-->

Bringing the Universe to Classrooms
and Homes Around the World!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Monsoon Madness!

Get 20% OFF Imaging Credits and Starbase Image Set Subscriptions on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1)!

Offer valid from June 1, 2020, Thru August 31, 2020.

Now that the summer months are arriving in the southwest, US, they may bring us fewer clear nights. However, when the nights are clear, the deep-sky gems in the summer Milky Way are there for the taking.

Insight Observatory has decided to celebrate the "rainy season" with a summer discount of 20% OFF imaging credits and Starbase image set subscriptions on our fast and wide field of view 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector remote telescope located at nearly 7,800' in the dark skies of New Mexico.

Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope housed in Gamma Observatory at SkyPi Remote Observatory located at nearly 7,800' in Bortle 1 dark skies of New Mexico.
Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope housed in Gamma Observatory at SkyPi Remote Observatory located at nearly 7,800' in Bortle 1 dark skies of New Mexico.

ATEO-1 Discounted Imaging Rates:
  • Standard: $48.00 USD per imaging hour - Savings of $12.00 per imaging hour
  • Education: $39.00 USD per imaging hour - Savings of $10.80 per imaging hour

ATEO-1 Starbase Image Set Subscriptions:
  • Standard: $0.08 cents per minute of image set exposure time
  • Education: $0.06 cents per minute of image set exposure time

Get quality image data acquired from ATEO-1 to process images like these...

M13 - The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, M16 - The Eagle Nebula, and M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy all imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope. M13 and M63 images processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M16 image processed by Bubba Daniels.
M13 - The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, M16 - The Eagle Nebula, and M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy all imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope. M13 and M63 images processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M16 image processed by Bubba Daniels.

If you have any questions regarding our "Monsoon Madness" summer discount, please Contact Us.

Sign-up or log in to access your ATEO Portal account to take advantage of this special offer.

Enjoy and Clear Skies!
The Insight Observatory Team
Read More

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

New Image Sets Available In Starbase!

New image sets are available for downloading from Insight Observatory's Starbase Image Set Repository! Over the course of the past six months, all three remote Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) have been busy gathering image data for Starbase as well as various educational projects.

Listed below are just a few image sets that are now available acquired on Insight Observatory's ATEO remote telescopes...

NGC 1365 - The "Great Barred Spiral Galaxy" in the constellation Fornax. Imaged data acquired on ATEO-3 by Franck Jobard and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.
NGC 1365 - The "Great Barred Spiral Galaxy" in the constellation Fornax. Imaged data acquired on ATEO-3 by Franck Jobard and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.

ATEO-1 - 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector:

NGC 5907 - The Knife Edge or Splinter Galaxy (left) imaged on ATEO-1, M81 and M82 - Bode's and Cigar Galaxies (upper right) imaged on ATEO-1, and IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula (lower right) imaged on ATEO-2A.
NGC 5907 - The Knife Edge or Splinter Galaxy (left) imaged on ATEO-1, M81 and M82 - Bode's and Cigar Galaxies (upper right) imaged on ATEO-1, and IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula (lower right) imaged on ATEO-2A.

ATEO-2A - 5" f/5.8 Wiliams Optics APO refractor:

ATEO-3 - 12.5" f/9 Quasar Ritchey-Chretien:

Learn more about Insight Observatory's Starbase or download these and more image sets by logging in or signing up to Starbase HERE.

For any questions regarding Starbase, please Contact Us.
Read More

Monday, May 11, 2020

The O-TEAM: A Thousand and One Nights - Part 2

Once upon a time, at a tiny cul-de-sac, in the village of North Falmouth, Cape Cod, Mass -

"This morning - was something to remember"...

So the note goes, written in pencil, on an official Edmund Scientific observing notes template, on the warm, sunny morning of 8 May 1983, by one, Mike Petrasko - one-third, of that notorious 3-member "gang" of optical aficionados, the "O-Team".

But, I think the tone of the note, was an understatement;

as observing sessions go, this one was outstanding, on several accounts! We had a guest for this session, a friend of Mike's, Shawn, who had never really had an opportunity, before this, to observe the sky with a telescope (and - he may not have, since!)

