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Out of this world app

A collaboration between North Metropolitan TAFE (NMTAFE) and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is delivering unearthly outcomes for students and the community. 

  • NMTAFE Software Development students worked with ICRAR’s Outreach and Education Program to produce GLEAMOSCOPE VR, an app which showcases WA’s pristine night sky, the state’s expertise in radio astronomy and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. 
  • Launched this week, GLEAMOSCOPE VR gives users the experience of standing at the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory through virtual reality. 
  • The partnership gave NMTAFE students the opportunity to work on a project for a real client, so they graduate with industry experience. 

NMTAFE Diploma of Software Development student Megan McLean was part of the team to create GLEAMOSCOPE VR with ICRAR. She admits to being a little daunted by the world of radio astronomy at first. 

“There was a very deep learning curve in the beginning. It’s a completely different area for me but it’s been extremely interesting. It doesn’t matter how long you work on it; you just keep learning more,” said Megan. Megan.jpg

ICRAR cosmos consultant, Greg Rowbotham, jumped at the opportunity to work with the students when contacted by NMTAFE. 

“It was just an absolute godsend. It’s been great to work with people who can share the possibilities in virtual reality, and it’s allowed us to expand the project from a basic idea to a polished product,” he said. 

Launched this week, GLEAMOSCOPE VR allows users to look at the night sky through a number of wavelengths, focussing on what can be seen (and not seen) in visible and radio wavelengths. The whole experience is narrated by ICRAR’s own Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker and Dr Paul Hancock.

“We’re showing off what the SKA might look like and giving people an on-the-ground feeling of being there at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory,” said Greg. 

“This virtual version will be in the desert at night time, showing the visible universe as well as the sky as seen with ‘radio eyes’ and other wavelengths. You can switch between the wavelengths, see interesting objects and then query those objects and find out more about them. It’s quite amazing.”mro_GLEAM_night.jpg

GLEAMOSCOPE VR has been designed for everyone, not just people who have access to virtual reality equipment. It requires only a smart phone and a ‘Google Cardboard’, which can be bought online for about $20 or printed at home.

“We have these amazing dark-sky areas and excellent research using amazing telescopes like the Murchison Widefield Array,” said Greg. 

This app is a very accessible way for people to discover that knowledge in a way that passes on the information but is also an experience. That’s very important—what people remember is a great image and feeling like they’re there.” 
 
GLEAMOSCOPE VR will be available for Android users soon via Google Play.

 

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Page last updated July 10, 2019