During the past days, we have received a large number of messages from the participants of Astronomy On-line. It is very gratifying that many of these reveal a serious interest in the continuation of this project.
From the beginning, when it was first conceived in April 1996, Astronomy On-line was set up in such a way that, if it proved successful, it could form the basis for a future educational network in astronomy and related areas.
As Astronomy On-Line continued to grow, thanks to input from many individuals, mostly members of the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE), it became obvious that it would not be permissible to stop Astronomy On-Line after the first phases. While the present pilot programme has proven very useful to gauge the advantages and disadvantages inherent in this kind of operation, all organizers agree that the outcome has been so positive that Astronomy On-Line, after suitable modifications, must continue to serve the EAAE, not the least, those Astronomy On-Line participants who desire to continue to make use of it.
The ESO Web site and, as far as we know, virtually all of the national Astronomy On-Line Web sites will continue to exist also after tonight. While there will not be an active maintenance and support during the next period, participants may very well make use of several of the prominent features.
For instance, the Communication Shop will be open for all, and we sincerely hope that many participants will use it to talk to each other also in the coming weeks and months. The Whiteboard which was set up yesterday (unfortunately a bit late due to some software problems) has proven very popular and, provided your browser supports it, you will most certainly meet many other participants here, also in the future. Some of the Collaborative Projects, for instance Eratosthenes, Hale-Bopp, Variable Stars and Light Pollution, can easily continue, if the organizers are willing to receive more data and also reduce them. Thus we recommend that you contact them if you are interested to partipate in these activities.
All exercises, links and other material which has been deposited within the Astronomy On-Line structure, are of course also available.
In summary, there is no doubt that Astronomy On-Line, although it now leaves the most intense phase, will continue to provide a lot of interesting experiences to the groups who have participated until now and also for those who may wish to enter later on. Although we cannot register them formally, new groups can make themselves known to others and in this way, the interactive, international process which has started with Astronomy On-Line may go on and diversify.
A final word about the observations: Some groups have already received their data, but others are still waiting to get them. During the next week, the Observing Programmes Committee will make sure that all groups receive their data which has been observed for them. For this, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Albert Zijlstra at: firstname.lastname@example.org.