or a puerile drama about a couple of retards building shitty motorcycles and constantly arguing with each other.

Presumably the latter is winning on this one, unless the execs just happen to like motodrama more than they like money.

Re:What's the Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40760103)

Unfortunately, with the amazing success of "reality TV" shows like the aforementioned motorcycle show, and many, many other inane reality shows on all channels, I think it's pretty obvious that this isn't a case of the execs pushing something on viewers that the viewers don't really want. Heck, one of the aforementioned retards has even written a book (possibly ghostwritten...); I saw someone on a plane recently reading it.

Pretty soon, the only TV entertainment will be some mindless show about a couple of people beating each other senseless, like what the people in THX-1138 watched.

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 2 years ago | (#40746681)

...and as long as they are included in standard cable packages so they can get their franchise fee whether anyone watches them or not, they'll continue to head down crap lane with cheap reruns of shoddy programming.

Yay Internet TV, 2052.

Re:What's the Matter? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40742915)

Discovery Channel Telescope Snaps Inaugural Pictures

You would think they could get a press pass to the inaugural, so they wouldn't have to use a telescope.

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40744975)

First Discovery program about the telescope: "First Light Gala: The Discovery Channel Telescope, From Inception To Completion"
Second Discovery program about the telescope: "Aliens Above Us: The Discovery Channel Telescope Provides Proof Of Bigfoot's Ghost Piloting A UFO"

Re:What's the Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743039)

The space.com website is just as bad as Discovery Channel. It's on my top 10 worst list. It's only useable with adblock and noscript. Don't have either of those on my tablet right now.

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743059)

another first... I don't remember a slashdot editor ever actually editing anything before....

I remember when (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743211)

their websites was just an IP address. They'd say visits ***.***.**.* for our new world wide web page. Those were the days...

Re:What's the Matter? (3, Insightful)

toejam13 (958243) | more than 2 years ago | (#40744231)

It is called the dumbing-down effect.

Intelligent people have critical analysis skills and therefore tend not to be swayed by televised advertising. So advertisers are left targeting a everyone else. But you need content to bring in that target audience. Shows hosted by Carl Sagan aren't going to do it.

As long as we have advertisement funded television programming, television will remain a medium for the lowest common denominator of programming. So that means shows involving a huge Quiverfull family of midgets operating a fishing boat out of Alaska and the fun antics of their scandalous daughter who has the audacity to show a little ankle.

It will be very hard to transition to a television system where all channels are either public-private funded (such as PBS), are subscription based (such as HBO) or are single program PPV. Old people love their free TV and will vote out anyone who dares take it away from them.

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40744259)

Why was your original entry edited?
Its because Discovery just bought /. as fodder for their new reality series "Geek People"

Ducks... >;=)

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

usuallylost (2468686) | more than 2 years ago | (#40748875)

Sadly there is a bigger audience for watching people wade around in swamps, go to pawn shops, dig antiques out of crazy people's backyards etc than for actual documentary television. The amount of crap on the channels that used to play interesting documentary type programing is depressing. We are rapidly headed back to the situation in the 70's when the only place playing that kind of programing is PBS. Though even that would require them to back off their steady stream of "Antiques Road Show".

Re:What's the Matter? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40749757)

Seriously, when I submitted that I was staring down ~10 hours of "Swamp Brothers," "Swamp Loggers" and "Gator Boys." Seriously. Now NatGeo is following suit ... am I just getting curmudgeonly? How is this happening?

it's called survival in an a-la-carte world.

Discovery Channel knows that half the channels will die in an a-la-carte model, so the goal is to shuffle programming between all of them. Discovery Channel gets the high-rated reality shows. Then another Discovery-owned channel will run some other unique series and the main Discovery will run them years later, etc.

The goal is to spread the high-rated shows amongst the various channels so even in an a-la-carte model, you end up picking up several of them, thus ensuring the survival of the other channels.

The same thing is happening with History, too.

They know they'll lose a few people who don't want to watch new episodes of Mythbusters and thus not get whatever channel that's on, but it'll be far fewer than having ot drop three-quarters of their channels as they won't be profitable anymore if they kept all the good programming on one channel.

