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Intelligent agents peer skyward

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Intelligent agents will one day be employed by astronomers all over the world. They will communicate with robotic telescopes on a worldwide network, ready to request (and, if necessary, bargain for) observation time at the first sign of a rapidly unfolding event. The project to develop the network, known as eSTAR (escience telescopes for astronomical research), is a collaboration between the Astrophysics Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University and the School of Physics' Astrophysics Research Group at the University of Exeter. With eSTAR, astronomers will not only have a network of software programs that systematically detect these events, but their own individual intelligent agent that acts as an ambassador to the network. The agent will immediately query telescopes around the globe about weather conditions and available instrumentation, bargain on behalf of its research program for observation time, collect and sift data, and deliver that data to the researcher - all without any human input. With eSTAR, individual telescopes take the place of processors; the distributed resource is not data-crunching power, but observation time. Each telescope in the eSTAR network is controlled by a software program - a discovery node - that continually makes observation data available to the network. In addition, the program juggles the scheduling of observation time, handles requests from other agents, and gives information about its capabilities and current observing conditions to the network.

Published in:

Computing in Science & Engineering  (Volume:6 ,  Issue: 5 )