My name is Kevin Nolan. I’m the regional coordinator to Ireland for The Planetary Society.

This blog has a dual role: reporting on news, events and activities associated with The Planetary Society in Ireland; as well as acting as a blog on topics within space exploration, space science and astronomy. It is aimed at the non expert, but science and space enthusiasts will find it useful too. The main objective is to provide up-to-date news, reviews, analysis and context on current and important space missions, programs and future plans.

Categories include:

Mars Exploration, Exploring the Solar System, Exoplanets, Life in the Universe, The Hubble Space Telescope (and other modern telescopes), Cosmic Perspectives, Observing the Sky, among others.

As well as providing news and analysis, the blog will also explore sociological, cultural, political, ethical and historical issues associated with space exploration and astronomy; as well as pedagogy through space exploration and astronomy.

Blogs will broadly follow the following format:
– Synopsis of blog
– The Blog itself
– Pointers to further resources
– Credits and references (where required)

Each blog will be drafted with one or more of the following intentions (indicated at the beginning of the blog for clarity): Factual news, reviews, analysis, insight, philosophical and anecdotal prose, and opinion. I’ll endeavour to be balanced and objective; but obviously I’m pro space exploration so that stand point will prevail. Nevertheless, I also hope to be challenged by testing my own stand points when researching and writing each blog, and through your comments, and to be prepared to adapt when necessary (and state that) – especially when engaging contentious topics – where any personal standpoint will be expressed in solidarity with those of alternative positions.

About me:

I lecture in physics in the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin (ITT). I returned from the computer industry to academia in 2000, and have been pursuing my PhD part time (nearing completion) which involves the development of the image analysis software pipeline for the Optical Monitoring Camera (OMC) on board ESA’s INTEGRAL space probe, operating in space now. My supervisor is Dr. Niall Smith, Head of Research at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) (technical lead is Dr. Peter Kretschmar, Head of Operations, INTEGRAL, ESOC, Madrid).

I am very interested in science outreach and have written and spoken widely on a range of topics in astronomy and space exploration. I authored a popular science book titled “Mars, a Cosmic Stepping Stone” (Springer/Copernicus, NY, 2008) which explains the rationale for, and how we are pursuing, Mars exploration. I spent seven years researching and developing the book, so it was a major undertaking (and hence why my PhD is not yet complete!). The book is available though book sellers, as an eBook and as an Amazon Kindle edition.

I am also co-principle investigator with my colleague Dr. Eugene Hickey (ITT) of a Cloud and Grid Computing group in ITT. Our first PhD student is nearing completion (I’m technical co-supervisor since I don’t have my PhD yet!). His project developed an Grid Computing algorithm which analysed all 7 Terabytes (300 million stellar coordinates) comprising the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS); and produced a vast catalogue of 300 million optimum ‘coordinate pointings’ for robotic telescopes to search for Exoplanets (planets around other stars) using novel techniques developed by Dr. Smith at CIT in ‘differential photometry’. The analysis took 100,000 CPU hours on the 1000 computer Grid at Trinity College Dublin. We hope to pursue some robotic searches soon, as well as extend the analysis using Cloud Computing, and eventually provide a web solution that can be used by amateur astronomers too.

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