New 3-D map of Milky Way will ‘revolutionize astronomy’

The milky way and meteors of the April Lyrids annual meteor shower are seen in the night sky over Burg auf Fehmarn on the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn, northern Germany. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2018
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New 3-D map of Milky Way will ‘revolutionize astronomy’

PARIS: Europe’s Gaia satellite has produced a “stunning” 3-D map, published Wednesday, of more than a billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, complete with their distance from Earth, their color, and their motion through space.
The eagerly-anticipated catalogue was compiled from data gathered by Gaia on some 1.7 billion stars over 22 months in 2014-2016, from its unique vantage point in space about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth.
“The dataset is very rich and we believe it will revolutionize astronomy and our understanding of the Milky Way,” Gaia’s scientific operations manager Uwe Lammers told AFP of the massive data release.
“This catalogue is the most precise, most complete catalogue that has ever been produced. It allows studies which have not been possible before.”
Launched in 2013, Gaia gathers data on about 100,000 stars per minute — some 500 million measurements per day. Its first map was published in September 2016, with about 1.15 billion stars.
An update, released at the ILA international air and space show in Berlin, adds stars and provides more data on each one. Some were measured as many as 70 times.
The map contains 1.7 billion stars “for which we can tell where they are in the sky with very high accuracy, and how bright they are,” said Anthony Brown of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium.
For 1.3 billion of those, “we know their distance and we know how they move through space.”
There is, furthermore, information on the radial velocities of some seven million stars — indicating the rate at which they are moving toward, or away from, Earth.
With all this data, “we can make a map of the whole night sky,” said Brown, who described the end result as “stunning.”
“You see the whole Milky Way in motion around its axis.”
Gaia also revealed the orbits of some 14,000 “solar system objects” — mapped as an intricate spiderweb of space rocks orbiting the Sun.
“It represents the most accurate survey ever of asteroids in the Solar System,” said Brown. More will be added in future updates.
Information sent to Earth by Gaia is collated by 450 scientists from 20 countries.
One of them, Antonella Vallenari, likened the data release to “opening a chocolate box.”
“It’s very, very exciting,” she said at the launch event in Germany, webcast live.
The full data will be published in a series of scientific papers in a special issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.