It appears that video games are not the only hot item in the cosmos. In its first month of operation, the Seeing in the Dark Internet Telescope (SIDIT) has shot images of distant galaxies and nebulae in response to requests from more than 1,000 students around the world.
Located high in the mountains of New Mexico and controlled over the Internet, the telescope is part of an educational outreach program associated with the PBS special Seeing in the Dark, by the science writer Timothy Ferris, which premiered one month ago and drew over one million viewers. The show introduces viewers to the wonders of stargazing and demonstrates how Internet telescopes could help democratize amateur astronomy.
"Astronomy has long been a gateway to science," says Ferris. "Our film and Internet telescope are meant to serve as a timeless introduction to stargazing."
Over 100,000 star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies lie within range of the telescope and its digital imaging chip. Images are obtained free of charge by students of all ages who register at the project website. The website also features stargazing teaching exercises and other educational tools, including a digital star chart, how-to videos, and links to local astronomy clubs.
"Selecting and then receiving an astronomical image of one's own is a unique experience," says Ferris. "We hope that science teachers will continue to encourage their students to take advantage of this free educational tool."
Requests for images have come in from students around the globe -- including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, and the U.K. -- and from 42 U.S. states.