Cable channels know it's coming down the line, they're just preparing for it by moving good shows first run elsewhere. After all, right now most people are in packages, so if you move a popular show to another channel that they already get through their packages, they'll get used to it and likely buy both channels.

condolences (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742867)

I'm sorry to hear that their telescope snapped. Maybe they can glue it back together and add a reinforcing rod down the middle.

Re:condolences (0)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743115)

I'm sorry to hear that their telescope snapped. Maybe they can glue it back together and add a reinforcing rod down the middle.

Hmmm. Let's investigate:

"The very first photos snapped with its 16 million pixel camera are in and they look beautiful."

OK. Bit of a cumbersome sentence, might have looked better with a few commas,

"The very first photos, snapped with its 16 million pixel camera, are in and they look beautiful."

No, that's not quite right. How about:

"The very first photos snapped, with its 16 million pixel camera, are in and they look beautiful."

No, that's not quite right either. How about:

"The very first photos to be snapped with its 16 million pixel camera are in, and they look beautiful."

A little longer, but better. But I think the summary got it pretty much right the first time from the point of view of accuracy. There was certainly no way it could have been interpreted as "the camera has snapped" unless you do a Sean Hannity and cut the sentence off halfway through.

Re:condolences (1)

geedubyoo (1980822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40746505)

Is "very first" more first (firster?) than plain old "first"?

If somebody beats me to first post, could I trump them with a very first post?

Re:condolences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40748303)

VERY First Post!

so... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40742935)

I can find better pics using Bing, maybe they should consider that instead of wasting all of that taxpayer money.

Re:so... (5, Informative)

Unkyjar (1148699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743041)

What taxpayer money was wasted? This telescope was entirely privately funded. Heck, even the summary comments on that:

Discovery Channel teamed up with Lowell Observatory and embarked upon a $53 million adventure: the fifth largest telescope in the United States funded entirely without state or federal money

Re:so... (2)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 2 years ago | (#40745617)

If you’ve got a telescope -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

-- Barack H. Obama

Re:so... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743089)

Fuck you AC... just Fuck YOU.

Yet another greedhead who thinks the only important knowledge is the knowledge that fattens your wallet.

I am glad I don't live in you head. It must me a cold, lonely, boring place. Go circle jerk your day trader friends.

Re:so... (0)

readandburn (825014) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743465)

Worst. Astroturf. Ever.

It's so refreshing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40742957)

Its so refreshing to see good science being done without suckling at the public teat. Hopefully this is the start of much more in the future that will not rely upon taxing our job creators.

Re:It's so refreshing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743803)

be careful what you wish for. Next thing you know they'll charge you higher cable tv rates for that privatized science.

Minor nitpick in summary (4, Informative)

Bootsy Collins (549938) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742961)

It's not the fifth largest telescope in the United States. It's the fifth largest optical telescope in the continental United States. There are several larger optical telescopes on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.

Re:Minor nitpick in summary (2)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743583)

It doesn't allow simultaneous observations, either. It's near-simultaneous observations due to the mirror switching that happens in the DCT's RC cube - currently only one of three instruments have use of the telescope, depending on how the mirrors are oriented.

Re:Minor nitpick in summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40745967)

A dichroic will be used in some cases, so that infrared light is reflected to a spectrograph and visible light is transmitted to a camera. So, yes, it really is simultaneous.

Re:Minor nitpick in summary (3, Interesting)

iroll (717924) | more than 2 years ago | (#40745435)

That's funny, because the way I read the summary, I assumed it was the 5th largest privately funded scope.

Thanks, English ancestors....

16 million pixel telescope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40742969)

I have a 16 million pixel telescope in my pants...

Re:16 million pixel telescope (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743095)

Is that what you need to find it?

Re:16 million pixel telescope (0)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743105)

That's because you rely on digital zoom.

16 Megapixels? (0)

memeplex (910698) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743141)

Is this something to brag about in 2012? You can get an off-the-shelf DSLR with more pixels than that. Of course, it wouldn't have a 4.3 meter mirror.

