-->

Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Introducing "Starbase"

There has been a new module added to Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal. This new module has been designated "Starbase". Starbase is a repository of images captured by the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO), organized by the image target into image “sets”. These image sets can be purchased (referred to as “subscribing” to the image set) and downloaded. Purchasing an image set grants the subscriber access to all of the image set images.

M13 - Globular Cluster in Hercules processed from Starbase Image Sets by subscriber Utkarsh Mishra.
M13 - Globular Cluster in Hercules processed from Starbase Image Sets by subscriber Utkarsh Mishra.

An "image set" is composed of one or more images of a specific deep-sky target or subject. Images captured as part of an image set will typically be imaged within the timespan of a few months. On the Starbase portal page, the "Image Sets" tab will display a list of all the available image sets in Starbase.

After the ATEO Portal was rolled out last year, Insight Observatory started receiving requests from image processors asking to deliver image data from the ATEO remote telescopes. Although there are a few avid ATEO Portal users who take advantage of the Scheduler and Telescope Console to gather image data, we also realized there was a demand of image processors that simply wanted the image data from the telescopes. They had no interest in reserving time and imaging on the telescopes themselves. Therefore, we came up with an intuitive design for a new portal module that would allow portal users to browse, purchase, and download previously imaged datasets. 


Screenshots of Insight Observatory's newly released Starbase image datasets repository accessed thru the ATEO Portal.
Screenshots of Insight Observatory's newly released Starbase image datasets repository accessed thru the ATEO Portal.

In the midsts of developing Starbase, we were simultaneously populating the image library and by doing so taking requests of deep-sky targets from image processors.  We called the process "Datasets on Demand". As we continue to populate Starbase with image sets, we are continuing to take image data requests through our "Datasets on Demand" form.

Starbase Subscription Rates:

Subscription rates are determined by whether you registered with Insight Observatory as a Standard or as an Educational user.

The rates as of July 21, 2019, are as follows:
  • Standard: $0.10 per minute of image set exposure time
  • Education: $0.08 per minute of image set exposure time
To access Starbase, log into your Insight Observatory ATEO Portal account. If you don't have a portal account, you may sign up for one HERE at no cost. Once you log into your ATEO Portal account, you will see an option on the dashboard for "Starbase". Simply click on the icon and it will take you into a screen where you can view all of the image sets that are currently available for subscription. There is a "Support" tab to the right on the Starbase portal page that explains in-depth how to use the new Starbase module.
Read More

Friday, July 19, 2019

"On the Moon Again!"

On July 20th, 1969, 600 million people on all the continents followed the first step of a man on the Moon, together with their family or friends, around a radio, and sometimes a television set. Fifty years later, "On the Moon Again" was created to share this enthusiasm for the Moon again in a global, universal movement, transcending all borders.

Insight Observatory and Blake Planetarium collaborated on the evening of July, 12th 2019, by participating in the global event "On the Moon Again".
Insight Observatory and Blake Planetarium collaborated on the evening of July, 12th 2019, by participating in the global event "On the Moon Again".

Scientists worldwide gathered behind "On the Moon Again" and invited Insight Observatory to participate in this unifying event. Their support committee promoted the values of sharing and cooperation. "On the Moon Again" was an initiative of French scientists who coordinated this event with the contribution of thousands of volunteers. Once Insight Observatory was invited to join this global event, we immediately approached the Blake Planetarium located in Plymouth, MA to see if they would have an interest in putting on a joint event with Insight Observatory. The planetarium was very responsive, to say the least. Being that this event was for public outreach, the planetarium was kind enough to offer four showings of the planetarium's program "Earth, Moon, Sun", every half-hour free of charge to the public. This collaboration with Insight Observatory was highly publicized and the result was many reserving their spot ahead of time.

Interior view of the Blake Planetarium theater prior to the evening's event "On the Moon Again".
Interior view of the Blake Planetarium theater prior to the evening's event "On the Moon Again".

While the programs were running in the planetarium theater by Blake Planetarium Program Provider, Steven Davies, I represented Insight Observatory's contribution by providing a small a Celestron 2.4" refractor telescope set up in the front of the school where the planetarium is located. Using this small instrument would make it easy to pick up and run inside with in the event the skies opened up. Although the telescope was small and designed for the novice astronomer, it still provided decent views of the moon. There was also a back-up plan in case we were completely clouded out in Plymouth, MA. John Evelan, the owner of SkyPi Remote Observatory had his Insight Observatory affiliate telescope ATEO-2B, the Celestron 11" f/10 planetary telescope ready to broadcast images of the moon into the planetarium theater. Unfortunately, he was challenged by cloud coverage in western New Mexico and could only provide a few images of the moon.

