Interested in Astronomy -- Try Slooh.com's Twin 14" Scopes

I don't usually make many recommendations, since I don't want to sound like a commercial (unless its about me of course), but you've got to try Slooh.com !  I've always loved astronomy (and most every other science for that matter), but I've never had the opportunity to really see things myself.  I actually even bought what I thought was a good backyard telescope a few years ago, but I returned it when the Moon was just bright and Saturn was just a blur.  But then I read about Slooh.com in my Discover magazine the other day (another highly recommend resource -- every article is a must read for me every month), and I thought this was too good to pass up.

So what is Slooh.com?  Basically someone has setup 2 14" telescopes on a mountain in the Canary Islands and hooked them up to the net -- and you get unlimited viewing for $99 a year (they have smaller per-minute deals also).  One scope is controlled by the professionals, with paid commentators, but the other scope is controlled by members -- you can pick what you want to see in an available time slot, and those are actually easy to get, and you can always watch what others have selected too.  Each viewing is only 5 minutes, but that's more than long enough for even objects far away to resolve in decent detail and color -- and the timezone difference is perfect.

Now let me share my family's observations from last night.  We saw the Moon and all its craters crystal clear as I expected, and we saw Saturn pretty well -- I had hoped Saturn would be better but I do understand this is only a 14" telescope (better than anything we could personally own, but not as good as the biggest either).  But then we looked at Pluto -- and you can't even tell which bright dot out of many others in the background it really is -- and that was a perfect educational opportunity.  Why?  Because the only way astronomers actually found Pluto (and others farther now) is by looking for small movement over several hours or even days !

We also have observed lots of galaxies, nebulas, and other objects too, but it was definitely the planets that I wanted to look at with my son first.  Just make sure you realize that far away objects actually take several minutes to appear in full color and clarity since it has to collect enough light.  Its really fascinating and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to observe the planets and stars and more.  And you certainly can't beat it for the price and the educational value either -- by the way, "slooh" is a play on "slew", which is how you turn a telescope, so I suppose you're supposed to pronounce it "slu" and not "slo".
Published Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:42 AM by PaulWilson

Comments

# re: Interested in Astronomy -- Try Slooh.com's Twin 14" Scopes

Hey Paul - Nice to learn a little more about what spins your wheels. :-) It's great to hear from tech writers about "here's a non-IT thing that makes me happy".

Thursday, May 11, 2006 6:06 PM by Tim Haines

# re: Interested in Astronomy -- Try Slooh.com's Twin 14" Scopes

I took an astronomy class my freshman year in college, and always thought the topic was fascinating (even though it rarely pays the bills).

My favorite line from my ASTR 101 prof:


"This is the most interesting 'A' that you will ever earn."

How correct he was, too.

Friday, May 12, 2006 11:21 PM by Jerry Dennany