0716 714 are the spatial coordinates of the black hole that will form the focus of my attention with respect to the current practical experimentation. I met again yesterday with Alan Gilsinan at Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO). The purpose of this meeting was to gain some understanding of:
- the entities that are currently within the scope of the observatory’s studies;
- where these entities are located;
- specific data that BCO studies and why that data might be interesting from a scientific perspective;
- what the data represents
- what form the data is encoded or formatted (decimal, octal, etc)
The meeting lasted for about two hours and many of the questions above were clarified. Needless to say the issues are so complex that clarification really is used here in a relative sense. For example when one asks: “where is this object?”, because of the field of study the answer is framed not only in spatial terms but also in time. So while the object above can be referenced by a particular co-ordinate system such as the ‘equatorial coordinate system’ with Declination (Dec) and Right Ascension (RA) values it is also located back in time, estimated at 15 billion light years. Therefore this object while located outside our own galaxy may not exist in current time.
While there is an uncountable number of entities in space it is estimated that there are 100,000 entities that are currently of interest to the astronomical community worldwide. With respect to BCO there are approx. 20 objects that consume their attention and their particular interest is in quasars which are specific type of black hole, possibly super massive black holes. The categorisation is based not on the material or physical attributes of a black hole per se but its orientation to the observer. In this way a ‘normal’ quasar is defined by a viewpoint that is not obscured by the material being swept into the centre of the black hole but one that looks directly through its centre from a perpendicular direction to the acceleration disk – the spinning donut of matter some of which is sucked in and destroyed by the black hole. The resulting energy that is produced by this ‘proposed’ activity is emitted outwards in opposite poles from the centre of the black hole; these projections of energy, sometimes referred to as ‘cosmic jets’ , when pointing directly towards the observer, register as a flickering light source. Astronomers at BCO observe these changing light energy values in the interest of discovering what the behaviour might infer.
The data that has been accumulated and processed in BCO is made available to this art project through a dot DAT text format. The data that is studied at the observatory comes from various scientific centres around the world. There is therefore a potential time lag of days to months between the recording of information via a telescope and me receiving the information for use in the art project. This is due to the enormous quantities of information being processed which result in terabytes of data that is then filtered and evaluated. The information that I am currently accessing, thanks to Alan and Niall, represents fluctuations in the light values being emitted from the above quasar.
The data itself is released to me in text format and the numeric values are encoded in 16bit (14bit when unpacked) grayscale spectrum values. Before this information is useful with respect to the artwork a number of filtering operations must be applied in order to extract the ‘interesting’ values that will be used to drive events within the interactive art work. These values must then be normalised so they can be utilised practically as events or keys for animation. While I have already done some work on this using dummy data (see post on 16th Feb entitled ‘Prototype Animation Anticipating Data from BCO’) more detailed work will need to be done to filter and access relevant information in the dot DAT files.