16 Megapixles (1, Interesting)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743155)

So when I read this I was impressed until I read

16 million pixel camera

Why not just say a 16 megapixel camera? Is it just me or is a 16 megapixel camera not impressive.?

Re:16 Megapixles (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743453)

Astronomy and terrestrial photography have somewhat different requirements. The telescope sensor is probably huge, each active site has to be as large as possible to gather any stray photons. Typical cameras are APS-C sized or less... they're more interested in being 'fast' rather then 'sensitive'.

Re:16 Megapixles (1)

Narrowband (2602733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743715)

Even for astronomy imaging, 16 megapixels isn't so impressive for "the fifth largest scope in the US." There are many amateur astronomers across the country imaging with CCD cameras based on KAF 16803 chips (4096 x 4096 pixels). Open an issue of "sky and telescope" to the pages where they present a gallery of readers' images, and you're very likely to see something taken with a 16 megapixel camera. They're high end cameras from an amateur standpoint, no doubt about it, but not super special. Think about it as being comparable to investing the cost of a used car in your hobby... the cost is around the same.

Re:16 Megapixles (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40744991)

Of course, it's all in the details, isn't it? At the very least, there's the question of how well cooled the sensor is to minimize heat noise, and beyond that, it could be something like an L3CCD, where you're literally counting every photon that hits the sensor. I have no idea what hardware they're actually using.

Re:16 Megapixles (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40744953)

Astronomy and terrestrial photography have somewhat different requirements. The telescope sensor is probably huge, each active site has to be as large as possible to gather any stray photons. Typical cameras are APS-C sized or less...

Correct. The LMI's CCD is 6144x6160 15um pixels (92.16 mm x 92.40 mm) ref [lowell.edu] , or 8500 mm^2; this is over 20x APS-C, 10x full-frame 35mm, and 6x the 9um KAF-16803 (and its 12um sister KAF-9000) mentioned in a sibling post.

For comparison, an APS-C sensor with the same size (15um pitch) pixels would be ~1650x1100; summing over nxn pixel bins to get a resolution in that vicinity from a higher-resolution APS-C CCD will be close, but somewhat less sensitive, as more pixels means less fill factor.

they're more interested in being 'fast' rather then 'sensitive'.

What?! You know fast and sensitive (in the context of photography) are synonyms, right?

Re:16 Megapixles (2)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743463)

Once it's above a few megapixels I personally care way more about the optics.

However in this specific case I wouldn't be surprised if this particular camera -- if it's even sensical to convert to ISO speeds -- is on the order of ISO 0.02441... (1000 times more light sensitive than ISO 25.)

Re:16 Megapixles (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743495)

Err, make that ISO 1000000+. Had my ass where my head belongs.

Re:16 Megapixles (3, Interesting)

mopomi (696055) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743549)

First, the submitter got the value wrong. The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI) has 36 MPixels (technically, it has 6144x6160 = 37,847,040 pixels), not 16 MPixels.

http://www.lowell.edu/dct_instruments.php [lowell.edu]

Second, being a scientific instrument, it has a rather lot of requirements that your Nikon doesn't; the number of pixels is only one of several parameters engineers trade against each other when building a camera for scientific use.

Re:16 Megapixles (1)

kanoalani (2515446) | more than 2 years ago | (#40746221)

Correct, 38 megapixels, still peanuts in the world of gigapixel astronomy cameras (Pan-Starrs, HyperSuprime-Cam, etc) but the deep-depletion E2V CCD is in a different class than an SLR CMOS senor and a lot of interesting things could be done with it. Sometimes an instrument is so expansive it precludes risky science but something this size could be used for a lot of interesting things. Especially interesting is that it's a single chip. Most CCDs that size are mosaics but this one is a single massive chip, apparently the size of an entire wafer. that means they don't have to dither (take several pictures offset from each other) to fill in the gaps between the chips which means it can take full-frame images faster than a mosaic camera.

