Back in the 90s, this Eclipse webcast put the universe on demand – Tech News (Trending Perfect)


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On February 26, 1998, hundreds of people gathered to watch a total solar eclipse.

The crowd gasped as the moon devoured the sun. They groaned and groaned as the streams of feathers exploded at the top of the solar atmosphere. Applause broke out moments later, when the sun peeked out from behind the moon's surface.

“We were saved again by the laws of celestial mechanics,” said one of the event participants. Video recording Views from Aruba, one of the places where the eclipse crossed the Earth.

Except this crowd wasn't actually in Aruba. They were thousands of miles away in San Francisco, huddled in front of a screen in a museum called the Exploratorium. This was perhaps the first time in the history of the Internet that a solar eclipse was broadcast live. The crowd in the hall wasn't the only remote audience for the eclipse. Millions of young World Wide Web users likely watched “Eclipse '98,” creating a moment of digital wildfire years before audiences were conquered by viral videos like “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,” “Charlie Bit My Finger,” or ” Gangnam Style”. “.

Technology has brought space to Earth for decades. The public was in awe when NASA broadcast humanity's first steps on the moon in 1969; Years later, they watched in horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on television.

But the emergence of the World Wide Web provided a new way to encounter the universe. Anyone with a computer, a fast enough Internet modem, and a monitor can participate on-demand in the ethereal standing under the moon's shadow — no longer limited to those with access to the eclipse's path.

Just as audiences in the late 19th century were astonished to see moving images displayed on screens for the first time, the audience in Discovery Hall seemed to be astonished by what they saw in live broadcast.

“Even from a distance, people can have this very important emotional connection to the eclipse,” said Robyn Higdon, executive producer of the Exploratorium.

Scenes from a webcast rally in Aruba depict the heyday of the 1990s. There's no shortage of turtlenecks, cropped cuts and colorful windbreakers in the crowd. The event hosts wore old wired headphones and stood next to bulky white computers.

The Internet was just getting started: YouTube wouldn't be founded for another seven years Less than half of Americans were using the Internet, many of them frustrated by lagging dial-up speeds. Despite the technological hurdles, the live broadcast of the eclipse — done with the help of NASA and the Discovery Channel — was one effort by the Exploratorium to establish an online presence. Part of the goal was to share what's inside with people who couldn't visit it in person, said Rob Semper, the museum's chief education officer, who helped launch its website more than 30 years ago.

“But at the same time, the Internet was also a way to bring in the outside world,” Dr. Semper added.

What the staff didn't expect was how many people the webcast would reach beyond the museum's walls. Among the first live, high-definition videos of the solar eclipse, the broadcast was quickly picked up by major news networks. Museum spokespeople say four million viewers watched the event live online.

Years later, the number of digital viewers of eclipses and other astronomical events increased. The online audience was large for the 2017 total solar eclipse, which passed across the United States, and by then many organizations, other than the Exploratorium, were broadcasting the solar spectacle. NASA broadcast a live demonstration from 12 locations; The Science Channel, which was broadcast live in Oregon, also attracted a large number of views. They both plan to do it again for the eclipse on April 8 this year.

“As with many aspects of our lives that the Internet has changed, it's all about accessibility,” said Jeff Hall, a solar astronomer at Lowell Observatory, who narrated portions of a 2017 webcast. He added that images of the eclipse have been available for a long time, but “being able to watch the event unfold in real time is another level of experience.”

Live broadcasts also provide an opportunity for viewers to learn about the different cultural beliefs of the places under the moon's shadow. Last October, the Exploration Room broadcast the “Ring of Fire” eclipse from the Valley of the Gods in Utah, where giant red rock towers from the ground. Because the land is sacred to members of the Navajo Nation, the museum collaborated with Navajo astronomers who participated Traditional knowledge of the universe.

Not everyone believes that the Internet is a good alternative to real life. “It's a bad way to experience an eclipse,” said Paul Maley, a retired NASA engineer who has seen 83 eclipses and counting.

Mr. Maley explained that the eclipse is more than what you see: during a total eclipse, winds change, temperatures drop and the horizon glows. “Watching live streaming doesn’t provide any of that,” he said.

Patricia Reeve, a physicist at Rice University, agrees to some extent. “Live streaming is great, but it's basically just visual,” she said. “It's like the difference between seeing a picture of the Grand Canyon and going down it in a canoe.”

However, Dr. Reeve has created Broadcast online She travels to see some solar eclipses — 25 of them so far — and believes at least part of the experience can be conveyed via screen. The 1991 solar eclipse is one of the last memories she has with her mother, who watched a television broadcast of the event while Dr. Reeve watched in Mexico.

“It was a moment we shared, even though we were far apart,” she said.

Besides live streaming, the Internet has greatly expanded the scope of information about the eclipse, including locations, safe viewing practices and weather forecasts, to the public. Eclipse chasers use it as a tool to communicate with each other, organize trips, and describe the visceral reactions they have to its entirety. Researchers even Social media analysis Activity from the eclipse in 2017 to study tourism trends led in rural communities.

In April, it will be the Exploratorium Back to it again, this time with production crews in Texas and Mexico to broadcast the last solar eclipse that will touch the contiguous United States for 20 years. They'll host programs in English and Spanish, and will also offer what Larry Kenworthy, the museum's technical director of eclipse missions, calls “nerd feed” — a three-hour stream that organizations can use at their own observing parties, or for those online who want to immerse themselves in Nothing but the views.

Dr. Hall, who will host a live show on the Science Channel on April 8, hopes these online feeds will eventually inspire viewers to see the eclipse in real life one day.

“Put it on your bucket list to go see one sometime,” he said. “Because as great as the Internet is, you can't replicate the experience of actually being on the college path.”



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