Friday, 15 July 2011

If I had a blank cheque I’d … trace the history of the Milky Way

A busy day, zipping down to Melbourne for a meeting on computer infrastructure. In the meantime, I got another article published in The Conversation titled If I had a blank cheque I’d … trace the history of the Milky Way.

The article is part of a series on what would happen if you give scientists a blank cheque. I was very restrained (I'd get rid of my mortgage first), and I focused on things that are actually achievable with a reasonable (rather than infinite) pot of money.

Not to steal the thunder of the article, I said I would use $100 million to build WFMOS, a project which I was very involved with. Here's a random image

WFMOS was to be the next generation multi-fibre spectrograph, built as part of a consortium between Gemini and Subaru, and to be placed at the top-end of the mighty Subaru Telescope.

This project was a long time in development,  a history which I won't recount here now. But there were a number of meetings to discuss the science, the focus of which was the nature of dark energy and galactic archaeology. In fact, I organized one of these meetings;

The meeting was very enjoyable, but alas, it was also the platform for Gemini to announce that WFMOS was cancelled. A rather depressing outcome after a huge amount of effort.

However, the Japanese have continued with a new project, called Sumire, which will attack the dark energy questions that WFMOS was intending to do. Alas, the galactic archaeology waits in the wings.

As I said, I will not reproduce The Conversation article here, and I will write more on galactic archaeology in the future. I will take a moment, however, to lament the memory of WFMOS.

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