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Bringing the Universe to Classrooms
and Homes around the World!

Friday, January 15, 2021

New ATEO Portal - Less is More!

Insight Observatory is very excited to announce its release of its new ATEO Portal!

As we gathered valuable feedback from many of our Insight Observatory ATEO Portal subscribers over the past few years, we wanted to assure accessing the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) for educational and standard use was an easy and pleasurable experience.

When we launched the first version of the ATEO Portal in the fall of 2017, we only had one remote telescope available to access, the 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1). At the time we didn't foresee the remote telescope network expanding with affiliate imaging systems located around the world.

M42 - The Orion Nebula imaged on ATEO-1 and processed by Utkarsh Mishra using Insight Observatory's new Advanced Image Request application now available on the new ATEO Portal dashboard.
M42 - The Orion Nebula imaged on ATEO-1 and processed by Utkarsh Mishra using Insight Observatory's new Advanced Image Request application now available on the new ATEO Portal dashboard.

The first version of the ATEO Portal was designed and developed having the advanced astrophotographer in mind, fully automating the imaging process. Well... After listening to and taking suggestions from our portal users, we decided to "tone it down" a bit and get back to basics. The new version of the ATEO Portal is 100% intuitive and user friendly, to a point where the user instructions fit on one section of the portal's dashboard.

Screen capture of Insight Observatory's new ATEO Portal dashboard displaying its new "Basic Image Request" application.
Screen capture of Insight Observatory's new ATEO Portal dashboard displaying its new "Basic Image Request" application.

There are now two options for accessing of Insight Observatory's remote telescope network for requesting image data. One option is "Basic Image Request". This option is similar to the Insight Observatory's Personal Image Request (PIR) application. The difference is that there are more imaging parameter options to select.

Screen capture of Insight Observatory's new ATEO Portal dashboard displaying its new "Advanced Image Request" application.
Screen capture of Insight Observatory's new ATEO Portal dashboard displaying its new "Advanced Image Request" application.

Another option is the "Advanced Image Request". This option will allow users to request specific custom image data from Insight's remote telescopes including start date, which telescopes to image on, the number of images, filters to use, exposure lengths, and right ascension and declination coordinate input if needed.

Here are just a few more changes to the image request process using the new ATEO Portal dashboard:
  • Image Credit System Removed - ATEO Portal users will no longer be required to purchase imaging credits in advance. The new portal dashboard works on a "pay as you go" model. All credits that have been purchased and not used in the previous ATEO Portal for use of ATEO-1 WILL be honored for ATEO-1 only.

  • Scheduler Removed - The "Advanced Image Request" application will allow users to request an optional start date for acquiring their image data. This allows us to image your object at its best position in the sky and avoid bad weather cancellations.

  • Telescope Console Replaced - The "Advanced Image Request" application has replaced the Telescope Console making requesting image data from all of our remote telescopes very quick and easy.

  • Automatic Image Data Upload Removed - Image data requests will be reviewed by Insight Observatory staff to confirm the quality of data is 100% satisfactory before uploading to the ATEO Portal user's home folder.

  • Image Queue Added - There now is an image queue in the new ATEO Portal dashboard allowing users to monitor the current status of their image request(s).

You may access the new ATEO Portal dashboard using your previous login credentials and you still will have access to your user profile and Starbase image set repository from the new ATEO Portal.


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Friday, January 1, 2021

What's In The Sky - January 2021

January kicks off the New Year with wonderful sights for backyard astronomers to enjoy. Don't forget to bundle up on clear, cold evenings as you explore the sparkling night sky. Here are a few top picks for January stargazers from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars...

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Bundle up and get outside on the night of January 2nd into the early morning hours of the 3rd to see the Quadrantids meteor shower peak. Some meteors associated with the Quadrantids are expected to be visible until January 12th, but the shower peaks after midnight on the night of January 2nd-3rd, with up to 120 meteors expected per hour. This year, the waning gibbous Moon will outshine fainter meteors, but you can still enjoy the brightest "shooting stars" as they appear to radiate from the constellation Boötes. You don't need a telescope to enjoy the show, just a clear, dark sky and a comfy chair or blanket.

Stargazers pointing out the constellation Orion. Original image by Night Skygaze.
Stargazers pointing out the constellation Orion. Original image by Night Skygaze.

Hunting the Hunter

Our favorite constellation Orion continues to be high in the night sky in January, providing backyard astronomers spectacular sights throughout the month. Take a closer look at the middle star of Orion's sword with binoculars to reveal amazing views of the bright emission nebula M42. Use a telescope to resolve the system of four "newborn" stars that form a trapezoid at the center of M42, known as the Trapezium. If you'll be viewing in a light-polluted area, use an Orion UltraBlock filter to boost contrast for better views.

