|by Rob Nelson, NSAAC, of Massachusetts
Since 1998, the North Shore Amateur Astronomy Club of Groveland, Massachusetts has
been operating a new Public Education Program aimed at making observational astronomy accessible to those
physically challenged and as a means for providing real-time observing for large groups at star parties.
The SHARE Program (System for Handicap Accessibility, Recreation, and Education), is a fully
portable real-time video astronomy program utilizing an 8" f6.3 Meade LX200 telescope, an Astrovid 2000 video
camera, and a Collins Electroptics I3 image intensifier. This system enables audiences to observe real time
images of the moon, planets, meteors, stars, clusters, galaxies, and nebulae from the comfort of a heated,
handicap accessible classroom, lecture hall, or auditorium. This is especially convenient during the winter
months when so many splendid objects are visible.
NSAAC members first visualized SHARE as a means for making observational astronomy accessible
to those who could not reach the telescopes that we use as part of our existing Public Observing Programs
conducted at the observatories of Salem State College in Salem, MA. and Merrimack College in Andover, MA. This
would include people in wheelchairs, on crutches, or otherwise physically challenged and therefore unable to
climb the stairs to either observatory or to reach the viewing eyepiece of the telescope. Our original intent
was for a modest system that we could use at either facility. We have been very fortunate in having been awarded
several grants over the last three years. As a result, we dramatically expanded the scope of our program by
developing and creating a portable system.
Our system is assembled in rack mount road cases. This allows us to bring the SHARE Program
to hospitals, schools, libraries, and practically any handicap accessible venue or remote location that one may
wish to conduct a program at or observe from. The telescope and sub systems are set up outside. An object is
framed and focused while viewing a high-resolution monitor. The image is then relayed from the monitor to an
indoor location (up to 300' away) where it terminates at a video projector for viewing on a screen. To the best
of our knowledge, it is the only portable system of its kind targeted for making observational astronomy
handicap accessible, where everyone can view an object at the same time, in a group setting, in the comfort of
an indoor handicap accessible location.
For more information about the NSAAC SHARE Program please visit our
website. We would also be happy to supply other
clubs with information on how they can construct their own SHARE Program system.
SHARE Program Coordinator
Photos are the property of the SHARE project
Photo 1: Ric Shanahan & John Boudreau w/ Salem State College
"Collins Observatory" 12" Classical
Photo 2: System set (field/outdoor components).
Photo 3: Basic camera configuration.
Photo 4: Sub System Case close-up.
Photo 5: Packed up and ready to travel.
Photo 6: Ralph Pass w/ Merrimack College's OGS 20" Ritchey Cassegrain.