These days anyone can download Italian art films, play doo-wop music with a partner in China, or take online lessons in Swahili, but that kind of global reach pales next to the latest innovation in connectivity: using the Internet to explore the far reaches of the cosmos.
Web entrepreneur Michael Paolucci came up with the idea of turning the Web into a tool for stargazing in 1992, when he was an undergrad at Cornell University. His concept was simple: Build an automated observatory on a dark mountaintop, hook it up to a broadband Internet connection, then find enthusiasts willing to pay a subscription fee to take personal command of a near professional quality telescope.
The Sky This Month
May 3 The crescent moon meets Saturn in the constellation Cancer; they are highest at dusk.
May 4 Jupiter is at its closest point of the year, brighter than every star and visible all night long.
May 13 The full moon skirts past Jupiter, making a brilliant pair.
May 31 Mars and Saturn are near the Beehive, a loosely gathered cluster of stars. The view looks best through binoculars.
All month Venus dominates the predawn sky. Early birds need to get out quickly: The planet rises less than two hours before the sun.