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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Featured Deep-Sky Object - M33 - Triangulum Galaxy

It has been awhile since we have published a post covering featured deep-sky objects. In the past, we have been posting articles regarding objects in the night sky such as galaxies, nebulae and star clusters complemented with images taken by the staff of Insight Observatory using a remote robotic telescope on the iTelescope network. Due to our recent projects such automating a 32" Dobsonian telescope, assisting the W. Russell Blake Planetarium with its newly installed digital imaging theater and implementing our Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO), we simply haven't had the time or resources to do so (which is actually not a bad problem to have).

Featured Deep-Sky Object - M33 - Triangulum Galaxy
M33 - Triangulum Galaxy imaged on the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach by Insight Observatory.

Well, it's about time we started again. In recent weeks we have been performing tests on the ATEO remote telescope, preparing it for educational and public use. As numerous images of deep-sky objects during testing were acquired, we figured why not post them on our blog as a "Featured Deep-sky Object". The first deep-sky object to feature is M33, the Triangulum Galaxy imaged by Insight Observatory Managing Member / System's Engineer, Muir Evenden. Muir imaged the Galaxy with our 16" Dream Astrograph remote imaging telescope with a 5-minute exposure with the luminance filter, stacked with 2 minutes red, green and blue filter exposures. These images were then stacked and processed using PixInsight. Post processing was then done in Adobe Photoshop by Insight Observatory Managing Member / Project Developer, Michael Petrasko. The result of the image detail is surprisingly impressive considering there are not many exposures comprising the final image.

The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 3 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Triangulum. It is cataloged as Messier 33 or NGC 598 and is sometimes referred to as the "Pinwheel Galaxy", a nickname it shares with Messier 101. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, behind the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. It is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.  Using a small pair of binoculars with a wide field of view, the galaxy is easily detectable. Being a diffuse object, its visibility is strongly affected by small amounts of light pollution. It ranges from easily visible by direct vision in dark skies to a difficult averted vision object in rural or suburban skies.
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Saturday, September 2, 2017

ATEO Images the Andromeda Galaxy

After the success of achieving first light with the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) on August 31, 2017, another clear night at Pie Town, New Mexico allowed us to continue testing the online remote robotic telescope on the morning of September 1st. It was now time to start testing the filter wheel and a bright deep-sky object would be a fitting way to make sure the filter wheel was functioning properly.

As we were using the TheSky software on our imaging computer, we saw that The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31 and NGC 224 was in a decent spot of the sky to get a series of quick images using the filter wheel. Fortunately, all went well with using the filter wheel with the CCD camera. We imaged the galaxy with quick 60-second exposures through the LRGB filters. No flats or darks applied as we still need to create those. However, We did some slight processing using Photoshop. Needless to say, we were very pleased.

NGC 224 (Messier 31) - Great Andromeda Galaxy 60-second LRGB Images on the ATEO
NGC 224 (Messier 31) - The Andromeda Galaxy 60-second LRGB Images on the ATEO

The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest large galaxy to our own, at a distance of about 2.5 million light-years. This object is classified as an Sb spiral and it is a major member of the Local Group. It lies in the constellation Andromeda and is the most remote object normally visible to the naked eye, though under really dark skies, observers can sometimes see the M33, the Triangulum Galaxy.

Once the telescope is ready for educational and public use, we are confident the Andromeda Galaxy will be a favorite target for imaging. We look forward to seeing everyone's results!
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Friday, September 1, 2017

ATEO Achieves First Light!

Insight Observatory is proud to announce that the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) has achieved first light. Now that the "Great American Solar Eclipse" of 2017 has come and gone, all of our efforts are now back on getting the remote telescope operational. On the morning of August 31, 2017, Insight Observatory's Systems Engineer, Muir Evenden, and I met via Skype and logged into the Raspberry Pi that runs the ATEO remotely. The skies were crystal clear in New Mexico that morning, therefore we thought it was time to attempt getting first light and perhaps an image of a deep-sky object if all went well.

Once we powered up all of the hardware, we launched TheSkyX developed by Software Bisque that controls the 16" f3.5 Dream Astrograph imaging system. After mulling over a few star candidates to slew to, we decided on the bright star Scheat that makes up part of the "Great Square". We took a one-minute exposure that would find the photons of starlight in the image donut shaped due to the telescope being out of focus. We then spent time on focusing the telescope before attempting to image a deep-sky object.

Screen Shot of TheSkyX while capturing first light of the star Scheat in the constellation Pegasus.
Screen Shot of TheSkyX while capturing first light of the star Scheat in the constellation Pegasus.

Once focus was acceptable enough for a rough image we decided to image NGC 7331, a spiral galaxy in Pegasus. NGC 7331 (also known as Caldwell 30) is a spiral galaxy about 40 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1784. NGC 7331 is the brightest member of the NGC 7331 the Deer Lick Galaxy Group.

NGC 7331 (also known as Caldwell 30). 60-second exposure taken with the ATEO 16" Dream Astrograph.  The Stephan's Quintet group of galaxies can be seen to the lower right of the image.
NGC 7331 (also known as Caldwell 30). 60-second exposure taken with the ATEO 16" Dream Astrograph.
The Stephan's Quintet group of galaxies can be seen to the lower right of the image.

We will be continuing testing within the next few days using the FLI color filter wheel that is attached to the telescope for creating color images. If all goes well with the final testing, the ATEO will be ready for educational and public use within the next few weeks.
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