Radio Observatory Moves to a Shopping Mall

How’s this for bringing science to the public? This weekend, the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden will be moving their telescope’s control room to Scandinavia’s biggest shopping mall, Nordstan (North Town) in Gothenburg.

“The idea is to remotely observe with our 20-meter telescope — as well as a couple of smaller ones — and let the general public take part and see how it’s done and how exciting it is,” the observatory’s public relations director Robert Cumming told Universe Today.”

The great thing about radio astronomy is that is can be done during the day – during business hours at the mall.

And they’ve got some interesting targets on the list, including Comet Lemmon. “It’s too close to the sun for ordinary telescopes, but for a radio telescope like ours that’s no problem,” said Cumming.

Of course, the radio telescope itself still has to be out at its normal location, away from radio interference, but the control room will move to allow public interaction. But there will be bus tours available out to the big telescope.

But beyond public outreach, looking at Comet Lemmon gives the astronomers at Onsala practice for the (hopefully) big one this fall, Comet ISON. “Onsala will have one of very few telescopes that can study ISON from the Earth,” Cumming said.

So, for any of our readers in Sweden, head out the North Town Mall in Gothenburg between the hours of 11:00 and 16:00 local time on Sunday, April 28. This is part of the Gothenburg Science Festival.

“It is the first time we are trying to make a telescope control room outside Onsala,” said Mitra Hajigholi, graduate student in astronomy at Chalmers University of Technology, who will be one of several researchers on location at the mall. “With the help of our large 20-meter telescope, we want to look at a comet and display measurements in real time. It will be exciting!”