Faulkes Telescope in Second Life

The Faulkes Telescope on Haleakala is part of a network of educational telescopes called the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Faulkes Telescope North is on Maui and Faulkes Telescope South is in Australia. These telescopes are made available to educational institutions for the purpose of remote viewing. This past Friday, July 1, 2011, I got a chance to experience an actual viewing from the Faulkes Telescope on Haleakala from Second Life, the virtual world environment. Periodically, Faulkes invite the public to a classroom on Maui where they set up a screen and show realtime observations as part of their outreach program. This is simultaneously shown in Second Life. It's quite a system, when it actually works. The middle screen in the image above would show the video image of the room, which could include audience, telescope observations and computer screens. The operator can switch between the different views. Unfortunately the SL screen never quite worked. The staff instead substituted the middle screen with a separate live webcast link which was almost as good. The program included real time views of a variety of planetary and stellar objects. One of the best shots was this one of M99, Spiral Galaxy. The telescope controller would input the coordinates of the viewing object and capture an image, much like maneuvering a camera with a extra large lens. Interestingly, exposure times really mattered and was not an automatic setting. This shot of Saturn was over exposed resulting in a very washed out image. A cloudless sky over Haleakala made for a evening for perfect viewing. The team obviously knew their galaxies and picked M104, the Sombero Galaxy for observing. The telescope took about a minute to process this image which got quite a response from the group. Although the SL viewing was limited, it was our primary means of communicating back with the Faulkes personnel on Maui. Audio was fed through SL and we communicated back through chat. I still enjoy the SL interface for its immersive feel. Participants in the SL viewing was as far as New York and as near as UH Manoa. Announcements for future viewings are done through SL by the UH College of Education in coordination with the Institute for Astronomy. If you are interested in getting on their distribution I would suggest first setting up your SL account. Let me know your SL username and I can pass the info to the coordinators of the next viewing. It's a great way to do remote star gazing.

2 thoughts on “Faulkes Telescope in Second Life”

  1. I have taken classes at UH astronomy and would
    LIke to come to a viewing. You should take at least the lab. 101.

Comments are closed.