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S.H.A.R.E. -- FAQ
System for Handicap Accessability, Recreation and Education

Q: What is S.H.A.R.E?

A: In early 1998 the North Shore Amateur Astronomy Club (NSAAC) located in Groveland, MA, developed a system for remotely viewing the night sky using "off the shelf" components. The S.H.A.R.E (System for Handicap Accessibility, Recreation, and Education) is a fully portable real-time video astronomy system, including an 8" f6.3 Meade LX200 telescope, an Astrovid 2000 video camera, and a host of peripheral equipment. This system enables audiences to observe real time images of the sun, moon, planets, stars, clusters, galaxies, and nebulae from the comfort of a heated, handicap accessible classroom, lecture hall, or auditorium.

The system was financed through Grants from the G.E. Employees Good Neighbor Fund, Osram/Sylvania, Lucent Technologies, Inc., The Marsh & McLennan Companies, A.W. Chesterton Company, General Mills, and Nelson Industries. We also received support in the form of generous discounts and donations provided by equipment vendors, especially telescope accessories provided by Harry Chase of F.C. Meichsner Company in Boston, MA.

After nearly a decade of use on the North Shore, NSAAC has donated S.H.A.R.E to Idaho's Magic Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS), where it will continue to provide years of service to the public. [1]

Q: I thought there was an 8" Meade LX 200 telescope that came with S.H.A.R.E?

A: The 8" LX200 Telescope mentioned belongs to the NSAAC and was not donated. We must depend on members, the Centennial Observatory, or the Bruneau Dunes Observatory for telescopes to use with S.H.A.R.E.

Q: What improvements has MVAS made to the S.H.A.R.E. system?

A: MVAS has added the ability to use multiple cameras, and an Astrovid StellaCam II video camera. You may have seen the same camera at the Centennial Observatory. It is not uncommon to see more on the monitor than through the eyepiece. Now consider that the camera is mounted on a 5" refractor, and the eyepiece is on the 24" main scope. The StellaCam II was the most sensitive video camera generally available until the StellaCam III release in March 2007.

Q: Why the StellaCam II when S.H.A.R.E. already has an Astrovid 2000?

A: The Astrovid 2000 was one of the most sensitive video cameras of its time. Even then the S.H.A.R.E system depended on an image intensifier (night vision device) to bring out deep space objects.

When the MVAS obtained the S.H.A.R.E. system it was put into immediate use, but quality images were impossible to obtain. It turns out, the S.H.A.R.E. image intensifier has an expected lifetime of only 1000 hours, and even a single exposure to bright light can take away hundreds of those hours in a few seconds. After ten years time has taken its toll, and it is worn out. A replacement would cost over $3000, the StellaCam II camera only costs $750 and offers better views.

The Astrovid 2000 is a great camera for bright objects like the moon, or sun. The StellaCam is great for dim objects. Together we should be able to capture any astronomical event. ***

Q: Won't imaging the Sun damage the optics on the Astrovid 2000?

A: In a word, no! The Astrovid may be placed on any 1 1/4 eyepiece and the Centennial Observatory has several telescopes with Solar filters. Coincidently, one of the filters is the Coronado H Alpha filter. This filter is normally used on the Meade 10" Telescope of the Centennial Observatory. This telescope is usually set-up during the summer solar observing sessions at the Observatory.

Q: How are the images through the S.H.A.R.E. as compared to a standard eyepiece?

A: The StellaCam II camera literally sees better than the human eye and therefore views will be better than through a conventional eyepiece.

Q: What is meant by 'real-time' astronomy system?

A: Images that are gathered by the StellaCam II are viewed 'live' on a TV monitor. What the telescope is viewing, the audience is viewing at the same time.

Q: Why does the Society use the S.H.A.R.E. with the Centennial Observatory?

A: The Magic Valley Astronomical Society partners with the Centennial Observatory to present a monthly star party on the second Saturday of each month (weather permitting) and provides most of the volunteer operators for the observatory. The Herrett Center allows us to store our equipment in the observatory, and we allow them to use it as needed. [2]

Q: Will the 'live' images be available on the Internet?

A: At this time, no! The live images will have a processing delay before viewing on the website. There are plans to make the video images live via a streaming medium. Also, please remember that when the club is at a remote site, the ability to access the Internet is quite limited.

Q: Does the S.H.A.R.E. record events, or is everything 'live'?

A: The S.H.A.R.E. can actually show a 'live' image and simultaneously record any images. S.H.A.R.E. has two VCR's to record events 'as they happen' Upon request and when available tapes will be sent to various schools and clubs to 'enhance science programs.' [3]

Q: Does the S.H.A.R.E. have a DVD recorder?

A: No, not yet. If you've got one you're not using, we could give it a good home. Some volunteers have the ability to record via their laptop. Look for S.H.A.R.E images and videos on the MVAS web site.

Q: We understand the S.H.A.R.E. is portable, where besides the Centennial Observatory will it be used?

A: The S.H.A.R.E. is indeed a portable system and will quite literally bring the observatory to traditional venues where those who could not view through a traditional eyepiece can now view objects in the sky. Look for the S.H.A.R.E. in Idaho at star gazing venues such as the Idaho Star Party and the Craters of the Moon Star Party. The Society participates in both of these events as well as others.

Q: Our group has expressed an interest in sky gazing can we use the S.H.A.R.E.?

A: Not unless you are a MVAS member, but we will schedule a private star party for your group. You provide an interested group and we'll bring telescopes, people who know how to use them, and the S.H.A.R.E. system. A major goal of the club is to carry on the astronomical education legacy Mr. Norman Herrett that started.? We welcome your requests for private star parties.

The S.H.A.R.E system is fairly complex, and the operator needs to be able to find objects in the sky to view. Only MVAS members, in good standing, who have received training in the operation of the S.H.A.R.E. system will be allowed to check it out. [4]

[1] This sounds like it is copied from somewhere. Probably should say where, and if its a web site, provide a link.

[3] Besides, Chris is an honorary member of the club, and is qualified to use the S.H.A.R.E. system.

[2] Who pays for the tapes and duplication? We need to decide and spell it out here.

[4] The board will need to set the policy once we have a workable system. This is what I will suggest.

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