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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Light Pollution Is Increasing

When scientists are disappointed with their results, it's usually because they were following a different hypothesis than where their data leads. In the case of the switch from sodium lights to LEDs, though, it's more than that.

“Honestly, I had thought, assumed, and hoped that with LEDs we were turning the corner,” says Christopher Kyba (German Research Center for Geosciences). Kyba researches the spread of artificial lights and how it affects our nights, and as a former member of the board of directors of the International Dark Sky Association, he also advocates the use of improved lighting practices.

But in the November 22nd Science Advances, Kyba and colleagues show that we are farther from the goal of dark, starry skies than ever.

World maps showing the rates of change of the lit area of the world (left) and the measured brightness of each country (right) during 2012–2016. Warmer colors in each map correspond to higher rates of change. Note that Australia is an odd case: wildfires increased the country's lit area, but this effect was not included in the radiance analysis. Kyba et al. / Science Advances.

More Lights, Brighter Nights

Qatar nighttime lights Outdoor lighting in Doha, Qatar, between 2012 (cyan) and 2016 (red) as seen from the Suomi satellite. Areas newly lit since 2012 appear in bright red. Kyba et al. / Science Advance The team used the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership weather satellite to measure the change in global light emissions between October 2012 and October 2016. The VIIRS instrument is the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed to measure nighttime lights – earlier investigations were often based on uncalibrated sensors on military satellites.

VIIRS observes the Day/Night band (DNB), which picks up visible through near-infrared wavelengths. Each pixel covers ½ square kilometer, a higher spatial resolution than previous instruments, which enables scientists to investigate neighborhood-scale changes, rather than a city or national, for the first time.

The researchers’ findings will not please astronomers: Earth’s nights are becoming brighter.

Read Full Article by Jan Hattenbach at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/lost-led-revolution-light-pollution-increasing/
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

5th Grade Class Images Galaxies and Nebulae

Students in Mrs. DeSantis' fifth-grade class at the Plymouth South Elementary School located in Plymouth, MA, used Insight Observatory's 16" Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) located at an elevation of 7,778 ft in the dark skies of New Mexico. This telescope is accessed remotely via the internet as a rental and used from classrooms for students as well as the general public to conduct astronomical research projects for science education or deep-sky imaging. 

Students in Mrs. DeSantis' fifth-grade class queuing up their image requests for the ATEO.
Students in Mrs. DeSantis' fifth-grade class queuing up their image requests for the ATEO.

Mrs. DeSantis stated; "As part of our solar system unit, our fifth-grade class was offered the opportunity to receive some images via a remote telescope in New Mexico. The students were paired up and allowed to choose from a list of deep-sky objects including nebulae, galaxies, and supernova remnants. They also had to choose whether to receive color or a black and white photo as well as choosing the exposure time. Once they had chosen, we submitted the image requests under their names. They then created a Google Doc for their object and did some research on it. For example, if they chose a nebula, they had to explain what kind it was (planetary, emission, or diffused) and then elaborate. Students also visited the Insight Observatory website to learn more about the remote telescope. The kids were thrilled when the images arrived. They compared the nebulae and discussed whether the type of nebula correlated to its appearance. This was a motivating and exciting project!"

Insight Observatory had previously collaborated with the Plymouth Community Intermediate School also in Plymouth, MA, using remote robotic telescopes on a third party telescope network. This is the first venture with the Plymouth school district utilizing their own instrument since the installation of the 16" Astrograph imaging telescope this past summer.

From Left to Right: NGC 7293 - The Helix Nebula Imaged by Nolan and Ella,  IC 5070 - The Pelican Nebula Imaged by Haley and Ava,  M33 - The Triangulum Galaxy Imaged by Kassidy and Liam
From Left to Right: NGC 7293 - The Helix Nebula Imaged by Nolan and Ella,  IC 5070 - The Pelican Nebula Imaged by Haley and Ava,  M33 - The Triangulum Galaxy Imaged by Kassidy and Liam.

The images above are just a few of those taken by the students.
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Monday, November 13, 2017

ATEO Public Image Request Form Released

Insight Observatory is pleased to announce the release of its Public Image Request (PIR) form for use with their Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO). The purpose of the form is to allow the general public to request (in a few easy steps) an image to be taken of a deep-sky object such as galaxy, nebula and star cluster of their choice with the organization's remote robotic telescope located in New Mexico. The service is free, however, donations can be made via PayPal in any amount to support the maintenance and hosting of the telescope.

The Public Image Request (PIR) form is the "lite" version of the telescope's portal that is nearly completed and scheduled to be released for beta testing at the end of this year. The ATEO Portal will allow users to reserve telescope time and have full control of the telescope and all of its imaging equipment.

Screenshot of the Public Image Request Form for Use with Insight Observatory's
Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach.

What can be imaged with the PIR form?

Currently, only deep sky objects can be imaged using the Public Image Request form. This means no planets, asteroids, comets, or other objects that cannot be found in the SIMBAD object database. Why is this? This is because the wide field of view that the ATEO captures means that in most cases targets like planets would simply appear too small in our images to be satisfactory. Also please be aware that due to the wide field, small objects (like the Ring Nebula) will appear smaller than a larger object (like the Orion Nebula) - this may seem obvious, however, when you are used to seeing certain objects (like the Ring Nebula) close up it can be disorienting to view them on a wider scale.

How long will it take to capture and receive an image?

The total turnaround time can range from a week up to a month. A lot can depend on the weather - an unusually cloudy month can slow down the capture of images.

The Rosette Nebula (also known as Caldwell 49) - 300 Second Color
Image by Colin Stephens via the ATEO Public Image Request form.

What is the final product that will be received after the image request?

When your image is ready to download it will be in the form of a JPEG (JPG) file that can be retrieved from Dropbox (no account is required to download your image). You will receive an email notification with a link to the Dropbox folder with your file when it is ready. Your image files will remain on Dropbox for 30 days after you are notified and then removed.

Is there a restriction on the number of images that can be requested?

Yes... Simply because we want to give everyone a reasonable chance of requesting an image. Current restrictions limit the number of open (waiting to be imaged) requests to 2 per month per person, and there is a cap limit of 50 total open requests in our queue. This cap is put in place because we don't want to be in a position where our backlog of images grows beyond what we are able to capture within a reasonable timeframe.

Access Telescopes Here!
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