A Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos

Alberto Conti

Astronomer and NASA Multimission Archive Scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute

Videography by Nerine & Robert Clemenzi, Edited by Nerine Clemenzi
Copyright © Philosophical Society of Washington.  All rights reserved.

Alberto Conti


A revolution in Astronomy and Astrophysics is taking place. Wide-area multi-wavelength astronomical imaging surveys are underway that will provide high resolution full sky views across the electromagnetic spectrum. They will provide humanity’s first digital map of the universe.

More than any other single instrument, the Hubble Space Telescope has been responsible for shaping the scientific and public view of the universe, particularly through its active outreach program. However, the information thus far provided to the public has been largely curated and static, limiting the participation of non-professional astronomers in exploring and utilizing Hubble data. This will have to change if we are to realize the full value of the flood of digital information that is being produced by the new sky surveys. The information must be made available to allow all users to actively explore the cosmos themselves. In 2006 I proposed that Google develop an intuitive visual interface to make the information easily available to everyone, everywhere. The result, GoogleSky, was released in 2007. By streaming imagery, catalogs, time domain and ancillary information directly to a user, it provides the general public with a wealth of information for use in education and research.

This talk will describe the development of Google Sky how it works and its technical features. The talk also will use GoogleSky as a virtual telescope for a journey from our solar system to the edge of the known universe as seen through the eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Speaker

Alberto Conti is Astrophysicist and NASA Multimission Archive Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (“STScI”), and Project Manager for the MAST/GALEX space-based UV survey. He pioneered the use of data mining and visualization techniques in the astronomical community. He has worked on many collaborations on sky survey datasets with scientists throughout the world, and carried out seminal work on Galaxy Formation. He has long been involved in bringing astronomical information to the public. He is the co-creator of GoogleSky and also is a team member on Microsoft's World Wide Telescope project - showing that he can bridge diverse universes.

Dr. Conti earned his Laurea in Physics from the University of Trieste and did post-Laurea work in astronomy at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste. He earned his PhD from Ohio State University and did Postdoctoral work at the University of Pittsburgh before joining STScI. He is the author of numerous publications on globular clusters, galaxy formation, the engineering of astronomical data systems and the handling and analysis of large astronomical data sets, among others. Dr. Conti received the Pirelli INTERNETional Award in 2007.

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