From the January 2007 issue

Real-time talking

Internet Relay Chat brings amateur astronomers from around the globe together to talk turkey about their passion.
By | Published: January 21, 2007 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
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A popular way for like-minded amateur astronomers to meet in cyberspace started in 1988, when Jarkko Oikarinen of Finland created Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC creates “chat channels” that work through computer-network servers. When you type a line, it goes to the server you are using. That server links to other servers, and your line is displayed to everyone on the channel. Since its start, IRC has become a popular way for people from more than 65 countries to meet.

In November 1996, #sciastro — the amateur astronomer’s IRC channel — began. The channel, housed on the StarLink-IRC Network, is open 24 hours a day, with channel operators (moderators) logged on for much of that time.

Before you can begin chatting on #sciastro, you must first connect to a server. Begin by choosing from several IRC software packages. Most visitors use Pirch or mIRC for Windows-operating systems and Ircle for Macintosh computers.

These programs come with a listing of major IRC networks with pre-installed servers. StarLink-IRC should be among the choices, so select that network and pick one of the servers. If you can’t get your chosen server to respond, try another one. If you don’t find StarLink-IRC listed, simply type “/server” Once connected to a server, type “/join #sciastro” and you can begin chatting. You’ll find general IRC information at, or check for information about the network and getting connected.