Many Internet2 member institutions are developing and using high performance networking applications for shared, real-time access to remote instruments in the fields of astronomy, vlbi and radio astronomy, the health sciences, and the physical sciences.
The Gemini Observatory
With funding and support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Gemini Observatory established a new Internet pathway in August 2002, which will provide its twin telescopes with the data transfer capabilities required to handle the enormous amounts of scientific information created by Gemini's sophisticated instrumentation. This new link between Gemini's twin, 8-meter telescopes located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and on Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes was made possible with the support and technology of Internet2 and AMPATH, a Florida International University international Internet exchange point to research institutions in South America. Under development for almost five years, this link allows Gemini to move forward towards its goal of becoming the world's first "cyber observatory." According to Peter Michaud, Public Information and Outreach Manager for the Gemini Observatory, "A virtual ribbon cutting on August 13, 2002 officially inaugurated the new link between the twin observatories. This link will allow astronomers to access skies in both the northern and southern hemispheres without having to travel to Hawaii or Chile."
The nanoManipulator is an interface to scanning probe microscopes (SPM) allowing users to see, feel, and manipulate samples ranging in size from DNA to single atoms. The nanoManipulator allows the user to control the SPM, view interactive 3D visualizations of the data, and feel the shape of the sample through a forcefeedback device. A nanoManipulator can be used collaboratively by scientists in a "virtual laboratory" environment that allows remote access to a shared microscope and previously collected data. During collaboration, the nanoManipulator transfers video and system control data—all having different bandwidth, loss, and latency (delay) requirements. In contrast to some applications that have "bursty" bandwidth demands, the typical scientific experiment using the nanoManipulator lasts for many hours, creating a long-lived high demand on the network.
Remote Microscopy and Distance Learning
For the past four years, a Scanning Electron
Microscope (SEM) at the University of Michigan has played
a key role in a “microcourse” taught at Lehigh University.
Each year, The
Lehigh Microscopy School attracts 100-150 engineers
and scientists who receive instruction in a wide variety
of microscope techniques. The attendees range from novice
users to expert professionals who need to stay current on
the latest developments in the field of scanning and analytical
electron microscopy. These 4-5 day lecture/lab courses are
taught by noted experts and course attendees receive instruction
on SEMs and other state-of-the-art instruments. One of these
instruments is the Philips XL30FEG SEM located in the Electron
Microbeam Analysis Laboratory (EMAL) at the University
of Michigan (UM). The Philips line of SEMS was one of the first
to be completely computer-controlled, as opposed to the knob
and switch “interfaces” on older instruments. Extending its
usability via remote-control to an Internet wide audience resulted
from the work of Dr. John Mansfield and collaborators. Mansfield,
Manager of the North Campus EMAL at UM, explained, “Advanced
networks provide the bandwidth and performance required to
control the SEM in real-time from anywhere in the world. Remote
access extends the use of this extremely costly resource for
instructional and collaborative research purposes.” Normally
training on an SEM takes place in a cramped microscope room,
allowing only 2-3 observers at a time to view the controls
and instrument images. For the Lehigh microcourse, the SEM
in Ann Arbor, MI was controlled from a laptop in Bethlehem,
PA while course attendees viewed both the instrument controls
and images in an auditorium-style setting. The computer that
operates the SEM runs VNC (Virtual
Network Computing), while the remote laptop runs software called VNC-Overlay,
a customized program developed at EMAL. Video from the SEM
is feed into a Linux video server, which digitizes and sends
it as an MPEG-4 stream to the remote location. Mansfield
summarized, “From an instructional stand-point, the microscope being in Ann Arbor is a non-issue.”
Mansfield will be among the presenters in a special panel on teaching during the National Internet2 Day, an Internet2 virtual community event that will be netcast 18 March 2004. Dr. John Mansfield describes his work in this QuickTime video clip.
As one of the premier facilities for radio/radar astronomy and atmospheric science, the Aricebo Observatory in Puerto Rico is a key component of several large-scale research programs involving multiple instruments around the globe and in space. The 305m telescope's unique sensitivity is needed for quick confirmation of new discoveries within its space and frequency coverage, precise tracking and imaging of small solar system objects which may be visible for only a few days, and measurement of ionospheric effects barely detectable elsewhere. The design of the instrument is shaped by multidisciplinary needs and enables it to respond quickly and flexibly to "targets of opportunity". A remote observing capability is useful for flexible telescope scheduling, as well as for coordinated observing projects with multiple spaced instruments, which are common in atmospheric investigations. Plans call for development of a "Virtual Control Room" permitting remote observers to perform high-quality observations over Internet2 without travelling to the site.Given the large data-gathering capability of the Arecibo telescope, special techniques are often required to perform realtime signal processing and parameter estimation on the acquired data. Certain investigations e.g pulsar searches require supercomputer-class computing resources to implement sophisticated reduction algorithms. Good use of the available observing time often implies getting data reduced before the next available slot, i.e high-bandwidth access to a supercomputer. Here the role of the Observatory is that of a source of raw data with a participating supercomputer center supplying the computational resources.
Tele-vator Excavation Backhoe
Tele-vator is a computerized excavation backhoe that can be remotely operated over Internet2 High Performance networks. Because of its size and potential criticality of operations (e.g., in rescue hazardous situations) Tele-vator requires a high level of sophisticated two-way feedback, including adequate depth of vision provided via high-definition stereovision. Guaranteed Quality-of-Service (QoS) — such as network bandwith, latency (delay) control, and jitter (variability in delay) control — are essential to insure the quality of the 3D image, audio, and equiptment control channels required by Tele-vator´s remote operators.
Scanning Electron Microscope
The Microscope and Graphic Imaging Center (MAGIC) at Cal State Hayward is developing a model for remote access to scientific instruments. Using high-performance networks provides a way to share a variety of valuable resources with a world-wide audience. By pooling these resources and providing common access and user interfaces, science researchers and educators will have capabilities that no one institution could afford. Prof. Christopher Morgan, Director of Technology at MAGIC, is writing the software that controls remote access to the Philips XL-40 Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at Cal State. Prof. Morgan is concentrating his immediate efforts on developing software that will automatically focus the remote microscope before the image it displays is sent over the network. According to Morgan, "Focusing normally takes a bit of bandwidth if you´re trying to do it remotely." Ultimately, Morgan would also like to use telepresence and tele-immersion so that remote users have the feeling of really being in front of the microscope. Morgan´s work was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 2001).