Discovery & History suck (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743351)

Your really have to LOOK to find something to watch on those channels, unless you like watching two guys pick through junk, a bunch of people trying to unload crap at a pawn shop, a bunch of guys saying "shoooot em". I might find 1 show a week that isn't a so called reality show. Yes, I know why they produce them, it's CHEAP, and apparently there are enough people that want to watch that junk. I use to tune into the HISTORY channel to learn about "old stuff". I hate how they changed their stupid tag line to "history is made every day". Ok, then change the name of your network to "the stupid reality channel".

telescope porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743365)

Must everything be kikened to some kind of porn? Thisshould be a news piece suitable for all
ages.

Re:telescope porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743713)

I'm sure the rabbi will have something to say about that.

ghosts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40743473)

They're using to search for ghosts in outerspace.

Re:ghosts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40744499)

Of course you could skip the search and watch Cartoon Network reruns. Keep in mind that without the meddling and hijinks of Brak and Zorak it gets pretty boring.

Aliens!!! (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743631)

According to the Discovery channel the telescope was funded by aliens looking to contact their home planet. Or am I mixing that up with the History Channel? In that case the sequels will be Housewives of Astronomers, Flip this Telescope, Telescope Road Truckers, Most Dangerous Telescopes in the World.

Basically the Discovery Channel died when it ate TLC.

Re:Aliens!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40744679)

EmperorOfCanada
Steve, is that you?

Re:Aliens!!! (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40744907)

According to the Discovery channel the telescope was funded by aliens looking to contact their home planet. Or am I mixing that up with the History Channel? In that case the sequels will be Housewives of Astronomers, Flip this Telescope, Telescope Road Truckers, Most Dangerous Telescopes in the World.

Hmmm. Have your agent set up a meeting. - Discovery Channel Development VP

"Full sized" photos (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743729)

The "full sized" images on their website make me rage a little. First off, for a 16 MP camera, they can do a little better than 0.5MP image on their website.

Yea, it could have been scaled down, but that is a minor gripe compared to them publishing a telecope image as a HIGHLY COMPRESSED JPEG.

Seriously? Most of the stars and gas clouds in that blasted image are lossy compression artifacts.

Why couldn't we have a nicely sized PNG?

Website's a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40746049)

From the rubbish-quality "full sized" image to the crappy flash-loaded snapshot viewer, you get the impression that Discovery and Lowell aren't really interested in providing quality images nor enthusiast-level astronomical data to the public, just TV-quality fluff. And for scientific data you'll have to pay of course.

It doesn't auger well.

DVR programmed. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743763)

Check.

galaxy image and bright center? (1)

MetalOne (564360) | more than 2 years ago | (#40743957)

What is with the bright center spot? Is that just millions of stars packed way more densely than on the spiral arms?

Re:galaxy image and bright center? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40744455)

There are trillions of stars densely packed within the nuclear bulge at the core of the galaxy - orbiting a black hole.

They took pictures of Obama's inauguration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40744217)

Why would they use a telescope to take pictures of Obama's 2009 inauguration? And why is it only coming out now? Is it because it took that long for the light to travel almost 4 light years or something? I don't get it.

Re:They took pictures of Obama's inauguration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40747453)

Are you saying Obama is from another planet? That may explain his odd birth certificate.

I am not ashamed to say... (1)

ReadParse (38517) | more than 2 years ago | (#40745973)

That the word "Inaugural" caused me to think the telescope took pictures of the Presidential Inauguration.

I eventually read enough to realize this is a newer telescope, which would have made photos of any presidential inauguration unlikely. But since we're talking about powerful telescopes, I guess even the time travel element wouldn't be out of the question.

Is private better than public? (1)

kanoalani (2515446) | more than 2 years ago | (#40746287)

Does a privately funded scientific facility produce better science than a public one? For one thing, if a "science news" conglomerate owns its own facility, won't it naturally be biased towards reporting on discoveries made by itself?

we will never hear of this again... (1)

Lluc (703772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40748607)

We will never see this telescope mentioned on the Discover Channel again unless it involves a reality show with a group of rednecks who auction off dates with B-list celebrities to go logging in the nearby national forest.
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