Astronomy is now publicly available on the internet…
Astronomers have used the Internet since its inception, long before it reached the public, when it was a rudimentary form of communication, more than twenty years. Later, with the explosion of “web”, has been enhanced and expanded its use in this and all the sciences.
Generally, the astronomical observatories are located in remote locations, so that communication is essential. On the other hand, the high costs of the projects require the collaboration of several countries, and the means provided via the Internet make it possible. In addition, the large number of digital images taken by ground and space telescopes has allowed the creation of files accessible over the network, especially the content provided by space agencies NASA and ESA.
Image via Wikipedia
Disclosure of astronomical images and data are fully justified by the curiosity that raises astronomy. Furthermore, the quality of the photos contributing factor to its popularity. For example, the campaign of observations that took place in July 1994, to mark the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter was impressive. Never an astronomical event had been reported so quickly and efficiently.
Then the distribution of images from Mars Pathfinder mission provided by certain information servers saturated by the high number of hits.
Fans, alone or in groups and associations, have always been very important in astronomy. Amateur astronomers have discovered many new stellar objects such as novae and supernovae, and continuously provide observations of variable stars. Internet is important for these groups of fans, allowing the coordination of observation campaigns and exchange of ideas, projects, data, and astronomical programs.
Moreover, there are some 12,000 scientists and technicians located mostly in research centers and universities in Europe, USA and Japan.
Almost all observatories have Internet information systems. They can find a detailed description of the instruments, observation plans and observations. He is researching new forms of remote observation, allow some interaction with the telescope in real time.
With all the data going through the Internet have filled many files and databases are essential tools astronomical research. Mass storage techniques, along with the current development of Internet, enable low-cost realization. Current research topics are the new statistical analysis methods for application in cosmology, stellar evolution, or classification of objects.
Also the major astronomical journals, professional and outreach, articles published electronically on the network. In addition, there are many “sites”, more or less independent, which provide detailed information on specific aspects or organizing this information in different ways and in all languages.
There are other interesting information services, such as NASA TV channel, which provides continuous images of space missions through the Internet, information services astronomical societies from the International Astronomical Union to countless amateur associations, those relating to History of Astronomy, and other centers that store and distribute images for disclosure.
To try to put some order in the mid-1990s created AstroWeb, a consortium trying to mantain a unified list. However, the rapid growth of the Internet makes it impossible to keep it current. Today contains about 3,000 addresses dedicated to Astronomy, classified according to one or more subject categories.
In the area of disclosure, there is a problem because most of the information available on the Internet is in English. Fortunately, astronomical associations are making key contributions in this field, and we can not forget the growing Internet presence and planetary science museums, which allows them to do an excellent job of disclosure.