Armchair Observing on the Web
While surfing some Astronomy websites, I came across a group of folks from Astrochannels.com. While visiting their website, it became apparent that these folks conduct deep sky observing with a huge telescope with a Mallincam camera attached, streaming live video to the internet. Wow, what a cool idea, I can now occasionally sit at the computer and watch some live video right from the eyepiece of a great scope, and the images are fantastic! Another plus is that there is a live chat room right on the same page as the streaming video.
OK, I'm up for this new high tech stuff, so let's see how this thing works. Astrochannels.com tells you to download Sparkcast player to your computer. There's a link to get me to the right page to download the player on the "show schedule" page, and it downloaded quickly. If you want to participate in the chat room, you will need to set up an account with Lycos. You will receive a user name and password to access the Sparkcast steaming video. All the information to set up your accounts is located on the Astrochannels.com website.The Sparkcast icon is on my desktop on the computer, and clicking this will get me right on the Internet and you will be able to see if any observatories are "on the air". Make sure the Channel Guide box in the upper right hand corner of your Sparkcast viewing screen is checked on your player.
The other night there happened to be 3 live astronomy sites streaming video from different observatories. What a bonus! If an observatory is active, an icon will be visible with an astrophoto screen on the channel guide. Double click the astrophoto and log in with the user name and password that was issued to you from Sparkcast (check your email for this information). After logging in, you will see the astro-images if they are taking video from the telescope. The images are so good that nebulas show color, and dark lanes are easy to see. The Mallincam videocam produces some excellent images, far better that you can see from your eyepiece, and it's live... Can't wait to see some Comets!Published in the October 2008 issue of the NightTimes