One Sky, One People

In my News Flash post a couple of days ago, I told you of an upcoming 2-day event from the Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) project – Big Dipper to Southern Cross. The event allows people from both hemispheres to view the night sky from a telescope hosted in the opposite hemisphere and interact via live chat with people from all over the world.

I have just finished participating in the first half of the event, hosted in the northern hemisphere by the Bellatrix Observatory in Italy (via Virtual Telescope). Despite a few inital ‘problems’ (such as the planned video server crashing at the last minute and requiring a quick change to UStream, and clouds & rain over the observatory), the AWB/Virtual Telescope team coped extremely well with getting the show back on the road very quickly. Unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do about changing the weather, so the host astronomer/telescope operator (Gianluca Masi) put ‘Plan B’ into action and presented previously-taken images from the northern hemisphere.

According to Gianluca at the end of his 2 hour presentation, there were about 3000 unique visits to the broadcast over the whole period, which is highly satisfying for all involved. The ‘live chat’ function was well-used and around 200 people were logged on for most of the event. There was a real feeling of friendliness and sharing during the chat, and it was obvious there were seasoned astronomers as well as ‘newbies’ present, but no-one was made to feel stupid or that their questions were irrelevant. The touchy subject of which OS is best did raise its head when I announced to the group that my XP laptop had ‘blue-screened’ and I was now using my PC instead, but it was all in jest and good-natured ribbing :).

There were many beautiful images presented by Gianluca along with an explanation of each one and a planetarium software view (The Sky 6?) of its location in the sky. All-in-all it was a wonderful experience, and I am thoroughly looking forward to the second half of the event, which is being hosted by the GRAS Remote Telescope in Southern Australia at 1230 UT (Universal Time) on Sunday Jan 10. In case you don’t know, ‘Universal Time’ is effectively the same thing as ‘GMT’, so you should be able to work out for yourselves what your local time will be for the event. Here in NZ it will be 1:30am Monday morning.

I encourage anyone reading this to join the event and have a look at what our southern hemisphere night skies have to offer! Simply go to http://virtualtelescope.bellatrixobservatory.org/bdsc/ at the date and time above to join in the fun!

Clear skies!
– Mike

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