top of page


Upon first light the day of our launch

Upon first light the day of our launch, December 25, 2003, 

Slooh is dedicated to Blake Wallens and all those who died on 9/11.  

Founder’s Message

Michael Paolucci
CEO | Founder 

Michael Paolucci
CEO | Founder 

​Sophomore year of college I lived at the end of a third-floor dormitory hallway two doors down from my friend Blake Wallens. We had both grown up in Los Angeles but met the first week at Cornell, gravitating to the same fraternity with many of our dorm friends. The fraternity was situated on Fall Creek Gorge near Carl Sagan’s house on the side of a cliff. We walked by his house from time to time and wondered about him, a celebrity astronomer out of reach to a couple of undeclared undergraduates not yet firing on all our intellectual cylinders. Eventually, I got around to reading several of his books and adopted his original brand of awe and wonder – one firmly rooted in our empirical knowledge of man’s place in the cosmos. Sagan brought the universe close to me; he was a master of articulating the implications of space science and touching people in the process.

After graduation, I moved to New York City in a four-story walk-up with Blake and his best friend from home, John Waller. From our apartment, John and I created one of the first internet advertising networks, 247 Real Media, Inc, which went public in 1998. That summer I married my Cornell sweetheart and in 1999 we had our first child. Then we woke up one morning to jets being flown into the World Trade Center and watched helplessly as Blake died along with everyone else who showed up for work that day at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Like everyone, I struggled to make sense of the tragedy all around us and needed a way to honor Blake, but without bombs and bullets. My thoughts kept returning to Sagan: What if everyone had a sounder understanding of our place in the cosmos? Maybe people could be inspired to think in terms broader than themselves. The internet was the perfect medium to get the world communicating about our common condition under a shared sky, and so we thought about creating a global gathering place for just that purpose.  

​“Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?” Ralph Waldo Emerson asked in Nature. “Why should we grope among the dry bones of the past…. The sun shines to-day also.” Emerson’s evergreen call to each generation resonated with me, as did his emphasis on rethinking received wisdom. His challenge was the philosophical launch pad for Slooh: how to harness a new technology — the internet — to emphasize our interconnectedness and to promote scientific literacy in school. Slooh would be based on the most wondrous of human accomplishments, the continually expanding comprehension of how our universe works and the many creative ways for children to understand it. 

If the idea for Slooh was conceived in the aftermath of 9/11, it took two years to secure a location and install our first observatory at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands after an aborted installation in Hawaii. We learned the hard way that not every high altitude location is suitable for astronomy, and so the dome and telescopes had to be shipped via freighter through the Panama Canal from one remote island in the Pacific to another island in the Atlantic. We launched on Christmas Day 2003 to align ourselves symbolically with the winter solstice, the day the Sun shines the least on the Northern Hemisphere and a time people gathered to ward off the darkness. “In a dark time,” poet Theodore Roethke writes, “the eye begins to see.”

It has been almost 100 years since astronomer Edwin Hubble changed our understanding of space, showing that many of those twinkling lights in the night sky weren't just a scattering of individual stars but actually galaxies like our own Milky Way. At the same time, light from our cities radiates more wattage than distant starlight, making it impossible to see the stars. With another connection to the environment lost, so too fades a basic understanding of man’s place in the order of things. In fact, people on Earth today have less connection to the ebb and flow of the night sky than the average Mayan thousands of years ago. ​

How to cultivate a sense that we are not masters but stewards of a planet — just one among many in the galaxy? 

Maybe that grand vision starts with a simple view of space from telescopes on Earth. It’s not such a utopian idea, after all; the popular understanding of Earth as a planet in orbit is often dated to a photograph taken from space, "Earthrise", by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders in 1968. It provided us with a fresh perspective of ourselves, revealing Earth to be a fragile beauty. ​

Every now and then, the world needs a refresher course in astronomy and the philosophical perspectives that come with it. A view through a telescope reminds each of us to imagine worlds beyond ourselves and within our power to explore them. Across nations and generations, we have developed an extraordinary foundation of knowledge, burnished now by almost daily news of missions to Mars and interstellar space. May it also ignite our unified mission to wonder again at the night sky and all it holds

Today at Slooh, we have installed ten telescopes in the Canary Islands and Chile and formed a global community of people looking into space together using our patented technology and sharing ideas about what they see. Coming full circle from the tragedy that launched Slooh, we are set to break ground on new telescopes in Australia and the Himalayas, giving us almost 24-hour coverage of the night sky. Perhaps best yet, we are also entering thousands of classrooms across The United States and beyond, in countries like India, Isreal, the UK and the UAE. 

With a mission of curiosity about the universe and our place in it, we are continuing a conversation begun back in Ithaca when we wondered about the man who lived on the side of the cliff.

bottom of page