Register

iTelescope.Net is the world’s premier network of Internet connected telescopes, allowing members to take astronomical images of the night sky for the purposes of education, scientific research and astrophotography. (more)

iTelescope.Net is a self-funding, not for profit membership organisation; we exist to benefit our members and the astronomy community. Financial proceeds fund the expansion and growth of the network. iTelescope.Net is run by astronomers for astronomers.

The network is open to the public; anyone can join and become a member including students, amateurs and even professional astronomers.

With 20 telescopes, and observatories located in New Mexico, Australia and Spain, observers are able to follow the night sky around the globe 24x7.

iTelescope.Net puts professional telescopes within the reach of all, with systems ranging from single shot colour telescopes to 700mm (27”) research grade telescopes.

Astronomy Research

Having access to professional telescopes means that doing real science has never been easier – great value for schools, educators, universities, amateur and professional astronomers. (more)

Exo-planets, comets, supernova, quasars, asteroids, binary stars, minor planets, near earth objects and variable stars can all be studied. iTelescope.Net can also send your data directly to AAVSO VPhot server for real-time online photometric analysis.

iTelescope.Net allows you to respond quickly to real-time astronomical phenomena such as supernova and outbursts events, gaining a competitive edge for discoveries. With more than 240 asteroid discoveries iTelescope.Net is ranked within the top 50 observatories in the world by the Minor Planet Center.

Get involved: members have used the network to provide supportive data for go/no-go decisions on Hubble space telescope missions.

Education and Astronomy Schools

With science and numeracy at the forefront of the education revolution, iTelescope.Net provides the tools, along with research and education grants, to support the development of astronomy or science based curriculums in schools. Contact iTelescope.Net about a grant for your school or research project. (more)

Professional observatories use iTelescope.Net to supplement current research projects. The network provides alternate observatory sites in both southern and northern hemispheres and is a good way to continue research when seasonal poor weather hits your observatory.

Sky Tours Live Streams

We offer a variety of ways to view the night sky, including our entry level Sky Tours Live Streams. These weekly streams, hosted by Dr. Christian Sasse, are a great way to get started with Remote Astronomy, allowing you to see our telescopes in action and learn about the Night Sky from a professional Astronomer.

Astrophotography

Take stunning images of the night sky, galaxies, comets and nebula. Have access to the best equipment from the comfort of your computer and without the huge financial and time commitments. (more)

The network has everything from beginner telescopes with single shot colour CCDs to large format CCDs with Ha, SII and OII and LRGB filter sets. Check out the member image gallery – the results speak for themselves.

Depending on your own image processing skills, you can even land yourself a NASA APOD.

How?

All you need is a web browser and an Internet connection; iTelescope.Net takes care of the rest. Our web-based launchpad application provides the real-time status of each telescope on the network as well as a host of other information such as a day-night map, observatory all-sky cameras and weather details. (more)

From the launchpad you can login to any available telescope, and once connected, you’re in command. Watch in real time as the telescope slews, focuses and images your target.

The image files (in FITS format) are then transmitted to a high-speed server ready for your download. All image data taken is your data – iTelescope.Net doesn’t hold any intellectual property rights.

Reserve and schedule observing plans in advance, even have them run while you are away from iTelescope.Net and have the image data waiting for you ready for download.

New and Starting Out?

A number of telescopes are fitted with colour cameras; these systems have been designed for ease of use. It’s as simple as selecting an astronomical target from the menu, watching the telescope image your target, and have the resulting image sent to your email address as a jpeg attachment. (more)

The image file is also sent to our high-speed server and can be downloaded in its raw image format, for post image processing if you want more of a challenge.

Already a Pro?

iTelescope.Net offers a large range of telescopes, fields of view and image scales, and NABG and ABG CCD camera combinations. Select from a large range of filters including narrowband, LRGB and UBVRI, as well as control pointing, filter selection, focusing, exposure times, image counts, repeat loops etc. All data is offered in its raw FITS format calibrated and non-calibrated.

