Seeing in the Dark September 22, 2007Posted by Jim Satterfield in Education, Science, Technology.
That is the title of a show on PBS I had DVRed and watched this afternoon. It is Timothy Ferris‘s ode to amateur astonomers and it is a wonderful show. One part of it was about the Bisque brothers, who founded a company called Software Bisque that produces astronomy software and equipment for the enthusiast. What they did in the show that I thought was so great was to set up for relatively little cost a good small scale setup that mirrors something I knew was either already out there or could be done. This was set up at a location that had electricity and a web connection in a good viewing location with minimal light pollution. Using the internet connection and a good amateur scope with special remote contol capability and a good CCD camera you have a telescope that can be used for good viewing from anywhere on the planet. I’ve always thought this would be a great thing to have. But what it would be really good for is if you could have a network of them accessible on a rental basis to people who were interested and most especially to schools. If you want to captivate the imaginations of young people nothing does it so well for so many as the kind of images you see from space. Look at how much of the public is captivated by the images from the Hubble telescope. Can you imagine the reaction of kids who could see fabulous images from space that they can have a part in creating?
This leads me to something I’ve been wondering about for a while. What kind of small telescope could be built that would survive in space? Could you build a cluster of them? and then give remote control through a center here on Earth that would distribute this control and the images to schools? How much would it cost and how many could we build to make it as widely available as possible? Think of the possibilities.