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New deep-sea observatory goes live
Date:11/17/2008

Moss Landing, California--Off the coast of Central California, in the inky darkness of the deep sea, a bright orange metal pyramid about the size of two compact cars sits quietly on the seafloor. Nestled within the metal pyramid is the heart of the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS)the first deep-sea ocean observatory offshore of the continental United States. Six years and $13.5 million dollars in the making, the MARS Observatory went "live" on Monday, November 10, 2008, returning the first scientific data from 900 meters (3,000 feet) below the ocean surface.

Construction of the observatory was coordinated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). According to Marcia McNutt, MBARI president and CEO, "Getting all of the components of the observatory to work together perfectly in the remote, unforgiving, inhospitable environment of the deep sea was no easy task. But the tougher the challenge, the greater the glory when it is finally achieved. Some day we may look back at the first packets of data streaming in from the MARS observatory as the equivalent of those first words spoken by Alexander Graham Bell: 'Watson, come here, I need you!'"

Like the Hubble Space Telescope, the MARS Observatory is not designed for human occupation, but is operated remotely. The observatory will serve as both a "power strip" and a "high-speed internet connection" for scientific instruments in the deep sea. It will allow marine scientists to continuously monitor the dark, mysterious world of the deep sea, instead of relying on brief oceanographic cruises and instruments that run on batteries.

The heart of observatory consists of two titanium pressure cylinders packed with computer networking and power distribution equipment. These cylinders are housed in a protective metal pyramid on the deep seafloor. This central hub is connected to shore by a 52-kilometer-long cable that can carry up to 10,000 watts of power and two gigabits per s
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Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
kfb@mbari.org
831-775-1835
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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