Virtual Star Party featured at big Google+ meeting

By Phil Plait | June 27, 2012 2:41 pm

This morning was the Google I/O 2012 meeting, celebrating the first anniversary of Google unveiling Google+. At the meeting, keynote speaker Vic Gondotra talked about Google+ Hangouts — live video chats that can have several people broadcasting, and an unlimited audience. And look what they featured for the talk: the Virtual Star Party, held every week by my friend and Universe Today founder Fraser Cain!

Wow. You can see several regulars there too, including astronomers Pamela Gay, Gary Gonella and Mike Phillips. I didn’t happen to be in that star party that night, but I participate when I can.

The star party was Fraser’s idea a while back, and when he came to me with it I was initially skeptical — I’ve never been much of an early adopter — but Fraser and I have a rule: "Trust Fraser". And of course he was right. We did one of these for the Venus Transit and 7000 people joined us to watch live. Fraser has wrangled astronomers from across the globe to hook up webcams to their telescopes and participate in this. We’ve had sessions featuring the Moon, Saturn, nebulae, galaxies, clusters… all live, and piped right into your computer. And it’s not all one way, either, since we encourage our audience to ask questions and suggest targets. And of course there’s also the Weekly Space Roundup, too, where space and astronomy journalists do a live hangout and talk about recent stories. That was all Fraser’s idea, too.

I am incredibly proud of Fraser for doing this, and for Pamela and all the others who made this happen.

If you want to join in, just circle Fraser Cain on Google+. If you’re not signed up, it’s quick and easy. And don’t listen to the naysayers; G+ is way better than Facebook. I find the conversations there to be stimulating and fun, and of course the Hangouts are a blast. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Q&BA Hangout. Maybe I’ll fix that this weekend.

Man. It’s really true: We live in the future.

Related Posts:

Venus Transit LIVE
Q&BA Archive
LIVE Q&BA Hangout for the eclipse
Weekly Space Roundup for January 19, 2012


Comments (9)

  1. Matt B.

    *tearing hair out* Too many videos. Streaming’s being blocked at work and my home computer is inexplicably stuttering all audio from the Internet. I’m getting further and further behind.

  2. First of all, yay for technology, science and clever people! I love what you can do with this technology, but there’s a huge downside…

    If you look on a map of Europe, there’s a giant black hole in the middle, where the reception of livestreams from Youtube is impossible. It’s Germany! Our silly government wants to fine everybody €500.000 who makes a public television broadcast without a license, and they think Youtube livestreams are a tv-broadcast! So we’re the ONLY country in the world in which nobody is allowed to see a Youtube livestream. Google would need to apply for a broadcast license (“Rundfunklizenz”), something which they unfortunately haven’t done.

    I’ve discovered this when I wanted to watch the Venus transit hangout and I was really, really mad. Especially because we can watch the recorded livestreams without problems, but if it’s a *live* broadcast, it gets blocked by default. Proxies may be a possibility, but I haven’t found one fast enough to allow streaming…

    I know this isn’t the fault of anybody here, quite the contrary – but it’s half the fault of our government and half the fault of Google. But lots of Youtube is blocked here for silly rights reasons anyway and nobody seems to have noticed that the livestreams are not only used for commecial broadcasts, but also for private and educational things. And once again science and education gets kicked out :-(.

    Am I really the only German reader of Bad Astronomy, Universe Today & Co who has complained about this?

  3. Guysmiley

    That was a really great video! And a pretty accurate distillation of what the virtual star parties are like.

  4. We have been doing nightly virtual star parties on going on 4 years now. It’s allot of fun to share what your looking at with the world and the instant feed back is great.
    Guido, Maybe thats why we don’t have any broadcasters from Germany yet on nightskiesnetwork.

  5. Navneeth

    The name of the key-note speaker and Google SVP, is Vic Gundotra

  6. Gerald Sorko

    Guido (#2) , have you tried using a VPN service provider? I have started using one recently and it works really well for me …
    There are two big advantages:
    1) makes your browsing more anonymous as they change your IP address every few minutes
    2) Due to multiple worldwide gateways you can look like residing in any country you want to …

  7. Tim, that might be the problem, but I think the different timezones are also a factor. But that’s no excuse to kick Germany out of the livestreams altogether.

    The bottom line, which I forgot to write last night, is: what can I do to change that? Is Google, as the parent company in the USA, even aware about that problem? It seems to me that the blocking of the livestreams was decided only by the local Google here in Germany.

  8. Hi Guido, you can always use a VPN to route around any local censorship in Germany. I personally use a software called “Hide My Ass”. It’s also really good for keeping a secure connection when you’re using open Wifi while traveling.

  9. Fraser, thanks for the tip! I’ve thought about using VPNs or Proxies, but I’ve tried some in the past and none were fast enough to play videos from Youtube. I don’t know if that has changed, but I’ll try on the next opportunity. But sneaking around can’t be the ultimate solution…


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