Support and Service

With remote astronomy observing plans can be interrupted from time to time, by clouds, wind gusts and even a rare equipment failure.

iTelescope.Net has you fully covered with our satisfaction guarantee; we will return your points if you are unsatisfied with your results. Help is just a click away. (more)

A dedicated team of professionals are working around the clock to keep the network operating. This includes local ground crews at each observatory, sophisticated monitoring systems and remote observatory administrators monitoring the quality of data coming off the network.

Our dedicated support website allows members to seek answers to frequently asked questions. Formal support can be requested by lodging a support ticket, which can be viewed, tracked and managed through to completion. Go to http://support.itelescope.net or simply email support@itelescope.net.

Our contact details are also available. You can phone or Skype us if you want to speak to a person directly; you can also contact us via Skype instant message, email and fax.

How much does this cost?

Rates vary based on your membership plan and the phase of the moon. Rates start as low as 17 to 100+ points per imaging hour, which is billed per minute of imaging time used; typically one point equals $1. Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter for special offers. Please visit our pricing page for more information on telescope operating rates. (more)

Each telescope has its imaging hourly rate displayed in real time in the launchpad before you login. At the end of each session you are also sent a detailed usage receipt which includes the costs, weather data, preview jpeg images and your observing session log file.

Membership Plans

We have a range of plans catering for everyone from the amateur to the professional astronomer. Each plan provides unrestricted access to each telescope and includes the plan’s dollar value in points, which is credited to your account each time the membership renews. (more)

Membership plans set the usage rates for each telescope on the network, expressed in points per operating hour. The entry level plans provide maximum flexibility on our single shot colour systems, and the heavy usage plans focus more on the large research grade systems. Memberships start from $19.95 and range to $999.95 per 28 day period.

Additional points can be purchased at any time to supplement your account balance.

Hosting and Affiliates

iTelescope.Net offers a range of telescope hosting solutions to members with special projects, allowing you to host your own telescope at three of our four observatory locations. Conditions and approvals apply. Contact us for more information.(more)

Affiliate membership allows you to connect your own telescope to iTelescope.Net with reasonable rates of return. Limited availability exists and is subject to telescope network balance.

Please contact us for more information.


ITelescope Net

Create your badge

Visit our Google+ Page!


iTelescope Science Corner

iTelescope Members are Welcome to submit Interesting and Useful articles for the benefit of All.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday
Jun282013

Getting Started in Astronomy Science

Dr Ed Wiley - iTelescope Science Advisor

Amateur Astronomical Research

From time to time I like to mention some of the books I have found valuable in my own research. But first, I should apologize for the term “Amateur Astronomical Research.” Fact is, if you are contributing valuable data and perhaps even publishing a paper (even one with bunches of authors), you are no longer an “amateur” in the usual sense: you are a “self-funded astronomical researcher.” You might not have a degree in astronomy, but just remember, Darwin had a degree in theology, not biology,  Newton had a Masters and the Ph.D. as we know it today in the sciences is a German 19th Century invention. Being a scientist is not about degrees, it is about gathering data and either analyzing those data and seeing it through to publication, announcing discoveries and having them verified, or making those data available to other scientists.

OK, you want to do some science, so where to start?

Probably the very best place start is Robert Buchheim’s book, The Sky is Your Laboratory.  In 293 pages, Buchheim covers just about every field of astronomical research that is within the reach of the self-funded astronomer. Of particular interest to GRAS observers in the data gathering and analysis area (Chapters 4 and 5) are Project H, CCD photometry of variable stars, Project I, determining asteroid light curves, Project J, extra-solar planet transit, Project L, asteroid astrometry (comets too!). Naturally, my favorite is Project M, measuring visual double stars.

Many of our iTelescope.Net observers are more interested in discovery. This is covered in Chapter 6 where Project O covers asteroid discovery, Project P treats comet discovery and Q and R cover nova and super nova searches.

Along the way Buchheim discusses the basics of photometry (some of the best explanations I have read), measurement error (fundamentally important, measures without error are as useful as those with errors), how to interact with agencies such as the Minor Planet Center, time, catalogs, data mining, literature and a host of other important topics.

