A Wide Angle on the Universe

Systematically 'scanning' substantial parts of the universe to spot objects of special interest is a mission of growing importance in astronomy. The Kapteyn Institute in Groningen, the Netherlands, is a leader in several of these international projects. On March 13, NOVA-director Tim de Zeeuw, the directors of the observatories in Padova and Munich and ESO's director-general Catherine Cesarsky will sign an agreement to build a unique astronomical camera with a resolution of over a quarter billion pixels.

The signing ceremony will conclude a morning program featuring presentations on three projects: OmegaCAM *, ASTRO-WISE **, and detectors for ALMA ***. They are part of a 10-year instrumentation program by the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA), executed in close collaboration with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the astronomical organization which, among others, manages the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. 'Wide Angle on the Universe' refers to the unprecedented resolution of mapping most of the southern sky from 2003 onwards, and to the many terabytes (thousands of gigabytes) of data that such projects generate. To make this point spectacularly visible, the presentations will make use of 'sky wide' (9.7 x 3.5 meter) high-resolution video projection, enabled by a cluster of PC's. This will be one of the few opportunities to watch the full splendor of images by state-of -the-art telescopes like the VLT.

Morning program

(Location: Geertsemazaal, Academie Gebouw Universiteit Groningen, Broerstraat 5, 9712 CP Groningen. For directions see below)
09.45 coffee
10.15 word of welcome Doeko Bosscher, rector Groningen University
10.25 the NOVA program Tim de Zeeuw, director NOVA
10.50 the ESO program Catherine Cesarsky, director-general ESO
11.55 detectors for ALMA Wolfgang Wild, project leader NOVA-ALMA
11.15 OmegaCAM Koen Kuijken, principal investigator OmegaCAM
11.35 ASTRO-WISE Edwin Valentijn, coordinator ASTRO-WISE
1215 Signing of the agreement
1230-1400 lunch

Afternoon program

visit to the Ilja Repin exhibition in the Groninger Museum


* OmegaCAM is the digital camera for the VST, the VLT Survey Telescope. This telescope will be located next to the four giant VLT- telescopes on mount Paranal. Its field of view will be one square degree (the full moon is about .5 degree). Both telescope and camera are dedicated instruments for mapping large parts (30,000 square degrees) of the visible sky in Chile. OmegaCAM detects every image in 16,384 x 16,384 pixels. Expressed in standard computer monitor resolution, this would result in a picture measuring more than 5 meters squared and the size of the total survey would be almost one square kilometer!

OmegaCAM will be instrumental in the hunt for rare and extreme objects, as well as in taking large samples of more common objects for statistical purposes.

OmegaCAM-partners: Universitäts-Sternwarte Munich.
Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova.
European Southern Observatory.

** ASTRO-WISE, the development of a virtual observatory, is a logical consequence of the ever increasing torrent of astronomical data. The 30 gigabytes per night from the VST alone calls for new methods of data-storage, - filtering and - recognition, but other wide-field imagers are under way. This brings astronomy once again to the cutting edge of information-technology. Every year, hundreds of millions of galaxies will be detected, data which can only be handled by dynamic archives: raw data will be reduced 'on the fly' on the basis of requests from the astronomer, using state of the art software. This collaboration between the national data centers of the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany recently received substantial financial backing by the European Union, within its Fifth Framework scientific program. The ultimate aim is a 'dynamic' and 'personal' observatory for every astronomer.

ASTRO-WISE partners: European Southern Observatory, Garching
Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Napels
Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris/CNRS, Paris
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich.

*** detectors for ALMA. On a barren plateau in Chile, 5000 meters above sea level, a powerful network of 64 radio telescopes will be operational in 2010. ALMA is one of the greatest future projects in astronomy, in which Europe and North America (Canada + U.S.) participate on an equal footing. Japan is considering to join as well. In Groningen, a detector for the frequency range 602 - 720 GHz is being developed. They will be part of a range of detectors in the focal planes of the 12-meter dishes that collect the millimeter radiation coming from the early universe

ALMA-partners: Stichting Ruimte Onderzoek Nederland (SRON)
Delft Institute for Microelectronic Structures (DIMES)
European Southern Observatory

More information

General information about the NOVA-program (in Dutch):

General information about the NOVA-program (in English)

contact: Arnout Jaspers NOVA Information Center 020-5257480 / 06-533 27 812

Location and parking:

The 'Academiegebouw' is right in the center of Groningen city. travel-information: city map indicating available parkings: