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Event: Chabot Space & Science Centre partners with Irish Observatory in Live Astronomy Link

Sunday, 01 November 2009

Chabot Space & Science Centre is partnering with Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork, for "Web of Stars", a unique pilot remote astronomy project, designed to teach astronomy using a live video link. Astronomers at Chabot will observe the sky at night, delivering real-time astronomical images to students in Ireland in order to discuss their properties and share information about the night sky. This project was conceived to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, as well as the 25th anniversary of San Francisco and Cork becoming sister cities. 

"This educational opportunity is an extraordinary way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of San Francisco and Cork becoming sister cities," said San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom. "The telescopes at Chabot Space & Science Centre will provide inspirational science education to the students in Cork. The two cities will continue to strengthen the links between them and explore possibilities for further commercial, tourism, cultural and educational contacts."

Blackrock Castle Observatory is a 16th century castle located about one mile from the heart of Cork city on the banks of the river Lee. The observatory houses two telescopes and Ireland's first interactive science exhibit: the award winning "Cosmos at the Castle". Blackrock Castle Observatory operates a dynamic outreach programme which included a recent live on-orbit link to the International Space Station. The Web of Stars project with Chabot Space & Science Centre illustrates the universal connectivity we all share as citizens under one sky.
The key project objective is to provide schools in Cork with the opportunity to take live pictures of the night sky during classroom hours, using one of the massive telescopes at Chabot. This opportunity takes advantage of the eight-hour time difference between Cork and Oakland. Blackrock Castle Observatory staff will provide all the preparation and post-observing support needed to make this a fun, educational and high-tech event. 

"This is an opportunity to showcase Chabot's fantastic telescopes internationally. Students around the world can have access to information using the internet and this is just another way to reach a new audience," said Chabot staff astronomer Ben Burress.
A unique twist to the project comes from the inclusion of a 16th Century Castle in Ireland. "While Blackrock Castle may be 400 years old, it houses 21st century equipment and thinking, and is an example of how Cork views itself - a centre of culture and science, connected to the world instantly", says Dr Niall Smith, Head of Research at the Cork Institute of Technology, which manages Blackrock Castle Observatory. 

On Wednesday, 21st October, Burress and Conrad Jung, another Chabot staff astronomer, used a high speed video connection to communicate with Blackrock Castle Observatory, showing them real-time data from Chabot's 36-inch reflecting telescope. Cork students will convert this data in image making workshops into their chosen astronomy targets of the Bay Area night skies. Future observing sessions are also planned for November through to March 2010. 

Representatives from Blackrock Castle Observatory visited Chabot Space & Science Centre on the 14th September, to tour the facility and the telescopes at Chabot.

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