Archive for ESA

Guiana impressions [#2]

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2022 by xi'an

As in other oversea French territories, Guiana is a mix of reproduction of some metropolitan features (e.g., the postoffice, the gendarmerie, the signage, the large malls with French brands like Carrefour and the same products as here, the many boulangeries) and of local specificities or idiosyncrasies (e.g., very well maintained roadsides, haphazard garbage collection, convenience stores overwhelmingly operated by people of Chinese descent, hardly any regulation on guns, hunting, or bushmeat for non-protected species). Car wrecks are left along the roads, while the driving code there reminded me of the 80’s! Meaning risky overtakes, moppets with no lights and moppet drivers with no helmet. I also drove there possibly the worst ride of my life, over the 50km between Roura and the harbour on Kaw marshes, as the formally (or formerly?) paved D6 road is littered with potholes that are rarely avoidable and often quite deep. The drive back in the night, the rain and the fog was a nightmare!

We visited the launching site of ESA, Kourou, an impressive structure over a huge territory. But missed the James Webb launch by six hours, only catching the exhaust fumes of the rocket when we were approaching Cayenne (after a rather uncomfortable flight between a massive and man-spreading left neighbour and a reclining-to-the-max front neighbour). And missed a jaguar crossing the road by being in the “wrong” ESA bus! (Unless this is a usual line of the tour guide.)

As Amazon France does not truly work in French Amazonia (another idiosyncrasy!), for obvious cost and delay resaons, bookstores in cities like Cayenne and Kourou are terrific and hopefully standing a better chance of surviving. When we spent an hour in La Case à Bulles, the place was crowded! (As I forgot my regular Olympus camera at home, I would have loved to get Amazon delivery. Instead I bought a basic Kodak camera from the local supermarket, which returned most of these blah pictures before the batteries prematurely died.)

where will stars be in 10⁶ years?

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on December 4, 2020 by xi'an


Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by xi'an

Today, I attended a meeting at the Paris observatory about the incoming launch of the Gaia satellite and the associated data (mega-)challenges. To borrow from the webpage, “To create the largest and most precise three dimensional chart of our Galaxy by providing unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements for about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group.” The amount of data that will be produced by this satellite is staggering: Gaia will take pictures of roughly 1Giga pixels that will be processed both on-board and on Earth, transmitting over five years a pentabyte of data that need to be processed fairly efficiently to be at all useful! The European consortium operating this satellite has planned for specific tasks dedicated to data handling and processing, which is a fabulous opportunity for would-be astrostatisticians! (Unsurprisingly, at least half of the tasks are statistics related, either at the noise reduction stage or at the estimation stage.) Another amazing feature of the project is that it will result in open data, the outcome of the observations being open to everyone for analyse… I am clearly looking forward the next meeting to understand better the structure of the data and the challenges simulation methods could help to solve!

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