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I2-NEWS: New Internet Link Moves Gemini a Step Closer to Becoming World's First "Cyber Observatory"

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  • From: Greg Wood <>
  • To: I2-NEWS <>
  • Subject: I2-NEWS: New Internet Link Moves Gemini a Step Closer to Becoming World's First "Cyber Observatory"
  • Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 16:10:50 -0400

Peter Michaud
Gemini Observatory, Hilo, Hawai'i
Phone: 808/974-2510, 808/987-5876 (Cell)

New Internet Link Moves Gemini a Step Closer to Becoming World's First
"Cyber Observatory"

Thanks to a unique combination of international cooperation and the
latest Internet technology, Gemini Observatory is now well on its way to
becoming the world's first global "cyber observatory".

With funding and support from the National Science Foundation (NSF),
Gemini has succeeded in blazing a new Internet pathway which will
provide its globally separated twin telescopes with a reliable data
transfer connection able to handle the enormous amounts of scientific
information created by Gemini's sophisticated instrumentation.

This innovative link was further made possible with the support and
technical assistance of Internet2, a university led networking research
and development consortium; and AMPATH, a high-performance Internet
"gateway" to South American research and educational networks led by
Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.

"Gemini South is the first U.S. managed research program in South
America to access the Internet2 network infrastructure," said Gemini
Director of Operations Dr. James Kennedy, who led the Gemini initiative
for establishing the new link.

"Now all we are limited by is the speed of light."

Kennedy's comments were made at the August 13, 2002 inauguration of the
new link between Gemini's twin, 8-meter telescopes located on Mauna Kea,
Hawai'i, and on Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes.

Utilizing the latest net-based, audio-visual conferencing technology,
the event itself was an apt demonstration of the enormous potential of
the new connection - not only for science, but also for cultural and
educational opportunities around the world.

Styled as a "virtual inauguration", the event electronically brought
together several key individuals located at the Gemini facilities in
both Hawai'i and Chile, with the leading NSF participants and
representatives of Internet2 in Washington D.C., and Florida
International University in Miami.

Exemplifying the new link's potential not only for astronomy, but also
for the community at large, Gemini Observatory Director Dr. Matt
Mountain announced a new teacher exchange program between Hawai'i and
Chile. The program is geared to allow educators from Chile and Hawai'i
to share science and their respective cultural heritages using the new
Gemini technology in an Internet Classroom that will connect the two
communities. (See related press release, "Teacher Exchange", at:

Speaking at the event from his Washington, D.C., office, Dr. Wayne Van
Citters, Director of the National Science Foundation's Astronomy
Division, said, "Gemini has laid the foundation for a new way of doing
astronomy that will allow us to see farther, fainter and sharper than
ever before. This exemplifies what can be achieved through international
scientific cooperation."

Gemini Observatory is a partnership of seven countries - the United
States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

"With this successfully completed final Internet phase, Gemini
Observatory now becomes a valuable global resource for the worldwide
scientific community," said Dr. Thomas Greene, Senior Program Director
with the Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research (ANIR) Division
of the National Science Foundation. Greene was instrumental in the NSF
coordination of the various scientific and governmental agencies.

Thanks to this new link, Gemini is now able to move forward towards its
"cyber observatory" goal at a cost of approximately one-tenth the
expense of what would have been required to establish a similar
high-quality connection through commercial channels.

"It would have been economically impractical to transmit the amount of
data required by modern astronomical research on the commodity
Internet," Kennedy said.

Under development for almost five years, the creation of this pathway
between the two telescopes was not a simple undertaking.

While networks to support such science already existed within the U.S.
and several other nations, connecting these networks across
international boundaries has taken longer to develop.

"Getting high-performance networking between countries has been a
challenge," said Heather Boyles, Director of International Relations for
Internet2, a consortium of more than 200 U.S. universities, companies
and research organizations. Internet2 supports the U.S. portion of the
Gemini Connection via its high-speed, limited access science "backbone"
network known as Abilene.