Yours truly giving a thumbs-up after the clouds gave way to the moon, Dr. Patt Steiner providing views of the moon through her refractor telescope, and a quick shot of the moon through the Celestron refractor using my iPhone.
Yours truly giving a thumbs-up after the clouds gave way to the moon, Dr. Patt Steiner providing views of the moon through her refractor telescope, and a quick shot of the moon through the Celestron refractor using my iPhone.

As folks were arriving and departing the planetarium, I had the waxing gibbous moon in the telescope's eyepiece for all to see. The weather started out unsettled however fortunately cleared out for most of the outdoor part of the event. Nearly all of the attendees that stopped by to look through the telescope had never seen the moon up so close before. The groups of adults and children of all ages were amazed by the detailed view of the craters, mountain ranges, and mare (seas) they could see with such a small backyard telescope. It was most rewarding guiding them where to look through the telescope for Mare Tranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquility), the landing spot of Apollo 11.

Blake Planetarium has many public programs throughout the year. You can see what programs they have to offer by visiting bit.ly/BLAKEPLANET.
Read More

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Mosaic of Reflection Nebula NGC 6914

Recently we wrote a post covering a collaborative on a mosaic of NGC 7023, The Iris Nebula, imaged by accomplished astrophotographers, Paul C. Swift and Carmelo Falco. This is an image that Insight Observatory was fortunate to be able to contribute to by providing luminance data from the 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1). Paul and Carmelo have since produced another astonishing mosaic image, NGC 6914. This deep-sky object is a reflection nebula located at approximately 6,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. The nebula was discovered by Édouard Stephan on August 29, 1881.

This mosaic of the reflection nebula NGC 6914 is made up of data from different focal lengths. 380mm, 1330, 1525mm, and 3400mm. Image processed by Paul C. Swift.
This mosaic of the reflection nebula NGC 6914 is made up of data from different focal lengths. 380mm, 1330, 1525mm, and 3400mm. Image processed by Paul C. Swift.

The final image data was processed by Paul C. Swift with data acquired from his back yard with a VSD Vixen 380mm & AG14 1330mm Newtonian astrograph. The filter wheel an SX-46 with an SX Maxi wheel from Starlight Xpress Ltd. A formatted array of 27 x 21.6 mm and 6uM square pixels. Newtonian telescope at 1330mm and Chroma Filters RGBL mounted on a Paramount MX.

Data for the central area of the nebula was imaged by Camelo Falco using his Ritchey-Chretien C 410mm f7.8 customized at 3400mm and an Apogee Aspin GG16m imaging camera. The mount is a customized RM500 Mount. Carmelo's guiding system is an Orion SteadyStar + Lodestar. Filters used by Carmelo was a Baader LRGB set.

Finally, additional Luminance data for outer areas taken from Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Astrograph reflector 1525mm (ATEO-1).

The Three imaging systems used to collect data of NGC 6914, a reflection nebula in Cygnus. Carmelo Falco's 16" f/7.8 Ritchey-Chretien (left), Paul Swift's VSD Vixen 380mm & AG14 1330mm Newtonian astrograph (above right) and Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector, ATEO-1, (lower right).
The Three imaging systems used to collect data of NGC 6914, a reflection nebula in Cygnus. Carmelo Falco's 16" f/7.8 Ritchey-Chretien (left), Paul Swift's VSD Vixen 380mm & AG14 1330mm Newtonian astrograph (above right) and Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector, ATEO-1, (lower right).

From the image of NGC 6914 processed by Paul, obscuring interstellar dust clouds appear in silhouette while reddish hydrogen emission nebulae, along with the dusty blue reflection nebulae, fill the cosmic canvas. Ultraviolet radiation from the massive, hot, young stars of the extensive Cygnus OB2 association ionizes the region's atomic hydrogen gas, producing the characteristic red glow as protons and electrons recombine. Embedded Cygnus OB2 stars also provide the blue starlight strongly reflected by the dust clouds. The nearly 1-degree wide telescopic field of view spans about 100 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 6914.

Read More

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Perspective of M57 - The Ring Nebula

Recently one of Insight Observatory's generous Patreon supporters, Luis V., requested a dataset of M57, The Ring Nebula, from the 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1). After processing the data myself in CCDStack for him, I realized how good the data of M57 really was. Unfortunately, my processing skills don't come close to what most astrophotographers are capable of doing with good image data. Therefore, I shared out the dataset of M57 with Utkarsh Mishra, one of Insight Observatory's Starbase dataset subscribers who is also an accomplished image processor.