Graphic of O-Team members telescopes at Camelot Court


I had arrived, on location, at around 2:00am. The others - Mike, Muir, and Shawn, were just waking from a short night's sleep, camped out at the center of an unused, undeveloped, someday-to-be, cul-de-sac neighborhood called, "Camelot Court", in North Falmouth, Mass. We had chosen this location for its proximity, open view of the sky, and, for its relative isolation from outdoor lighting - and other, un-welcomed intrusions.

In the span of 3 hours of telescope time, we had assessed, 5 Messier objects, an unknown open cluster, an unknown globular cluster (to us, at the time), and 8 sporadic meteors.

The wee hours of the night present some of the best opportunities for the amateur observational astronomer: fewer episodes of sporadic lighting, fewer people, less traffic, increased meteor activity, and, most of all, quiet.

M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M27, The Dumbell Nebula in Vulpecula imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko.
M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M27, The Dumbell Nebula in Vulpecula imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko (right).

Our, "optical ambush", begins with M57 - the "Ring" nebula, in Lyra. Though this emission nebulosity does, indeed, appear ring-like through the eyepiece, that is an illusion of perspective. This structure is, in reality, a spherical shell of excited gas molecules, outlining the shock bow from a centralized supernova event. M56, to me, has always appeared to be, a lone "Cheerio", floating in the darkness! It sits, almost squarely, between the two, lower corner stars of the "lyre" shape, Gamma and Beta Lyrae. It can be observed well with a 4" telescope.

The next object was M27, in Vulpecula - the "Dumbbell" nebula.

This, also, can be seen easily in a 4" inch scope. I know this, because Mike had a 4" Edmund Scientific Astroscan, at the time, and usually found these objects before I did. It is a twin-lobed remnant, also of a supernova. Burnham's Celestial Handbook describes it as, "large and shining", at several times the size of M57. About then, we broke out some nutrition to keep up our ambitions: "Nutty Bars", "M&M's" (plain), and a bag of "Doritos". Now, there's some "energy food"!

Edmund Scientific's Astroscan 4" f/4.2 reflector telescope (left) with the original observing log entry this post was adapted from back on May 8th, 1983 written by Insight Observatory Co-Founder Michael Petrasko when he was 17 years old. Image credits: Astroscan - Glenn Votava, Observers Log - Dale Alan Bryant.
Edmund Scientific's Astroscan 4" f/4.2 reflector telescope (left) with the original observing log entry this post was adapted from back on May 8th, 1983 written by Insight Observatory Co-Founder Michael Petrasko when he was 17 years old. Image credits: Astroscan - Glenn Votava, Observers Log - Dale Alan Bryant.

Next on our list was M13 - the Hercules cluster (globular cluster, not referring to the cluster of galaxies within that constellation). Easily seen in good binoculars, this is one of my favorite collections. Of stars, that is. A nearly, perfectly symmetrical, uniformly dense, globe-shaped cluster of stars within the halo of globular clusters that orbits the Milky Way galaxy. Well, that's a technical description – but, see it for yourself, and you'll likely choose other, more prosaic wording, I'm sure of it.

M11 - is an open star cluster in the constellations Scutum. Open star clusters are loose congregations of stars, bound together, gravitationally, as are globular clusters, only, not as tightly. It's commonly called, the "Wild Duck" cluster (for reasons I never quite grasped). I have a favorite open cluster, not in this list: the double cluster, NGC'S 864 and 889, in Perseus. At over 7,000 light-years, the stars in the cluster appear as tiny, brilliant and colorful jewels.

M13, The Great Hercules Globular Cluster imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko (right).
M13, The Great Hercules Globular Cluster imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko (right).

Next up, M51 - the "Whirlpool" galaxy. M51 is another "Grand Design" spiral galaxy, in reference to its near-perfection. Actually, it's an interactive pair of galaxies - the larger one, slowly consuming the smaller of the two. Located in Canes Venatici, its brightness and relative isolation in the darkness make it an easy target for small scopes.

As for the unknown open and globular clusters, I could only guess at what they would have been; likely, something in Ophiuchus - an area, rich, in such wonders.

And that leaves eight meteors; possibly, or not, connected to the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Meteors are a fascinating subject, all on their own. The months of April and May have, historically, produced some very large fireballs and bolides, in historic times. Ask Mike or me, about that, sometime!

