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A Little Bit of Heavens

January 07, 1999|SCOTT MARTELLE

Look at it as an astronomical example of cosmic recycling.

Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University has dusted off an 8-ton robotic telescope and linked it to an Internet request line, letting amateurs and professionals alike order images of celestial bodies.

Just fill out a form on the astronomy department's Web site ( Name the object to be photographed and the exposure time. Electronic pictures will later be shipped via e-mail to the party making the request.

No sun or moon shots are allowed. And so far it isn't programmed to photograph planets or comets. So think deeper. Novas. Nebulae. Dust clouds, other than the one that hovers over L.A. during the Santa Anas.

School officials say observing time will be split up, with 15% for the public, 20% for secondary schools and the remainder for university faculty and students. So don't expect immediate delivery.

And just think: If the telescope gets overworked, it could develop an Andromeda Strain. (Sorry, Michael Crichton.)

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