Cropped image of M57 - The Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra. Image data acquired by Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 and the 2 Meter Liverpool Telescope. Image processed by Utkarsh Mishra.
Cropped image of M57 - The Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra. Image data acquired by Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 and the 2 Meter Liverpool Telescope. Image processed by Utkarsh Mishra.

What surprised us both was that with such a small amount of data, Utkarsh was able to pull out so much detail of the planetary nebula as well as the background. Utkarsh processed close to only 4 hrs of data acquired from the 16" f/3.7 reflector remote online telescope. 1 hour of Luminance, 50 minutes of Red, 40 minutes of Green, and 45 minutes of Blue (all binning 1x1). He also added H-Alpha data from the 2 meter Liverpool telescope at 120 seconds with a 35% blend of RGB from the telescope. The H-Alpha data exposed the outer part of the Ring Nebula much more than the LRGB data from ATEO-1 could do alone. The 15th magnitude spiral galaxy IC 1296 is also visible just to the upper right of the nebula in the cropped frame above. The software applications used by Utkarsh for processing were Pixinsight, Photoshop CSS and DeepSkyStacker.

The complete field of view (FOV) image of M57 - The Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra. Image data acquired by Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 and the 2 Meter Liverpool Telescope. Image processed by Utkarsh Mishra.
The complete field of view (FOV) image of M57 - The Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra. Image data acquired by Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 and the 2 Meter Liverpool Telescope. Image processed by Utkarsh Mishra.

Read More

Monday, July 1, 2019

What's In The Sky - July 2019

Get ready for summer stargazing! With the weather warming up, July is a great time of year to enjoy relaxing evenings under starry skies with your telescope or astronomy binoculars. Here are a few of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars top picks for July stargazing:

Saturn at Opposition

Saturn will shine brightly for most of July and reaches opposition on July 9th. Opposition is when the Earth passes directly between Saturn and the Sun. Since Saturn will be directly opposite the Sun in the sky as seen from Earth, the ringed planet will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, providing an excellent opportunity for great views in a telescope.

Saturn imaged at MasCot Observatory in 2003 with an 11" f/10 Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (C11) and a NexImage Solar System Imager. - Image by Michael Petrasko and Harry Hammond.
Saturn imaged at MasCot Observatory in 2003 with an 11" f/10 Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (C11) and a NexImage Solar System Imager. - Image by Michael Petrasko and Harry Hammond.

Saturn also makes a close approach to the Moon on July 16th and should be close enough to fit both bodies in the field of view of most telescopes.

During opposition, Saturn’s rings will be inclined at 24 degrees to us, close to their maximum angle of 27 degrees. Combined with the planet's close approach to Earth, this makes July an excellent time to observe Saturn and its rings!

New Moon

July 2nd is the darkest night of the month and therefore the best time to observe the more faint objects like galaxies and star clusters. Grab your observing gear and enjoy!

Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius

M13 - The Great Hercules Globular Star Cluster - Imaged on ATEO-1 by Insight Observatory.
M13 - The Great Hercules Globular Star Cluster - Imaged on ATEO-1 by Insight Observatory.

With constellation Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius to the south, there's plenty to see in July skies as summer continues. Check out globular star clusters M13 and M92 in Hercules, and explore Scorpius to find numerous deep-sky objects including open clusters M6 and M7, and globular clusters M4 and M80.

Late July Meteors

July winds down with the Delta Aquarids meteor shower. For the best chance to see meteors, look towards Aquarius after midnight on July 29th into the early morning hours of July 29th. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. A 27-day old moon should present minimal light interference to enjoying the meteors!

The Summer Milky Way

From a dark sky location in mid-July, the glorious Summer Milky Way shines as a band of light that stretches from the southern horizon to nearly overhead. As the night progresses, the Milky Way will arch across the entire sky. From a dark observing site, scan the Milky Way with 50mm or larger binoculars or a wide-angle telescope to explore some of the hundreds of open star clusters, emission nebulae and planetary nebulae that lurk among the star clouds.

July Challenge Object — Hercules Galaxy Cluster

About half a billion light years from Earth in the constellation Hercules, not far from the star Beta Hercules in the southwest corner of the "keystone" asterism, lies the "Hercules Galaxy Cluster." This association is a group of 200-300 distant galaxies, the brightest of which is NGC 6050 at about 10th magnitude and can be seen with an 8" reflector like the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian under very dark skies with good seeing conditions. A larger aperture, 14"-16" telescope like the Orion SkyQuest XX14g GoTo Truss Dobsonian will begin to show about a half-dozen or more galaxies in one field-of-view. How many can you see in your telescope?

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.
Read More