Hampshire teenagers are being invited to be the first in the world to take part in a ground-breaking search and find competition by playing on their mobile devices.
They are being given unprecedented access to super-computing power allowing them to embark on missions exploring our universe and upload films of their adventures to YouTube which could win them an iPod Touch.
SpaceMission is a mobile application for flying through large-scale computer models of our cosmos on voyages spanning several millions of Earth years. The idea was developed by the University of Portsmouth, the INAF Astrophysical Observatory in Catania, Italy, and Intech, the Winchester-based science centre and planetarium where there will be a permanent exhibit funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Pupils aged 12 and older can join in the competition by downloading a free app from Apple’s iTunes store and then obtaining a free starter code for unlocking the application by visiting Intech or applying at the website of SpaceMission. The member of the development team from the University of Portsmouth is Mel Krokos, a senior lecturer in the School of Creative Technologies leading research in Computer Graphics and Visualisation.
He said: “As far as we know, nobody has tried this before – SpaceMission is giving people access to the power of super-computers through mobile devices, allowing them to look and investigate what previously no-one but scientists could see.”
The technology exploited for creating SpaceMission is based on VisIVO, a high-performance visualisation software for astrophysics. The app gives people a chance to see things in glorious detail, revealing clusters of galaxies, their shapes and locations in our cosmos.
Competitors must search and identify specific ‘hidden’ objects, for example a collision between galaxies, within large-scale computer models of the universe. Once all objects are identified successfully, the app allows the user to create a high-resolution film. The winners will be selected by an international committee of experts based on their film’s scientific interest and artistic merit and will receive an iPod touch.
The SpaceMission app has been developed to work on the Apple iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, and the developers are working on a version for Android devices. It is the first in what academics hope will be a range of new-generation mobile tools exploiting specialised scientific data with access to super-computing power to help encourage young people to become more interested in sciences.