Not directly useful to iTelescope.Net observers are the discussions of equipment. Why? Because iTelescope already provides us with just about all the high quality equipment one could ask for.

Dr Ed Wiley

Cataclysmic Variables Catch Your Fancy?

One of our most experienced iTelescope variable star observers, Bill 'Dingo' Dillon from the AAVSO, loves to catch Cataclysmic Variables (CVs) as they go into an outburst. Running a friendly race with David Levy to be first to catch them in action.

CVs are actually binary systems, with a white dwarf  primary and a donor secondary. The white dwarf accrues matter from the donor, rich in hydrogen, and this accreted matter forms an accretion disk around the primary. This is an unstable condition and when a sufficient amount of the accretion disc falls into the primary the density and temperature of the hydrogen rises high enough to ignite nuclear fusion, rapidly burning the donor star hydrogen to helium. This causes a spike in magnitude, an outburst.

There are many classes of CVs. Right now AAVSO has an active observing program for several CVs classed as Z Camelopardalis dwarf novae. “Z Cam” binaries have the peculiar characteristic of becoming “stuck” between an outburst maximum and a resting minimum, called a standstill. It’s a 10 – 40 day cycle.

The AAVSO 2010-2011 Z Cam campaign is now on. The campaign contains both known Z Cam pairs such as RX Andromeda and suspected Z Cam pairs such as TW Triangulum. So there are both opportunities to collect data that will help us understand known pairs and the opportunity to help discover the nature of suspected pairs.

To get in on the campaign, visit the AAVSO Cataclysmic Variable Section and look for the link to the Z Campaign link.

 Dr Ed Wiley 

Eclipsing binaries and comments on Imaging Exoplanets

 

If you are thinking about jumping in and trying you hand at exoplanets the first thing you need to try are eclipsing binaries. Just like exoplanets, EBs vary in magnitude because a fainter companion is orbiting the primary star in such a way that the transit is in line with Earth, causing magnitude to vary.

The primary difference is, you guessed it, the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio needed to successfully obtain a light curve.  For EBs, S/N can be quite modest, in range of 0.01 magnitude error. This is because the magnitude variation of many EBs can be as much as 1 magnitude or more. And, you are facing only the usual S/N variation.

With exoplanets the variation in magnitude is quite small, on the order of less than a 0.03 magnitude drop or less. This puts a premium on S/N and the average successful exoplanet observer is look at S/N rations on the order of 0.002-0.005 magnitude (2 to 5 mmag). Further, many exoplanets are bright, which means that you have to worry more about phenomena like  scintillation noise in addition to the usual sources of noise (including noise caused by measuring aperture size).  However, just like EBs, exoplanet work has one saving grace; it demands precision, not accuracy.

In other words, it is not the actual magnitude of the primary that is of prime importance, it is generating an accurate timing of the minimum and the shape of the light curve that are of primary importance.

So, you say: “Ed, how do you image and measure exoplanets.” I answer: “I don’t!” It is just not something I have done.  But if you want to give it a try, I can suggest a book about exoplanet observing  that has been invaluable to me in understanding sources of error that have proven valuable for regular photometry.

“Exoplanet Observing for Amateurs” is Bruce L. Gary’s outstanding book for the amateur contemplating exoplanet research. Gary takes a very common sense approach to guiding us through the demands of this most demanding field of amateur photometry. Even if you, like me, are not particularly interested in exoplanets, you will benefit greatly from Gary’s discussions of calibration, setting differential photometric  apertures, sources of noise, calibration and a host of other topics.

Understanding the demands of this most rigorous program has helped me in my less demanding  pursuits of eclipsing binaries and other variables. Better yet, the book is available as a PDF for free and as a hard copy (which I recommend) for a very modest price and also visit Bruce’s web site.

