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Unveiling the Hidden Universe: Video Script

Still frames from movie.

Deep inside a gigantic cloud of gas and dust, a star is born, a new solar system in the making. Stretching light years across, the surrounding cloud is rich in elements from which stars, planets, even life itself may evolve. On a yet grander scale, the chemistry of a distant galaxy's core, largely shrouded in dust, is revealed. All of these exotic objects would remain largely hidden were it not for the radio waves they emit.

It takes a powerful radiotelescope to detect faint radio emissions from the depths of space. Located in a remote valley in Northern California, the Berkeley-Maryland-Illinois Association's radio synthesis array explores the heavens in the millimeter region of the radio spectrum.

By combining the incoming signals from distinct pairs of radio dishes, the array can image a distant object's shape and structure, and reveal much about its chemistry and motion.

But doing so requires high speed connections to advanced computational facilities. Imaging, the reduction of mountains of data to intelligible pictures, is performed two time zones away, on powerful computers at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Here astronomers and computer scientists are leading a multicenter " Grand Challenge" collaboration. Their mission is to prototype new computational tools and techniques for rapid imaging and analysis, and to electronically archive the results for researchers worldwide.

Engaging researchers at the Universities of Maryland, Illinois and California at Berkeley, this ambitious project will hasten the arrival of "realtime" astronomy. In decades to come, scientists will control faraway instruments, monitor image formation and display the data as it's collected, then later analyze the results collaboratively, in real-time. As a result, the entire research process, from raw data collection to discovery will accelerate by leaps and bounds.

The BIMA array. Pioneering the radioastronomy of the future, when arrays will span whole continents and reveal the radio universe with unparalleled efficiency and precision.

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Copyright (c), 1995: Board of Trustees, University of Illinois

NCSA. Last modified 11/10/95