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Bulletin No. 02 (July 09, 1996)

The Astronomy On-Line Bulletins describe recent developments around this project. For the time being, they will be issued at irregular intervals.

Astronomy On-line enthusiastically received!

It is now almost three weeks since the Astronomy On-line Programme was first announced, on the WWW and by an ESO Press Release. During this time the AOL WWW pages at ESO have been extensively consulted by interested parties in many different countries. In addition, quite a few potential participants have already approached the organizers with a desire to learn more about this unique project.

Many of the organizers have reported very positive first contacts with authorities, media and commercial partners in their respective countries. Thus there is little doubt that the Astronomy On-line Programme is meeting with a very good response in all related quarters.

A number of astronomical observatories have been contacted and several have expressed interest in participating in the observations' sub-programme. Astronomy On-line participants may therefore look forward to having several telescopes at their `disposal' for professional-quality observations.

Setting up the National Homepages

The National Steering Committees (NSCs) have begun to prepare the Astronomy On-line National Homepages. In two countries, Belgium and Sweden, such pages are already available and have been linked to the Astronomy On-line Homepage at ESO. Please note that the Swedish page is already actively mirroring the ESO site; this is useful in case of network congestion. Additional Homepages in other countries are likely to follow shortly, as soon as the respective NSCs have decided about their proper location.

The AOL WWW pages at ESO are being continuously updated, as more information becomes available. There is now also a What's New feature which facilitates the use.

Registration Forms will soon be available

Several potential participants have asked how they can register with the Astronomy On-line Programme. For this purpose, a standard registration form (in WWW format) is now being prepared. It will soon appear, first on the AOL Homepage at ESO and later on the National AOL Homepages as these become available.

Due to practical and administrative reasons, participation is - until further notice - limited to groups located in Europe. Before the corresponding National AOL Homepages are available, groups may register at the ESO Homepage with the International Steering Committee (ISC). The ISC will transmit these early registrations to the appropriate National Steering Committees. In due time, however, registrations should be made directly to the NSC in the participants' home country via the National AOL Homepage.

In countries where no National Steering Committee has (yet) been formed, groups may also register directly via the AOL Homepage at ESO.

Commercial partners

Several NSCs have reported positive first contacts with possible partners who seem to have no difficulty in recognizing the uniqueness and usefulness, as well as the great human and educational potential of Astronomy On-line. It is indeed gratifying that there is already at this early stage in so many quarters an expressed willingness to support the participating groups.

Among the first commercial partners are for instance Internetacademy in Belgium, Europeonline in Luxemburg, Freenet in Finland, Volk und Wissen Verlag in Germany.

Media activities

The Astronomy On-line Programme will gain much from the active participation of the media. The NSCs have therefore also begun to approach representatives of the main media in their respective countries and the first reports received are equally optimistic. The special appeal of Astronomy On-Line seems to be clearly understood and there is every indication of a high level of media involvement, especially at the time of the `hot phase', i.e. November 18 - 22, 1996.

ESO has undertaken a number of PR activities, aimed at promoting Astronomy On-Line on a Europe-wide basis. On June 18, 1996, a Press Release was sent to more than 700 science journalists and published on the World-Wide Web. Moreover, an A3 Colour Poster is being distributed with the June issue of the ESO Messenger (3,500 copies). It will also become available by mid-July to the NSCs for local and national distribution.

It is moreover intended to issue an AOL Promotional Video in late September, just before the start of the first phase, on October 1. It will be produced as a Video News Reel for TV on Beta-SP and ESO will notify its many TV contacts in advance. For further distribution, tapes will be available on request. Another Press Release is planned for early November, summarizing the programme and giving an overview of the participating groups, and more information will be released at the time of the `hot phase'. Meanwhile, ESO will maintain contacts with a broad section of pan-European media.

Selecting the `Shop Items'

The Astronomy On-Line Programme is based on the concept of a `marketplace' with `shops' where the participants will be able to explore/participate in interesting `projects'.

It goes without saying that the broader and the more varied these projects are, the more exciting and educational will be the experience for the participants. The quality of the projects must obviously be the highest possible.

The International Steering Committee has already received quite a few, very imaginative suggestions, in addition to the various projects foreseen from the beginning. Nevertheless, the ISC is eager to learn about other possible projects which may also be included, provided they can be made to conform with the educational and technical requirements of the programme.

The ISC therefore solicits further projects for its consideration and all interested parties are invited to contribute. If you have an idea which you think may be suitable for inclusion into the Astronomy On-Line Programme, you are kindly requested to contact the ISC (via one of its members) by email or other means of communication. The ISC addresses are available here.

Since the time until the formal beginning of the AOL programme is rather short, your early reaction is welcome.

In order to make it easier for the ISC to get an overview of the proposed projects, please present your project as a structured `proposal', with the following information:

1. Suggested title of activity (event)
2. The category (the `shop', i.e. 1-9 in the AOL Description) to which it (supposedly) belongs
3. A brief abstract of the activity, its purpose and other circumstances
4. Which groups may become involved and at what level (lower, middle, upper)?
5. What will the `results' look like? Will they be `published' by the involved groups?
6. Would you take the responsibility to prepare the proposed activity so that it can be incorporated into AOL? If not, who could do it?
7. When could it be ready for incorporation (after suitable tests)?
8. Possible `problems' (if any).

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