Monday, February 18, 2013

First Test Images from New Mexico Skies

While the Insight Observatory that specializes in astronomy education staff remains hard at work developing a plan and raising funds for the implementation of the 16" Dream AstrographTelescope in New Mexico, we decided to move ahead with our primary goal of starting to seek out educational research projects for students to participate in before the location of the telescope is complete. 

The first step was to find a temporary, however, sufficient Remote Robotic Telescope facility that currently offers access to imaging and the collecting of data. After many days of searching different programs available on the internet, Insight Observatory decided to create a "Starter-Trial" account with iTelescope.net.

After reviewing their excellent and intuitive tutorials on how to use their telescopes and software for collecting astronomical images remotely, the decision was not hard to make. The first night of gathering images was a complete success due to their clear and concise instructions on how to use the website. I set a reservation for 2:00 am MST (4:00 am EST) for use of their Takahashi TOA-150 using an  SBIG ST2000XMC One Shot Color CCD camera located in Mayhill, New Mexico (New Mexico Skies). My targets were three spiral galaxies and one elliptical galaxy for this test session. I successfully acquired images of M64 (Black Eye Galaxy), M104 (Sombrero Galaxy), M66 (Spiral Galaxy) in Leo, and M49 (Elliptical Galaxy) in Virgo. I have included these slightly processed images from this  
mornings observing run below...

M64 - "Black-Eye" Galaxy in Coma Berenices
M66 - Spiral Galaxy in Leo
M49 - Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo
M104 - "Sombrero" Galaxy in Virgo

All images were taken at 300 seconds each. 

Tomorrow morning I have an automated script setup to run utilizing iTelescope.net's "Plan Generator". This means I will be acquiring this image while I am asleep! The target is NGC 2903, a Spiral Galaxy in Leo.

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