SLOOH is a robotic observatory on the Canary Islands. Every Monday, whenever conditions permit viewing, you can participate in mulitple SLOOH “missions” over the course of an hour-long session.
What does SLOOH stand for? Apparently it’s about putting the OOH into SLEW!
High atop Mount Teide, on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the telescopes of SLOOH stand nestled among the facilities of a professional astronomical observatory. SLOOH is a subscription-based web site that streams live images of dozens of celestial objects viewed by its telescopes each clear night over the Internet.
SLOOH currently uses several 3-megapixel CCD cameras and four telescopes (in two domes):
- a 14-inch diameter Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope (focal length 2160mm) high magnification scope and and Wide Field Lens System with a focal length of 135mm at f/5.6 in Dome 1
- 14-inch diameter Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope (SCT) with a focal length of 4,000 mm, and an 85-mm diameter APO refractor telescope with a focal length of 480 mm in Dome 2
The organization will soon be adding an additional 14-inch SCT with a focal length of 2,100 mm, as well as a 34-mm diameter refractor with a focal length of 135 mm. Members are allowed to control the scopes from their own computer. Bringing the rhythms and wonder of space exploration to people of all ages, SLOOH’s telescopes are the centerpiece of live interactive missions to the wonders of the universe.
The site is good for someone who knows nothing about astronomy and for avid, enthusiastic hobbyists, for first-time observers of all ages and parents wanting to introduce their kids to the cosmos without buying, assembling, and learning to use telescopes. Would-be astronomers can gaze at live images of the night sky, but in the comfort of their homes. The preset missions are broadcast live, with only brief intermissions as the telescopes and CCD cameras are slewed from one celestial body to another.
The annual $49 basic membership package gives you unlimited access to group missions and the ability to log on any time you like during mission hours. This basic package also gives you 15 minutes per year of solo time in which you decide where to point the scopes. While the basic membership has some restrictions, an “all-you-can-eat” option is available for $99 yearly.
To guarantee its visitors only the best experience, SLOOH tests the speed of your Internet connection and accepts only visitors with connection speeds of 40 kbps (40k) or greater.
SLOOH makes extensive use of the latest Macromedia Flash Player, a web-browser plug-in. Before you arrive at your interface, SLOOH checks to see if your browser has the latest Flash Player installed and directs you to download it if you do not.
While missions are running, SLOOH’s operators often chat with visitors in the SLOOH Chat Room. You can join them if you have AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM) software installed. This is an optional feature only. For details, you need to click the Chat button on the mission interface.
If you arrive early, the mission will start automatically at the scheduled time. If you arrive while the mission is running, you will join it in progress.
SLOOH also run a Users Group on on Yahoo so you can check out what people have to say about it.
Version 2 of SLOOH went live on March 18th, 2006. A year in the making, this version has been inspired its users’ commitment to live astronomy. In addition to existing features, SLOOH 2 offers some bold and novel new elements
that will attract an even greater membership from around the globe.
SLOOH 2.0 is designed to empower its users (from over 60 countries) to share their enthusiasm for
astronomy with the greater public. Foremost among the changes is the new Member Channel, which enables members to broadcast their solo missions to the rest of the viewing membership. A new desktop alert system will also be introduced, which will notify members when special missions are lined up with a live host who will narrate specifically about the celestial object in view.
When you consider the price of buying a telescope comparable in size to those used at SLOOH against the low fees they charge, it’s really a no-brainer. And, while it may be cloudy outside, where you live, the skies in the Canaries are virtually guaranteed to be clear. SLOOH can give you your skywatching fix, wherever in the world you live.
Gary Nugent recommends you check out the SLOOH review at http://www.nightskyobserver.com/Articles/SLOOH.php where you can also see photos of the SLOOH interface, the observatory and some sample images taken by the SLOOH telescopes.