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Argus Array
Argus Array small
Image from Chris Schaeffer
One of the telescopic elements of the Argus Array
Distributed telescopic network occupying a spherical volume approximately 1000 ly across in the Inner and Middle Regions.

Configuration

Constructed of some 8000 multi-spectral sensor complexes arrayed in a three dimensional lattice throughout the volume. Each sensor complex is approximately 50ly from its neighboring complexes. Nanogauge communication wormholes link the array elements to the Known Net and transfer imaging protocols and array data to and from various academic and scientific control centers.

In addition to the 8000 "official" sensor complexes there are other elements, minor observatories, etc. that can be drawn upon as needed.

Sometimes several observatories that aren't officially part of the array may be looking at the right part of the sky and by chance happen to gather data that can be used elsewhere. Many observational projects can be done without specifically directing the array, but just collecting the overlapping observations that happen to have gathered the information required.

Also, even if two elements are not the same distance from the phenomena to be observed it is still possible to compare their viewpoints. Data from the first element is stored to get the signal and compare it with observations of the second element.

The design of each sensor complex differs markedly according to the specifications of different empires and archailects, construction methods, or local cultural influences which may have an influence on the actual appearance of array elements. But the original template, which is still the one most often used, has each sensor complex as a series of distributed telescopic arrays generally built in eight tangential orbital rings around a small star (although some array elements are constructed around deep space brown dwarfs). Each orbital ring is equipped to take observations across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

When a target is chosen for the Array, control signals are relayed through the Known Net to a subset of its sensor elements. The signals specify direction, portion of the spectrum to observe in, and duration of observation. Information from the Array is in turn relayed back to the control center directing that particular observation. Due to the high number of array elements it is often possible to observe several targets simultaneously and perform several projects at once.

Each array element employs hundreds of control centers. Each control center can be used for a specific observation or series of observations. When an astronomer or other user wants to employ the array, they work through the nearest available control center rather than traveling to a single place.

Politics

The largest problem encountered in creating and using the Argus Array has not been technology but politics. Empires and archailects don't alway co-operate in sharing the data their portions of the Array have gathered.

Although, in theory the array could act as a coordinated and unified whole, in practice there is often some political or informational conflict over how to gather and share data. In many cases the Array acts more like a large set of smaller arrays that always cooperate, within a medium sized set of mid-sized arrays that sometimes cooperate, within one huge array that occasionally works as a unified whole (or whose needed-for-project elements cooperate). The number of levels of arrays within arrays and their cooperativeness varies.

History

The history of the Argus Array can be said to have begun in 5450 during the Consolidation Period with the construction of what would eventually be seen as the first element of the Array. At the time, the project that was begun in the Ixeway system was intended to create the largest telescope ever seen. Upon its completion in 5460 the Array admirably fulfilled this goal and made a number of significant contributions to the astronomical databases of the time.

As originally conceived the Array was intended to consist only of a single ring of telescopic elements in orbit around, and getting power from, its red dwarf primary. However, over the next two and a half centuries the need for a more flexible device became more apparent and additional rings were gradually added until a total of six were in place around the star. Shortly thereafter the proposal was put forward to expand the array's baseline across interstellar distances using wormhole based communication links to synchronize operations. The MPA happened to be in an economic expansion period at this time and provided the major impetus for the project. The result was that by 5776 the array had been expanded into a complex of six identical units in a rough hexagon of six star systems.

Things might have stabilized at this point, but for the efforts and actions of the Church of the Far-Seer, an otherwise minor movement whose primary belief was that God was observing the Cosmos from the edge of the Universe and it was the mission of all true believers to seek Eir out. By a combination of political maneuvering, coincidence (many members of the church were astronomers by profession), and the support of the hyperturing Ethonos, the church gained control of Array operations and proceeded to work to expand it to a level where it could achieve their goal. This was by no means an uninterrupted process, but with the use of skillful memetic engineering, a specialized series of limited neumann, and the patronage of Ethonos the church managed to drive expansion of the array for another eight centuries until it reached its current size. The array never did achieve the church's goal of seeing God, and the point became moot some 300 years after the founding of the Church when the organization merged with Ethonos in a mass transcension to an unknown toposophic level and essentially vanished from the known galaxy.

By that time a number of other hyperturings were interested in continuing the project (later it transpired that they were the ones behind the Church of the Far-Seer in any case; an instance of memetic engineering of a memetic engineer) and took up Array operations. The full status of Ethonos in all this has never been determined, but third singularity cliological simulations show e really had little interest one way or the other, and the whole act would have never been noticed by S<1 beings were it not for eir unexpected transcension. Throughout the later Consolidation period and into the second Federation, more AIs and a number of posthuman clades became involved, and the project soon lost any traces of its religious phase, apart from the familiar iconic Eye that adorns many of the Array letterheads and is a stylized derivative of the original church's Eye of God.

Recently it transpired that there are still a few isolated colonies of nearbaseline astronomer-priests belonging to several minor sects in nominal MPA space. Even today they still hold that the Argus Array's original mission is to observe a monotheistic God.

Argus Heritage

The Argus Array has revolutionized the field of deep space astronomy and permitted observation of events and phenomena across the universe. An unexpected side benefit of the array's construction has been the discovery of an ever growing number of apparently or obviously artificial phenomena pointing to the existence of advanced civilizations or beings in other galaxies as well as intergalactic space.

Often this xenological information relates to cultures long extinct even when the light was leaving their solar system. But even those cultures current at that time may have died out in the tens of thousands of years (for our galaxy) or many millions or tens or hundreds of millions of years (for other galaxies) during which the light has traveled. Ironically, at the same time that the Array reveals the existence of many xenosophonts, including races equal in power to Terragens, it reinforces the vast loneliness of interstellar space.

The array continues to be the most powerful astronomical tool ever devised as well as a virtually permanent part of the list of the Wonders of the Galaxy.
 
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Appears in Topics
 
Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner, Peter Kisner, and M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 04 January 2002.

 
 
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