Last night you guys let me know you are CosmoQuest. And it was awesome.
We built CosmoQuest as a community site for you to learn and do science. With a lot of community building projects it’s really hard to know when you have actually succeeded in building that community you dream of. You can’t judge an online community by the number of registered users. Let’s face it, large numbers can either reflect a large healthy community, or a large number of links that caused lots and lots of people to come to a site once (how many of you have accounts on some social network or other website you have no intention of ever visiting again?) You can’t judge a community by the number clicks, because a bunch of dedicated isolationists can create clicks without creating a community. Knowing if you’ve built a community is just really really hard to judge.
But when your community decides to say “Hey, we’re going to [insert awesome thing]. Join us if you can?” … well, to me that is success.
Last night, when I went to check my inbox one last time before going to bed, I found a happy little message from +Scott Lewis (aka @BaldAstronomer) inviting me to an online +Virtual Star Party. +Chris Ridgeway and +Cory Schmitz had pulled out their scopes and were streaming out images, and +John Kramer joined in with his rig as a first time participant. From there it just grew as more and more folks from our community joined in, sharing, laughing, and loving our view of the sky. Cory was hand guiding his system, and the Moon and then Saturn danced around in perfect focus – Check out his awesome images here. It looked surreally like he had Saturn attached to an invisible stick that he was just moving through the field. John brought up a precious view of the Ring Nebulae that we oooed and awwwed over. Chris brought us nebulae and clusters and tried for a galaxy.
And we laughed and teased and talked science, and it was truly an online party involving celestial and terrestrial stars of the plasma and human varieties.
These observers, sharing their time, telescopes, and technology are the stars.
And the fact that inviting me was kind of an after thought made me stupidly happy. They were hosting a virtual star party, as a community of observers, for their own joy and they were sharing what they were doing with the world so everyone could laugh and look together.
When I got home yesterday, my husband was really funny. He was kind of sad that I wasn’t featured in the Google video as much as the guys were. The thing is, I’m fully aware I’m there as a commentator, and just like the star of the Football game should be the quarter back or wide receiver or someone like that and not the person up in the announcers box, I fully understand I am not the star of the star parties. I couldn’t be happier with the story Google told. We do this for you (which sometimes means, jokingly, for Fraser, because he’s the one with the little kid glee asking “can we see? can we see?”). Google totally understood where our hearts are, and they told the right story. We are just sharing the universe.
We are a community that shares the universe.
And it is awesome.
Thank you all for being awesome.
If you’d like to watch last night’s slap happy, giddy, giggly star party, the video is below. We were doing this for fun, and we invite you to giggle and be giddy with us.