The York University observatory will go live to the Internet today, transmitting images of the stars from the Keele campus telescope to astronomy lovers around the world.
The University’s Department of Physics & Astronomy, housed in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, will simultaneously host an interactive forum online to answer questions from the public and to field requests that telescopes be moved to view a particular planet or star cluster.
The free online access, coupled with the interactive question and answer format, will be a unique portal for both astronomy buffs and curious observers, says Paul Delaney (right), a senior lecturer in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and the director of the observatory on campus.
"From all-sky camera images of meteors and satellites, to wide-field images of the Orion nebula and the moon, to high-magnification views of planets and colourful images of nebula, the public will have a chance to see a varied amount of astronomical imagery in a short period of time," says Delaney. "As the year unfolds, we will look at a variety of objects and be ready to observe targets of special interest."
Images from the observatory’s 40-cm Schmidt-cassegrain and 60-cm classical cassegrain reflecting telescopes will be augmented by images from a wide-field, short focal length 90-mm diameter refractor and an all-sky meteor camera.
York currently hosts public viewings each Wednesday where people can come to the Keele campus observatory in person to view the night sky.
"This is part of our long-standing dedication to public education and it’s an opportunity to share our love of astronomy with a wider audience," says Delaney. "Certainly, if we get very specialized questions we can call upon York experts on supernovae, active galaxies, and the like, to provide answers."
The launch coincides with the International Year of Astronomy, a series of events and activities in 2009 meant to help citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe. The online observatory is also part of York’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
To view the online images, visit the York University Observatory Web site. The images will be available Mondays from 7 to 9pm throughout February. A spring schedule will be announced shortly.