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Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

ATEO-1 Zooms In On NGC 7094

Planetary nebulae are interesting deep-sky objects because they are very similar yet very different. ATEO-1 recently imaged NGC 7094. This relatively bright planetary nebula in the constellation Pegasus is embedded in this faint integrated flux nebula visible in this image cataloged as LBN152.

The primary exercise of imaging the nebula was to demonstrate how the Proline 16803 CCD camera that is attached to the 16" f/3.7 astrograph remote online imaging telescope can not only capture a nice wide-field but also have the capability of zooming into a deep-sky object without losing very much resolution. 

Planetary Nebula NGC 7094 in Pegasus cropped image on the 16" f/3/7 astrograph (ATEO-1) - Image by Insight Observatory.
Planetary Nebula NGC 7094 in Pegasus cropped image on the 16" f/3/7 astrograph (ATEO-1) - Image by Insight Observatory.

The image above is displayed at 100% and cropped for the purpose of concentrating on the planetary nebula itself. Below is the original sized field of view image of NGC 7094. 

Planetary Nebula NGC 7094 in Pegasus with original field of view on the 16" f/3/7 astrograph (ATEO-1) - Image by Insight Observatory.
Planetary Nebula NGC 7094 in Pegasus with original field of view on the 16" f/3/7 astrograph (ATEO-1) - Image by Insight Observatory.

The central star of this nebula belongs to the class of PG 1159 stars - hydrogen-deficient post-AGB-stars on their way to the white dwarf cooling sequence. However, a fraction of them show small amounts of atmospheric hydrogen and are referred to as hybrid PG 1159 stars, which is the case for this object.

We look forward to all of our ATEO Portal users capturing planetary nebulae displaying their unique characteristics.
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Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Pleiades and Triangulum Galaxy

Fall is the time of year when a few deep-sky gems make their way into the night sky once again. The Pleiades, Messier 45 and the Triangulum Galaxy, Messier 33, are among the long list. The Pleiades are also well known to the unaided eye as the Seven Sisters. That is how many stars can only be seen in this open star cluster under dark skies. The image below taken on Insight Observatory's Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-1) displays many many more stars in the cluster.

M45 - The Pleiades imaged at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin on ATEO-1 by Insight Observatory.
M45 - The Pleiades imaged at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin on ATEO-1 by Insight Observatory. 

The cluster is dominated by hot blue and luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. A faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster (hence the alternative name Maia Nebula after the star Maia), but is now likely an unrelated foreground dust cloud in the interstellar medium, through which the stars are currently passing.

Computer simulations have shown that the Pleiades were probably formed from a compact configuration that resembled the Orion Nebula. Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood.

M33 - The Triangulum Galaxy imaged on ATEO-1 at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin by Insight Observatory.
M33 - The Triangulum Galaxy imaged on ATEO-1 at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin by Insight Observatory.

The Triangulum Galaxy (also known as M33) that is about 3 million light-years away from Earth. While its mass is not well understood, one estimate puts it between 10 billion and 40 billion times the sun's mass, what is known is it's the third largest member of the Local Group or the galaxies that are near the Milky Way. Triangulum also has a small satellite galaxy of its own, called the Pisces Dwarf Galaxy.

Under dark sky conditions, M33 is just barely visible with the naked eye in the constellation Triangulum, just west of Andromeda and Pisces.
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Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Andromeda Galaxy Revisited and NGC 6822

Now that the ATEO Portal is complete and in full use for accessing imaging data on ATEO-1, we decided to revisit an old friend... M31, The Andromeda Galaxy. It was just a little over a year ago that we acquired our first image of our closest galactic neighbor. Insight's first image of M31 was a 60-second Luminance image taken remotely with TheSkyX software on the Raspberry Pi that controls the 16" f/3.7 remote telescope. This was before the ATEO Portal was ready for beta testing.

M31 - "The Andromeda Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's 16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (ATEO-1).
M31 - "The Andromeda Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's
16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (ATEO-1). 

The latest image above was taken completely through the ATEO online access portal. This image, a bit more impressive, was taken on the morning of October 5th, 2018, with filters Luminance 600 seconds along with Red, Blue, and Green at 300 seconds. All binning 2x2 and the image processing was done in PixInight and Photoshop CS6.

While the Andromeda Galaxy makes quite an impression, we thought why not image another galaxy of a completely opposite type. NGC 6822 was loaded into the Telescope Console on the ATEO Portal as a target as well. The specifications of this image are Luminance 300 Seconds, RGB 120s, and all 2x2 binning.

NGC 6822 - "Barnard's Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's 16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (ATEO-1).
NGC 6822 - "Barnard's Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's
 16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (
ATEO-1).

NGC 6822 (also known as Barnard's Galaxy, IC 4895, or Caldwell 57) is a barred irregular galaxy approximately 1.6 million light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. Part of the Local Group of galaxies, it was discovered by E. E. Barnard in 1884, with a six-inch refractor telescope. It is one of the closer galaxies to the Milky Way. It is similar in structure and composition to the Small Magellanic Cloud and is about 7,000 light-years in diameter.

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

21P Giacobini-Zinner On the Move

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner has been putting on a good show recently, so I grabbed some shots of the speedy comet as it cruised through the inner Solar System with the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO).