NGC 2024 -The Flame Nebula imaged by students from Barnstable High School, MA using remote telescope, ATEO-3 located in Chile (left) and Barnard 33 - The Horsehead Nebula processed by Insight Observatory Starbase subscriber, Daniel Nobre.
NGC 2024 -The Flame Nebula imaged by students from Barnstable High School, MA using remote telescope, ATEO-3 located in Chile (left) and Barnard 33 - The Horsehead Nebula processed by Insight Observatory Starbase subscriber, Daniel Nobre.

Just above Alnitak, the easternmost star of Orion's belt, the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) can be found in larger telescopes. Dark lanes of dust give this emission nebula its fiery appearance. The picturesque absorption nebula Barnard 33, also called the Horsehead Nebula, can be found in large telescopes just south of Alnitak. Use a Hydrogen-Beta filter to improve your chances of spotting the elusive Horsehead.

Reflection nebula, M78 in the constellation Orion imaged on ATEO-1 by Vincent M. using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application (left) and M42 - The Orion Nebula imaged on ATEO-3 by 5th-grade students from Plymouth South Elementary School, MA (right).
Reflection nebula, M78 in the constellation Orion imaged on ATEO-1 by Vincent M. using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application (left) and M42 - The Orion Nebula imaged on ATEO-3 by 5th-grade students from Plymouth South Elementary School, MA (right).

Scan the skies above and to the east of belt star Alnitak to find reflection nebula M78. Since M78 is much fainter than M42, a 4.5" or larger telescope is recommended for the best views.

Hind's Crimson Star

Just South of Orion is the constellation Lepus, the Hare. In the constellation Lepus, you can catch a glimpse of the rare winter globular cluster M79, as well as R Lepori, a well-known variable star that varies between magnitudes +5.5 (just visible to the naked eye) to +11.7 with a period of about 427 days. What's interesting about this star is that because it is a "carbon star" it is very red; when at its brightest, the red color is unmistakable.

January Challenge Object

Just west of Rigel, the bright blue/white star that marks the western "knee" of Orion, lies the Witch Head Nebula (IC 2118), in the neighboring constellation Eridanus. The Witch-Head is a reflection nebula that shines from reflected light off of Rigel, like the reflection nebula in the Pleiades, M45. You don't need a big telescope; a wide field of view, low power and a dark sky are needed to see this challenging nebula. (Hint: Don't use filters).

IC 2118 - The Witch Head Nebula imaged on ATEO-1
by Tom L. using Insight Observatory's online
Personal Image Request (PIR) application.

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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Monday, December 28, 2020

Searching for Extragalactic Supernovae

I'll soon be doing an extragalactic supernova search, monitoring a small group of 5 or 6 spiral galaxies, similar in structure, to our Milky Way, barred-spiral galaxy - in the Virgo galaxy cluster.

The Virgo Cluster of galaxies is (around) 30-50 million light-years from the "Local Group" - the Milky Way's home, galactic cluster. The Virgo galactic cluster contains a spiral galaxy, M66, in the constellation Leo. It is some 35+ million light-years distant.

Back on 11 February 1989, at around 02:15am EST, Insight Observatory Managing Member and Project Developer, Michael Petrasko, and I, independently co-discovered a supernova (SN1989b), within one of the outer spiral arms of M66 (Michael, was the actual discoverer; I just "looked"!).

The Local Group and other galaxy cluster groups. Graphic by Dale Alan Bryant.
The Local Group and other galaxy cluster groups. Graphic by Dale Alan Bryant.

Supernova events within any given galaxy are estimated to occur only two or three times in a century. I'll see if I can refine that estimate, somewhat, over the course of a few months of nightly or bi-nightly photographic time-exposures of the group, using one of Insight Observatory's remote astrographs (photographic telescope) - ATEO-1, or ATEO-2A. The instruments are situated in the western New Mexico region, respectively - some of the clearest and darkest skies in the world.


Supernova 1989B in M66 by J. Salmi of Finland
Image of Supernova 1989B in M66 by J. Salmi of Finland

Typically, an SN burst is so energetic that its brilliance, temporarily, outshines the combined light of all of the billions of stars within a given galaxy. Any SN event will stand out as a tiny, bright, dot, superimposed against the overall, dim, oval blur of light of the main body of the galaxy. It is during a supernova burst that the heavy elements of our universe are forged (iron, nickel, and other heavy metals). From there, the energy of the blast disperses the elemental metals into the surrounding space including any nearby molecular clouds which ultimately condenses and become planetary systems (such was the case in our "Solar" system).

This is the history of the metallic content of Earth's mantle and crust, and, its solid iron core.

Dale Alan Bryant
Senior Contributing Science Writer
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