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Democratize Astronomy Now

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about 2 years ago

Space 0

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Hakeem Oluseyi, an astronomer at the Florida Institute of Technology and president of the African Astronomical Society, says his goal is to put one research telescope in every country, starting with African and Southern Hemisphere nations because there is now an amazing opportunity for small telescopes to discover and characterize new planetary systems, as well as measure the structure of the Milky Way. "Astronomers are no longer looking at high-definition pictures but at HD movies, scanning for objects that change and for transient ones," says Oluseyi. "A 4-inch telescope was used to discover the first exoplanet by the transit method, where you watch the brightness vary." Small telescopes capable to doing real science are a lot cheaper than people think. A 1-meter telescope costs $300,000 but reduce the size by 60 percent, and it falls to just $30,000. For example the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) uses hardware costing less than $75,000 to look at millions of very bright stars at once, over broad sections of sky, and at low resolution to see if the starlight dims just a little — an indication that a planet has crossed in front of the star. The KELT team has already discovered the existence of a very unusual faraway planet — KELT-1b, a super hot, super dense ball of metallic hydrogen so massive that it may better be described as a 'failed star' and located so close to its star that it whips through an entire "yearly" orbit in a little over a day. "We're going to crowdsource fund these telescopes. Then we're going to open-source the knowledge needed to complete the science. Last, we're going to combine everyone into a single intellectual community," says Oluseyi. "I guarantee someday soon we'll have a deluge of scientific authors from the developing world like we've never seen before.""

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