Dale Alan Bryant
Senior Contributing Science Writer
Read More

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

NGC 5907 - Galaxy with a Tail

NGC 5907, also known as Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy, is a warped spiral galaxy about 150,000 light-years across and is located in the constellation Draco around 50 million light-years away from earth.

Back in 2019 after completing my project on M63 Sunflower galaxy, I decided to search for new objects to image using Insight Observatory's 16" f3.7 Dream astrograph reflector, ATEO-1, remote telescope. While I was surfing the internet, I came across an interesting galaxy. I made sure that it is visible in the northern hemisphere as ATEO-1 is located in the dark skies of New Mexico. I researched a bit more about this edge-on galaxy and found that tidal streams create a loop around this galaxy. I found a couple more images where there were two loops wrapped around the galaxy. I was really excited to capture this galaxy remotely as it was one of a kind and I could not find a similar galaxy that had two loops. I made a decision to capture this galaxy and I decided to email Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden, Co-founders of Insight Observatory. As the tidal streams were very faint, it would mean investing a lot of imaging time. We started out and collected 5 hours worth of luminance data with ATEO-1.

NGC 5907, also known as the Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy in the constellation Draco displaying its tidal loop and stream. Imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data combined with color image data from the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.
NGC 5907, also known as the Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy in the constellation Draco displaying its tidal loop and stream. Imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data combined with color image data from the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.

After capturing 5 hours worth of image data from ATEO-1, I thought we could get some hint of the double loop but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, although a wisp of the upper tidal stream was visible. I decided to research this a bit more and I found out that this stuff is very faint and probably needs 20-30 hours of exposure to reveal the kind of details I was looking for. Unfortunately, ATEO-1 was shut down for many months due to maintenance so I had to continue this project when it was back online. Michael reminded me about this project that was lagging behind so I decided to get back to work on it.

NGC 5907 imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data.  Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.
NGC 5907 imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data.  Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.

After a couple of days, I read an article from Sky and Telescope magazine that astronomers found that those double loops actually do not exist. My mind was completely blown and I shared this with Michael. This subject was getting more interesting day by day. I also came across a couple of images that showed that the loops do exist. I was really looking forward to working on this data and thanks to Michael and Muir, they managed to grab another 10 hours worth of data for me. I jumped on my computer to process it and I was expecting the double loop to pop up now but there was still no sign of it. I was unable to believe that even after 15 hours of exposure time with this really fast equipment under some of the darkest skies of the US, the double loop did not show up. I asked Michael to change the binning to 2x2, doubling the CCD camera's sensitivity. The data comprised of around 10 hours of bin 2x2 and 5 hours of bin 1x1. I then asked Michael if he could try imaging more data. The weather cooperated and we were able to gather 5 more hours of data. Once again, I looked on my screen with the expectation to see the double loop in my data, however, it looked like the image data was showing me something else. I processed the data and inverted it and found that the tidal streams were going downward and forming a structure similar to a tail.

I had many doubts regarding all the stuff that we captured so I quickly approached my friend Xavier Strottner. He has discovered many objects in space so I thought that he would have better knowledge and understanding of this. I had a great conversation with Xavier and he clarified all my doubts. He shared a few research papers with me so that I can read and understand more about this galaxy.

Inverted images of NGC 5907 imaged by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array (top) and ATEO-1 (bottom).
Inverted images of NGC 5907 imaged by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array (top) and ATEO-1 (bottom).

After working on 20 hours of luminance data, I started questioning whether the loops existed as they should have shown up.  I just had one more doubt that maybe we are not going for enough exposure length so I requested that Michael and Muir image 1200 sec sub exposers with binning 2x2 and erase all of my doubts regarding this double loop. Soon we were able to capture 4 hours worth of 1200 second image data and combine it with the rest of the data taken over the last year. I compared the 4 hours with the 5 hours we captured earlier in 2019. I could not find much of a difference in both. I requested Michael combine all data and make a master stack of it. After 24.5 hours of imaging time, there was still no sign of those double loops. However, I was very happy that we, amateurs, could capture the extremely faint tail that probably no one could do except the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. The Dragonfly telescope is an array of 48 lenses in two clusters of 24 and is equivalent of a 1.0 m diameter f/0.4 refractor. I also contacted a few astronomers working on these tidal streams to see if maybe they would publish a scientific paper on this in the future about our latest imaging on this data.

