Google+ Virtual Star Party Brings Astronomers Together
July 7, 2012

Google+ Virtual Star Party Brings Astronomers Together

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Astronomers across the globe have been taking advantage of Google+ Hangouts, conducting virtual star parties with fellow night-dwellers, and their efforts were documented by Google and shown off at the Google I/O conference on June 27, 2012.

Nearly 7,000 people joined in during a special 6-hour Google+ Virtual Star Party for the Transit of Venus, which included multiple telescope views and images from around the world.

The documentary created by Google showed off the social network's video chat technology, as well as the telescope views that can be shared online.

The film featured several of the amateur astronomers showing off a virtual look through their night-optical on Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts On Air.

“We´ve been holding Virtual Star Parties every Sunday night, where we pull together live feeds from multiple telescopes around the world and broadcast them into a live Google+ hangout,” said Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today. “We´ve done dozens of them now, showcasing the Moon, the planets, and many deep-sky objects.

Google film crews visited the homes of Cain, as well as astronomers Dr. Pamela Gay, from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and Dr. Phil Plait, to shoot footage of the telescopes, the astronomers, and the Hangouts.

"The response has been overwhelming, as we´ve made it possible for people without telescopes or who have cloudy skies a chance to see the night sky from the comfort of their home," Cain said. “It´s sort of like looking through an amazing telescope, but with color commentary from us at the same time."

The parties are held every Sunday night at about 9 p.m. Pacific time in the summer on the Google+ Virtual Star Party page or on the CosmoQuest website.

“We´re always looking for more astronomers to share their view of the night sky,” Cain said. “Any size telescope and camera is welcome, since it showcases what you can see with different equipment. We´d especially like to see more people from other parts of the world, like Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia.”