What if students ran the world’s largest telescope? And what if you could make that dream a reality?
The main goal of the ERGO Project is to give students an opportunity to see their surroundings in a new and profound way. This is accomplished through the use of sensitive detectors in classrooms spread all over the planet. These devices are interlinked over the internet, creating an observatory on a global scale. The devices are astonishingly simple to operate, and come bundled with pre-made classroom lessons and informational guides.
For over a hundred years it has been known that energetic charged particles arrive at Earth from space. We call them cosmic rays. Some of these rays are extremely high energy protons, traveling at nearly the speed of light. Data gathered by the ERGO distributed telescope system will allow students to see and study patterns of cosmic-ray events in time and space, and to observe daily, annual, and solar-activity- related patterns. In other words, there are lots of real scientific observations and experiments, ranging from simple to complex, which can be done by students participating in the project. What about the chance of an intelligent “signal” among all these seemingly-random cosmic-ray events? Recognizing that these extraordinarily energetic particles are easy to detect and are able to cross cosmic distances at nearly the speed of light, we can speculate they have been chosen as a simple means of communication, or to be a beacon signaling the existence of that civilization. Regardless of that possibility, the ERGO project promises to further current scientific knowledge and hopes to involve students in new aspects of science.
Why You Should Be Excited Too
You may or may not know anything about cosmic rays, and that really doesn’t matter. For the most part, nobody else does either. That’s the magic of the ERGO Project: it’s a simple yet all-encompassing way to learn about something that literally surrounds us. Also, let’s face it, knowing about cosmic rays makes you sound really smart! Maybe you’re an educator looking for a new way to capture the attention of your students. Or, you could be a student who wants to learn something new. Either way, this is exactly the thing for you. We’ve worked tirelessly to make this dream real, and in the process have already done most of the hard things for you. All that’s left for us to do is keep expanding and moving forward. That’s where you come in. We’ve already designed and constructed your device, as well as developed a lesson plan and background information guide on what cosmic rays are, and why we’re looking for them. We have already found influential companies and educational institutions who are equally interested. With units already in places as distant as Boston, Miami and Anchorage, you have the opportunity to be one of the first in what is sure to be a truly revolutionary endeavor: creating the largest telescope in the world, a telescope built to learn from now, and to involve the youth of the world, our future, in the sciences.
This is all for you! If you’re a student, show your teacher how cool being part of this could be. Tell him/her that there are classroom exercises already prepared, and that your school may even qualify for a free unit. Tell teachers there are grants and prizes available for teachers who are able to learn about the science and use the devices in the most innovative and effective ways. Know that there is pride in being part of something larger than one individual. Know that with your participation, not only do you get to be part of something big, but you also are able to directly advance interest in the sciences for years to come.
Affectionately known by some users as “the box with the flashing lights,” the ERGO box provides a complex system in an extremely simple package. Each system consists of an individual image detecting unit, usually called a pixel. Each pixel (ERGO unit) consists of a Muon Detector, a Timestamp Generator, and an embedded Ethernet server that provides the internet connection. Signals from all the interconnected ERGO units are then combined to generate a global image. Even though the pixels will be spread unevenly over Earths surface, we will be able to synthesize an image by using the geographic location information reported in each timestamp. In fact, even if one of the pixels is moving, we can include its observations into the overall database by allowing for its changing position. Imagine moving pixels in aircraft, on ships, and with explorers in hard-to-reach areas of Earth. Since most of Earth isn’t covered by land, the use of temporary and moving locations will be essential to provide coverage of the full extent of the planet.