The California Academy of Sciences now has a direct connection to CENIC’s California Research and Education Network (CalREN), and from there to the world. At a speed of 10 Gbps per second, this access to the ultra-high bandwidth of the CENIC network will provide scientists and patrons of the Academy with fifty times more capacity, enabling new opportunities to engage, create, invent, and learn. Prior to completing the connection to CalREN, the Academy was operating with 200 Mbps of connectivity. This level of enhanced connectivity is already making a difference in day-to-day operations.
“Access to CENIC’s powerful network of research and education partners has given the Academy a huge boost in our mission to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth,” says Jaime Lemus, Academy Director of Information Technology. “With a stronger, faster connection, we can reach more people far and wide.”
Academy staff in Morrison Planetarium are already taking advantage of the enhanced connectivity in their visualization studio. The planetarium is well known for creating remarkable visualizations of the latest findings, discoveries, and theories about our universe. Every star or galaxy a viewer encounters in the planetarium precisely mirrors a real-world counterpart, and when this virtual cosmos is projected onto Morrison's 75-foot-diameter screen, the dome itself seems to disappear, resulting in a uniquely immersive experience. High-bandwidth connectivity supports collaboration between widely-separated institutions, including production teams at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and planetariums in New York and Chicago.
On July 20, Ryan Wyatt—Academy Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization—delivered a fulldome talk in Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, with an audience in Morrison Planetarium connected via a simultaneous broadcast over the CENIC and Internet2 networks. Plans are underway to extend this to a multi-dome simulcast in the near future. In addition, working with Associated Universities, Inc., the Academy is seeking funding from the National Science Foundation to create a fulldome show about Chilean astronomy, a show that will promote STEM careers.
“Modern digital planetariums are all about data,” says Wyatt. “We immerse our audiences in data-driven stories, and with the oncoming data deluge—from observatories such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will generate 20 Terabytes of data every night when it comes online in a few years—we require immense connectivity to communicate emerging science.”
Educators at the planetarium are also making plans to use high-speed broadband to reach new audiences, including extending their outreach to the K-12 community. Increased bandwidth has also permitted additional webcam streams, further opening the museum walls. The Academy has 350 free science and environmental lessons that are currently used in 50 states and 70 countries, and the CalREN Network can open new distribution channels for these valuable curriculum resources. In addition, the Academy is looking forward to expanding its virtual field trip program to other CENIC members.
“Ensuring that students and teachers throughout the CalREN Network have access to high quality, inquiry-based learning materials is a top priority for the Academy,” says Elizabeth Babcock, Academy Chief Public Engagement Officer and Roberts-Wilson Dean of Education. “We are thrilled to be able to reach such a wide and diverse audience through this partnership.”
“Bandwidth should never constrain the work of scientists and educators in our state’s scientific and cultural organizations,” says Louis Fox, CENIC President and CEO. “The California Academy of Sciences now joins SFJAZZ and the Exploratorium in having the some of the highest levels of connectivity among scientific and cultural institutions in the nation. In addition, the Academy is now part of a network that links 12,000 research and education organizations within California to tens of thousands of research and education institutions around the globe—a fiber network and, equally important, a human network."
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