From the 16" f/3.7 reflector, ATEO-1, I thought it would be interesting to capture the motion of the comet. On September 21st around 5:15 in the morning I imaged with 2-minute exposures every 10 minutes, for a total of 15 images captured. Since the comet was low on the horizon during the first part of the exposure run, we see some glow near the horizon which you see at the bottom of the image on the first few frames of the loop. After processing: normal image reduction and aligning all the images, the animated GIF was created that you see below. Elapsed time in the GIF: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Time-elapse GIF of Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner imaged by Muir Evenden on ATEO-1.
Time-elapse GIF of Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner imaged by Muir Evenden on ATEO-1.

Next, I wanted a shot from the 5" f/7 refractor, ATEO-2. A few days later on September 23rd at 3:30 in the morning I captured a 10-minute image with the one-shot color camera while the mount was set to track the comet. The result was this nice picture of the comet moving along...

Comet  21P/Giacobini-Zinner Imaged by Muir Evenden tracking the comet on ATEO-2.
Comet  21P/Giacobini-Zinner Imaged by Muir Evenden tracking the comet on ATEO-2.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

ATEO Portal Released with Instructional Videos

Insight Observatory is pleased to announce the official release of its Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Portal. This online gateway allows educators and the general public to access their network of remote robotic telescopes for astronomical imaging and research. Unlike Insight's Public Image Request Form (PIR), the portal allows users to create a user account, reserve telescope time, and enter in specific image data requests. The image data is then uploaded to a secure cloud folder after the observing run is completed.

Screen Capture of the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Online Telescope Portal.
Screen Capture of the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Online Telescope Portal.

ATEO Portal Instructional Videos have been published on Insight Observatory's YouTube Channel that covers each module of the online telescope access portal, from creating a new user account to planning what objects are to be imaged during a scheduled reservation.

The Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Portal can be accessed at https://ateodev.insightobs.com.

ATEO Portal New User Registration

ATEO Portal New User Registration - Instructions on how to sign up for a user account on the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Portal that accesses Insight Observatory's network of remote robotic imaging telescopes.

ATEO Portal User Profile

ATEO Portal User Profile - Instructions on how to use the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Portal User Profile to edit user information, purchase imaging credits, and access image data.

ATEO Portal Scheduler

ATEO Portal Scheduler - Instructions on how to use the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Portal Scheduler to reserve imaging time on Insight Observatory's remote robotic telescopes.

ATEO Portal Telescope Console

ATEO Portal Telescope Console - Instructions on how to use the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Portal Telescope Console to plan what objects are to be imaged during a scheduled reservation.

If you are interested in creating an account on the ATEO Portal or have any specific questions, please contact support@insightobservatory.com.
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Monday, October 1, 2018

What's In the Sky - October 2018

October nights will be full of celestial treats to see with binoculars and telescopes. Here are some of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars' top October stargazing suggestions.

Draconids Meteor Shower

The annual Draconid meteor shower peaks just before nightfall October 8th. While the Draconid isn't usually the strongest of meteor showers, it is known to have spectacular outbursts. Look towards the constellation Draco for your best chance to catch a glimpse of a Draconid meteor.

New Moon

For the best conditions to see the galaxies and clusters described above, plan a stargazing session for the night of October 9th, when the New Moon will provide dark skies. This is the best night of the month to observe the night sky since light from stars and faint deep sky objects won't have to compete with bright moonlight.

NGC 281 - "The Pacman Nebula" - Imaged on ATEO-1 by 5th-Grade Students at Plymouth South Elementary School, Plymouth, MA.
NGC 281 - The "Pacman Nebula" - Imaged on ATEO-1 by 5th-Grade Students at Plymouth South Elementary School, Plymouth, MA.

A Challenging Nebula

Making a small equilateral triangle with the stars Eta and Alpha Cassiopeiae is the elusive Pac Man Nebula, NGC 281. The Pac Man is a famous target for astrophotographers, but it's not very easy to observe visually. From dark sky locations, you can pick out its faint glow with large binoculars, but a telescope at low power with the help of an Oxygen-III filter will show it best.

NGC 253 - Imaged Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden of Insight Observatory.
NGC 253 - Imaged Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden of Insight Observatory.

The Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253)

Around midnight local time on October 3rd, the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253) will be well positioned for viewing as it will be at the highest point in the sky. Cataloged as both H V.1 and Bennett 4, this 7th magnitude beauty is also known as Caldwell 65, and due to both its brightness and the oblique angle is often called the "Silver Dollar Galaxy."

Orionids Meteor Shower

After midnight and before the Sun rises October 21 – 22, you can feast your eyes on the Orionid meteor shower. Look towards the eastern sky, where the constellation Orion will rise, for your best chance to see an Orionid meteor. As many as 50-70 meteors per hour will appear to radiate out of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars namesake constellation. The full Moon’s brightness may hamper visibility of all but very bright meteors.

Uranus at Opposition

Take advantage of the elusive planet Uranus as it reaches opposition on October 23rd. With Earth positioned between Uranus and the Sun along a roughly straight line, an opposition is when Uranus will be in its orbit's nearest point to Earth. Grab a star chart or StarSeek app to track down this magnitude 6.5 planet, which is just below naked-eye visibility, in the constellation Pisces. Since it's so far away from Earth, Uranus will be a very small bluish-green dot in large telescopes. While sighting the ice giant planet can be a challenge, it's worth the effort to know you're looking at one of the most distant planets in the Solar System.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.
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