Several factors make observational astronomy difficult for pre-college students and teachers. (1) not many schools have teachers trained to use and maintain astronomy equipment; (2) school usually happens during the day and observing normally is a night-time activity; (3) the scourge of light pollution has hidden the stars from many students living in or near cities; (4) there is a general lack of access to expertise when needed. In addition, physically disabled students cannot climb ladders, to access the telescope eyepiece.
Internet access to computer-controlled telescopes equipped with digital cameras can solve many of these difficulties. This enables students and their teachers to access well-maintained, robust Internet-controllable telescopes in dark-site locations and to consult more readily with experts. We present the results of technical solutions to Internet-control of telescopes, by Software Bisque, the New Mexico Skies Guest Observatory and the Youth Activities Committee of the Astronomical League in collaboration with Denver University Astronomy. We jointly submitted a funding proposal to the Institute for Connecting Science Research to the Classroom, and conducted a pilot program allowing high school students to access a CCD-equipped, accurately-pointing and tracking telescope, controllable over the Web, with a user-friendly skymap browser tool. With suitably placed telescopes worldwide, observing from the classroom in daylight will become feasible, as we have demonstrated with Australian and Eurasian student users of the New Mexico Skies Internet telescope.
We report here on a three-month pilot project exploring this solution, conducted Feb-May 2002. User interest proved phenomenal, while user statistics proved diverse and there were distinct lessons learned about how to enhance student participation in the research process. We thank the Institute for Connecting Science Research to the Classroom for a grant to the University of Denver in partial support of this effort, and acknowleedge in-kind support from the estate of William Herschel Womble. Details at website www.du.edu/~rstencel/stn.htm.