TOOLS: Star Search

Science  17 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5571, pp. 1207c
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5571.1207c

Facing a data glut, astronomers need an efficient way to compare information collected by telescopes that differ in resolution and sensitivity, says astrophysicist Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. SkyQuery, a new search tool for experts, retrieves and collates information from three astronomical databases, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, whose goal is to map one-quarter of the night sky. You can, for example, find the positions of all the galaxies in the databases that exceed a certain brightness. In six harried weeks, Szalay's group crafted SkyQuery for a Microsoft contest to design modular Internet applications, winning second prize among nearly 100 entries. The site is the prototype for a “virtual observatory” that will mesh disparate data held by 18 sky-watching institutions, Szalay says.

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