Gemini North in Hawai'i has been linked to Abilene for the past two
years. However, finding a suitable high-speed, high-capacity access
point to South America and thus, to Gemini South, was a critical goal in
completing the link. The innovative solution for Gemini was FIU's
AMPATH, a new high-capacity "portal" to South America.

"FIU's role in the Gemini project is a source of great pride," said FIU
President Modesto A. Maidique. "This is the kind of partnership that the
university of the future should be involved in: one that promotes
knowledge across boundaries."

Because of its strategic significance in scientific and educational
networking, AMPATH has also received extensive support from the NSF.

"Until recently, high-capacity fiber optic networks between North and
South America did not exist. But AMPATH, working with Gemini, Internet2,
and major research networks in Chile, Argentina and Brazil, was able to
take advantage of newly built infrastructure to establish connections
between countries," said Ms. Boyles of Internet2.

AMPATH (short for AmericasPATH) was established in 2000 by FIU as an
international Internet exchange point for research and education
networks in South and Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, the
U.S. and the world.

"One of the big problems in scientific research throughout Latin America
has always been high-quality access to the big research networks in the
United States," said Julio Ibarra, Director of AMPATH and Advanced
Research Networking at FIU.

"There was a real need to somehow find a way to link all these
scientists in both North and South America together. This was the
driving force behind AMPATH. We are happy that Gemini has demonstrated
this so successfully, and in a very concrete way."

Kennedy emphasized this international aspect of the completion of the
new Internet link by pointing out another very important goal envisioned
in the cyber observatory concept.

"This new link is just the first step in providing us with the
capability to allow astronomers from around the world to participate in
real-time observations without ever leaving their offices."

This is achieved through advanced Internet audio-visual technology which
will allow an astronomer in a distant location to be "tele-present" in
real time within the observatory control room as his or her observing
program is being executed on the telescopes.

As defined by the Gemini architects of the concept, a cyber observatory
is the seamless integration of astronomy's latest computer-based imaging
technology with the cognitive utilization of high-speed networking

Although the cyber observatory approach is a new concept, astronomy has
a long tradition of successful cooperation between international

"For the past 27 years, the NSF-supported Blanco and Mayall 4-meter
telescopes have worked together to provide complete sky coverage for
astronomers," said Dr. Malcolm G. Smith, Director of Cerro Tololo
Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).

CTIO is a part of the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)
and has provided U.S. astronomers access to the southern sky for four
decades. Gemini and NOAO are both managed for the NSF by the Association
of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA).

A big plus for CTIO, is that because of this relationship, all
telescopes operating under the CTIO umbrella will benefit from the new
Gemini Internet link by being able to share this high-information
"science-net". Dr. Smith emphasized that this sharing will allow users
of the telescopes operated by CTIO to exploit similar Internet
potentials such as Gemini's Remote Viewing Project and the observatory's
new Teacher Exchange Program (See related press release).

"Now," said Dr. Smith, who also serves as AURA's representative in
Chile, "Gemini will take this concept a step further with its twin
8-meter telescopes, fully integrated and connected by the modern
technology of the Internet."

As Gemini Observatory Director Dr. Mountain so aptly characterized it,
"Welcome to the dawning era of point and click astronomy."

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration that has built
two identical 8-meter telescopes. The telescopes are located at Mauna
Kea, Hawai'i (Gemini North) and Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini
South), and hence provide full coverage of both hemispheres of the sky.
Both telescopes incorporate new technologies that allow large,
relatively thin mirrors under active control to collect and focus both
optical and infrared radiation from space.

The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in each
partner country with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that
allocate observing time in proportion to each country's contribution. In
addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant
scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that
form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation
(NSF), the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC),
the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión
Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the
Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Consejo Nacional de
Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and the Brazilian
Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq).
The Observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for
Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with
the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the
international partnership.


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  • I2-NEWS: New Internet Link Moves Gemini a Step Closer to Becoming World's First "Cyber Observatory", Greg Wood, 08/13/2002

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