Bob Mann and Andy Lawrence
Wednesday 25 January 2006 4 pm AT 3.05
Astronomy is arguably the oldest of the sciences, but it continues to flourish today thanks to technological advances in other disciplines. Theoretical astrophysicists have long been demanding users of high performance computing resources, but the more varied and interesting challenges for computer science are arising within the observational side of the subject. Observational astronomy is driven by advances in detector technologies and modern solid-state detectors underpin the current wave of systematic sky surveys being undertaken across the electromagnetic spectrum and being progressively federated within the growing global Virtual Observatory. The storage, description, integration and analysis of the vast quantities of heterogeneous data being made available within the framework of the Virtual Observatory are providing challenging applications for many areas of computer science. We describe a number of the topics where close collaboration between astronomers and computer scientists is proving to be very beneficial to both sides, and discuss the sociological and technical reasons why astronomy is a particularly good domain for the application of computational thinking.