Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Multiwavelength Images Of Distant Universe Now Available On Google Sky

A massive project to map a distant region of the Universe in multiple wavelengths--from x-rays through ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and radio waves--is currently releasing its data to both fellow scientists and the general public. It is the first data release from the AEGIS survey and the first release of multiwavelength data to take advantage of the capabilities of Google Sky, a new feature of Google Earth.

AEGIS--the All-wavelength Extended Groth Strip International Survey--combines the efforts of nearly 100 researchers from around the world observing the same small region of sky in all available wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. The target area, called the Extended Groth Strip, covers an area the width of four full moons that is a hop, skip and jump from the end of the Big Dipper's handle. The AEGIS region has now been surveyed more intensively and with more telescopes than any other region of the sky.

We are looking back to a time when the universe was more than half its current age and when galaxies were forming most of their stars. With the X-ray images we are looking at black holes, which are at the centre of galaxies, to try to work out how the growth of black holes is linked to the growth of the galaxy itself.

It is clear that serving astronomical data through Google Sky is going to revolutionize the way astronomers communicate, both among themselves and with the public. AEGIS is proud and pleased to be the pathfinder dataset for Google Sky's new multiwavelength capabilities.

Color images from four different satellite telescopes, as well as numerous data catalogs, from x-ray to radio wavelengths, giving brightnesses and distances of tens of thousands of galaxies are now available. Google Earth's new Sky feature provides a fast and powerful access tool for astronomical data similar to what the popular Google Earth software has provided for terrestrial data.

AEGIS images projected onto the celestial sphere show how it would look with infrared, ultraviolet, or x-ray eyes. Some galaxies look brighter at certain wavelengths than others, which carries important information about their composition and the processes occurring within them.

The rapid browsing abilities of Google Sky provide a new way to compare many views of a single galaxy or a set of galaxies instantly. For researchers, it is a powerful tool for exploring AEGIS's massive data sets. The AEGIS collaboration is also making all of its data available on its website, so that researchers can download it directly.