I would like to thank Michael, Muir and Xavier for providing excellent support throughout this project. I really enjoyed working together as a team. This project has really inspired me to image the entire tidal stream survey and I am looking forward to doing more such projects Insight Observatory using ATEO-1.

Personally, I also assume that "Team Insight" has only managed to capture the faint stellar tail in the amateur astrophotography world. 

Utkarsh Mishra
Lucknow, India

**All 29 hours of image data for NGC 5907 is available for download from Insight Observatory's image set repository "Starbase".
Read More

Friday, May 1, 2020

What's In The Sky - May 2020

Get outside with your telescope on clear May evenings to see celestial treats! With the weather warming up and skies clearing up, there's no shortage of celestial delicacies to view with telescopes and binoculars. Here are a few of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars top suggestions for May observing:

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

Grab a blanket or a comfy lounge chair to sit back, relax and watch the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, one of two annual showers caused by dust particles from Halley's Comet. Catch the peak of the dazzling show before dawn on May 5th. The approximate peak rate is 10-30 per hour, but meteors should be visible from April 19th through May 28th. Look for meteors appearing to radiate from the constellation Aquarius. We've selected some useful equipment for viewing meteor showers, including ultra-wide-angle binoculars, and star charts.

M97, The Owl Nebula in Ursa Major imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).
M97, The Owl Nebula in Ursa Major imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).

Four Big Planetary Nebulae

Use a 6" or larger telescope and an Oxygen-III filter to catch nice views of four relatively large planetary nebulae in May skies. See the "Ghost of Jupiter," NGC 3242 in Hydra; M97, "the Owl Nebula" in the Big Dipper; NGC 4361 in Corvus, and the famous "Ring Nebula", M57 in Lyra just a few degrees from the bright star Vega. To help you locate these objects, use the Orion DeepMap 600.

New Moon, Dark Skies

Take advantage of the dark skies provided by the New Moon on May 22nd to scope out the many star clusters, galaxies and other deep-sky gems on display. Pack up your astronomy gear using our full line of telescope and accessory cases and head to a dark sky site for the best viewing conditions.

M13, The Great Cluster in Hercules (left) processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M3, a globular cluster in the northern constellation Canes Venatici by Michael Petrasko. Both clusters imaged on ATEO-1.
M13, The Great Cluster in Hercules (left) processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M3, a globular cluster in the northern constellation Canes Venatici by Michael Petrasko. Both clusters imaged on ATEO-1.

Five Glittering Globulars

Five picture-perfect examples of globular star clusters will be visible in May skies. Check out M3 in the constellation Bootes. M13, the "Great Cluster in Hercules" will be visible near the zenith. M5 can be found in Serpens and M92 in the northern section of Hercules. Be sure to track down M4 (NGC 6121) in Scorpius on May 27th, as it will be in a great position for telescopic study throughout the night, reaching zenith around midnight. Big telescopes will provide the best views, but even a pair of humble 50mm or larger binoculars will show you these dense balls of stars from a dark sky site.

M101, The Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko (left) and M51, The Whirpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right) imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko.
M101, The Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko (left) and M51, The Whirpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right) imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko.

Four Face-On Spirals

Use a large telescope to see the classic pinwheel shapes of galaxies M101 and M51 in the Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major, and M99 and M100 in the Virgo galaxy cluster. There are also dozens of additional galaxies to explore in the Virgo cluster with a large aperture telescope.

May's Challenge Object

May skies present some of the best opportunities to grab a view of Omega Centauri - the brightest globular star cluster in the sky! While it's big and bright, even visible as a "fuzzy" star in binoculars, the challenge Omega Centauri presents is its low position in southern skies, which can make it unobservable from higher northern latitudes. If you're having trouble locating the famous globular cluster, Bruce McClure from EarthSky.org suggests letting the sparkling blue-white star Spica help you. He explains that when Spica climbs highest up for the night, so does Omega Centauri - look for it 35 degrees directly below Spica.

Classic Dobsonians from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.
Classic Dobsonian Telescopes from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.

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