An observatory for education and public outreach controlled through the World Wide Web
For the last two and a half years the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University (LSU) has been engaged in a collaborative effort with the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC) and the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society (BRAS) to develop a observatory that can be used for astronomy education from primary school through graduate studies as well as for recreation and public outreach. The observatory includes a 2,300 square feet facility, a 20″ diameter Ritchey - Chretien telescope, a back - thinned CCD camera, a computer control system and an internet T1 link. The on site public outreach and education program has been fully active since Fall, 1997 and we are currently in the process of developing a platform-independent system for remotely controlling the observatory over the internet. The initial version of the Java / World Wide Web (WWW) based software is currently functioning and provides interactive control of the observatory via any Java compatible web browser. The main principles of the remote control system are presented in this paper, along with a discussion of the education and outreach goals of the observatory, details of the facility and hardware, initial measurements of system performance, and a discussion of our future development plans.