Saturday morning on May 9th was yet another day when grey, dark cloud dominated the sky obscuring the Sun which in turn was obscuring the myriad of stars and galaxies drifting in the vast expanse of the Universe. Should we wait for the Sun to go down and the clouds to clear up? Not really. Eager youngsters and adults entered the Infoversum, which on this particular day turned into a time capsule taking people as far back in time and space as the Big Bang revealing the unimaginable scale of the Universe and our determination to keep reading our cosmic history bit by bit. It was Target's Open Day, part of the EU Kijkdagen 2015.
This year, our Target project again took part in the "Europe Around the Corner" Open Day initiative running under the auspices of the Dutch government and the EU commission. While last year, we let our visitors tour our Big Data facilities, this year we took them on a special journey through the history of our cosmos in a spectacular fulldome lecture show at the Infoversum. Three prominent astronomers from the University of Groningen presented current and future very data-intensive astronomy projects that are relying heavily on the Target expertise center to provide data management services and facilitate scientific discoveries for thousands of scientists across several continents.
The Infoversum was full to the brim with people eager to see spectacular fulldome visualizations of observational and simulation data much of which was produced exclusively for this show. The audience could fly through the Universe as it may have looked like while giving birth to the first stars and galaxies, a period known as the Epoch of Reionization. Astronomers have build massive radio telescopes, the largest one being LOFAR to try and detect extremely faint signals that will provide the first observational evidence for this still unknown period in the evolution of our Universe. The successor of LOFAR, the Square Kilometre Array, will not only be the most ambitious project in astronomy up to date, but will also push the limits of current computational and storage technology as the dishes of the telescope are expected to produce 10 times the global internet traffic. Visitors enjoyed a simulation of the evolution of the large scale structure largely governed by dark matter and flew in space with the soon-to-be-built ESA's Euclid satellite that will shed more light on the nature of this mysterious component of the cosmos as well as study dark energy which governs the accelerated expansion of the Universe. The audience also travelled with astronomer Gijs Verdoes Kleijn to the dry mountains of Chile to tour the ESO's observatory and learn how we painstakingly catalogue the Universe with ever larger telescopes.
In the last five years, the Target project and its partners have laid the foundations of establishing the northern region as a Big Data technology and expertise hub boosting not only scientific progress and prestige, but also IT entrepreneurship and innovation. The future is even more ambitious with the upcoming ERCET project, awaiting final funding approval by the province of Groningen. Initiatives like the EU Kijkdagen, aiming to inform the general public about where and how their taxpayer money is used, as well as general science outreach programs and events will continue to be high on our agenda. Stay tuned!
This event was a wonderful collaborative initiative made possible by a number of people and institutions.
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Article (in Dutch) about our event in Groningen Nieuws.nl
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