Whole Earth Telescope (WET) 

 

Dr. Edward Nather WET Founder, In Memoriam 2014

Dr. Darragh O'Donoghue, Original WET member,     In Memoriam 2015

 

    In 1986, scientists from the University of Texas Astronomy Department established a world-wide network of cooperating astronomical observatories to obtain uninterrupted time-series measurements of variable stars. The technological goal was to resolve the multi-periodic oscillations observed in these objects into their individual components; the scientific goal was to construct accurate theoretical models of the target objects, constructed by their observed behavior, from which their fundamental astrophysical parameters could be derived. This approach has bee extremely successful, and has placed the fledgling science of stellar seismology at the forefront of stellar astrophysics.

    This network, now known as the Whole Earth Telescope (WET) is run as a single astronomical instrument with many operators. The collaboration includes scientists from around the globe in data acquisition, reduction, analysis, and theoretical interpretation. For the first decade of its existence, the WET was headquartered at the University of Texas in Austin (which also currently supports a separate WET website). When WET founder Dr. Edward Nather retired as director in 1997, WET HQ moved to Iowa State University with Dr. Steve Kawaler as Director.

    In 1995, the WET became an affiliated program of the International Institute of Theoretical and Applied Physics (IITAP) at Iowa State University. The goal of IITAP was to foster collaborations between U.S. scientists and their colleagues in developing countries, and thus cooperation between IITAP and WET was a natural venture.

    In 2004, a WET gathering was held at the 14th European Workshop on White Dwarfs in Kiel, Germany. The future of WET was discussed, and the Council of the Wise (the COW), headed by S.O.Kepler, gave their blessing to Dr. Harry Shipman and Dr. Judi Provencal to investigate the possibilities of private funding at Mt. Cuba Observatory and the University of Delaware. Harry Shipman was successful in wooing the Crystal Trust Foundation. In 2005, Judi and Harry formed the Delaware Asteroseismic Research Center (DARC), sponsored by Mt. Cuba Observatory and the University of Delaware. A main goal of DARC is to explore new scientific goals for WET. With this goal in mind, DARC sponsored XCov 25 observations of GD358, with the goal of constraining the convection parameters of the helium convection zone in GD358.

    A WET run differs from a typical multi site campaign in that operation is coordinated from a single command center by electronic mail and long-distance telephone. Data from each observing site (as many as 20) is returned by e-mail or ftp to maximize the effective use of the whole instrument. Following the run, the principal scientist has the option of re-reducing all the data. Analysis of data from a WET run is always interesting, since the comprehensive data set often reveals things that were not explained and are theoretically exciting. After analysis is complete, a process often taking a year or two, the PI drafts a preliminary manuscript including everyone who participated in that particular WET run as co-authors. The convention is to list co-authors by location, proceeding westward from the PI's home institution. Co-authors are encouraged to send comments and suggestions. When co-authors approve, the final results are submitted for publication to refereed journal.

    A major operational goal of the WET collaboration is to share technical and scientific expertise and results with all interested astronomers and technicians. Periodic WET workshops are held every few years to discuss the current results and future direction of the collaboration. Preliminary planning is underway for a WET workshop in July 2007. In addition, periodic visits by the WET collaborators to WET headquarters spreads knowledge of tools, software, results, and enthusiasm throughout the globe.

 

 


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