So, you are still interested in exoplanets and are not put off by the rigor of the program. Begin with some easy eclipsing binaries using the AAVSO EB program as a guide. Start with some fairly easy ones that vary in their light curves and work up to the really “hard” ones that vary only slightly. Finding the target and times are easy, a day-by-day ephemeris is available for the program EBs through the AAVSO program and instructions for using the ephemeris are available at the RAS Wiki on the EB page along with several links I hope you  will find useful.  And, make sure to see if any of our GRAS observers are imaging exoplanets and ask them about their observing program.

Dr Ed Wiley

Getting started with Variable Stars, Some thoughts

If you are new to differential photometry, it is a fascinating field where amateur astronomers can make valuable contributions. We have many amateurs and professionals using iTelescope.Net to collect these data. But there are a few things you need to know before beginning.

First, you should go to the AAVSO web site and download their photometry hand book. You don’t have to be a member to get this valuable resource.  Another good resource is Brian Warner’s “A Practical Guide to Lightcurve Phototmetry and Analysis.”

Second, you need to use a telescope that has a photometric V-filter and you need to use this filter for all your observations, at least in the beginning. Do not use the regular photographic filters, they are useless for photometry.

Third, you need to have some idea as to what exposure times will yield acceptable signal-to-noise (S/N) ratios. The precision of your photometric results depends on your S/N ratio. For 0.05 precision you need an S/N ratio of 100 or higher. So, how do you find out? There is no substitute for some hands-on practice.  If M67 happens to be up, then there is no better practice than imaging M67 where there are a large number of standard stars. Search “M67 photometry.”  The “gold standards” are Landolt fields (search on “Landolt fields”). Landolt Fields are accessible for both northern and southern observers. Finally, there are “Henden Fields” (Arne Henden is now director of AAVSO), but they favor northern observers. Take a series of images of 60, 90, 120, and 180 seconds. Take four or five images for each integration time.  If you are an AAVSO member, make sure you have the V-filter and VPHOT enabled with your reservation. If not, you can use whatever photometry software you have once you calibrate your images.

The value of imaging standard fields is that you can use the standard stars as both targets and comparison star and try some ensemble photometry. You can compare known magnitude with the results you obtain from you various exposures. And, you can check our accuracy using different comparison stars. For example, if you use comparison stars that are similar in color to the star you are estimating, is accuracy better than if you use comparison stars that are of different colors? What about relatively low S/N ration to high S/N ratio? What happens when you stack the images from each exposure integration and then measure? Stacking can be the key to increasing S/N ratio while keeping integration times reasonable.

Imaging and measuring known stars (so well know that they are primary or secondary standards) builds confidence and skill. Your results should be fairly good if you work in the S/N ratio range of 100 or greater.

What to pick for your first variable? I suggest that you get into the AAVSO data for Mira-class variables.  Pick a few that are actively being imaged (recent data) and try your hand at these variables. Most Miras vary slowly and you can compare your results with the results of others to see if you are on the right track.

 Dr Ed Wiley

Thursday
Feb212013

Using PinPoint Astrometric Engine with iTelescope

How to configure and plate solve using PinPoint Astrometric Engine with iTelescope FITS Data.

Articles by Maciej Reszelski

PinPoint Astrometric Engine, is a programmable engine that provides sensitive, robust, high-speed research-grade astrometric image processing for FITS files produced by astronomical CCD cameras.

Typically its uses include plate solving which gives precise pointing to telescope mounts, for asteroid and comet searching, supernova hunting and high-precision astrometry (detection and measurement of positions).

You may also use it with your iTelescope data. Just follow the few steps below. In this example we will use the T20 New Mexico remote telescope.

(above) Use iTelescope LaunchPad link (see inside red circle) to go to the website info page for the itelescope you wish to use for imaging session.

Now we have data about telescope and CCD. Let’s check resolution field (see below). This is one of critical values needed in the PinPoint Configuration. Other values will be read by PinPoint from the image's FITS header.

Now open Visual PinPoint and fill this information into Horiz and Vert Scale in Solve Settings as follows:

We are now ready for our plate solve. Just click into ‘Solve Plates’ tab click to add files or drag & drop them here and click ‘Solve Plates’.

The resulting output is given as a TXT file and is shown in the image below. You have a successful solved plate!

More Soon..