Robotic Telescopes: An Interactive Exhibit on the World-Wide Web
The World-Wide Web can be thought of as a distributed multimedia museum. Museums try to attract a wide
audience by making their information as interesting as possible. One way they accomplish this and provide a
complete learning experience is to use interactive exhibits to challenge and stimulate visitors. This is also true for
information on the World-Wide Web, where interactive applications excite users and gain media attention. These
novel applications are a form of virtual reality that seamlessly connects users with remote applications and
simulations around the world.
The University of Bradford have a prototype low-cost autonomous telescope using a World-Wide Web gateway to
provide access for schools, amateurs and professionals. This seamlessly integrates the telescope into the rest of the
Web allowing user manuals, live reports, and astronomy lessons all to be accessible from the same interface. The
telescope is controlled robotically using a simple form interface where jobs are submitted in advance, or remotely
for real-time events. Using the World-Wide Web makes an interface to the telescope available on most computer platforms and hence widely accessible. In this paper the design and implementation is discussed. It is found that some modifications to the protocols to aid remote control of equipment are useful but not essential: It is recognised that it is important not to over-complicate the protocols by adding specific features for every new innovative application.