In the wee hours of August 1, the moon and the sun will pass each other for a breathtaking full solar eclipse, but U.S. residents won't be able to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon because of their location on the planet.
San Francisco's Exploratorium science museum is broadcasting the eclipse to the masses, however, combining science and technology by streaming the eclipse on virtual world Second Life.
In the real world, a team from the Exploratorium science museum will be traveling to the Xinjiang Province in Northwestern China, close to the Mongolian border, to stream a Webcast of the eclipse. The museum is staying open all night to bring the Webcast to museum visitors, as well as its online viewers and members of Second Life.
Total solar eclipses happen usually only every 18 months or so, and the team must travel to China because the full eclipse is only visible on a narrow slice on the surface of Earth.
Second Life users can view the 45-minute Webcast, starting at 3:30 a.m. PDT August 1, on the virtual world's so-called Exploratorium Island. Avatars can also gather at the Pi Day Theater at the Sploland Sim, at the Science School Sim, and at the Spindrift Sim. The eclipse will be accompanied by video and commentary of Exploratorium and NASA scientists.
Starting July 1, Second Life members and their real-life makers can use Exploratorium Island to learn about solar eclipses, Chinese culture, and solar science.
The Exploratorium has previously paired with Second Life and NASA to deliver space news. In 2006, for instance, the team traveled to Turkey to broadcast the solar eclipse, and NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander team has created an avatar for the exploring robot in the virtual world.
Non-Second Life users can view the Webcast on the Exploratorium Web site, and the CNET News.com multimedia team will provide coverage of the event after viewing the live video in the Exploratorium.