A beginner’s guide to using the iTelescope robotic telescope network

 

Originated 2017 January 14

 

Contents

 

Introduction

 

This tutorial is an introduction to the basic functions of the iTelescope robotic telescope network. It covers;

- registration, free trial and purchasing addition points or plans

- Launchpad

- taking an image

- retrieving an image

 

My thanks to Steve Broadbent of the Hampshire Astronomical Group who ran a workshop for members of the HAG Comet section in July 2014.

 

Registration for free trial

 

From the homepage click on ‘Try it for Free’ and fill in the form – Figure 1 below.

 

Figure 1. Registration form

 

Once you have registered you will receive an email asking you to verify your account and, having done that, a further email confirming your registration details.

 

To purchase additional points go to Select Action/Purchase Point from the Launchpad. This gives you the option of purchasing additional points or a specific plan. The demo upgrade is worth purchasing as it give you access to four additional telescopes compared with the demo package – numbers 5, 9, 18 and 20 in addition to 48 and 73 as shown in Figure 2 below. It also gives you access to more telescopes and imaging facilities - Table 1.

 

Telescope

 

 

 

Points per (Note 1)

Location, MPC code (Note 2) and number

Optics

CCD

Position angle/FOV (arc mins)

Filters

Imaging hour

(Cost A$/£)

Imaging minute

(Cost A$/£)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USA (H06)

 

 

 

 

 

 

T3

150mm Takahashi TOA-150 refractor

SBIG ST-8300C one shot colour camera

0º/42.4x56.3

 -

24 (A$24/£13.20)

0.4 (A$0.40/£0.22)

T5

250mm Takahashi Newtonian reflector

SBIG ST-10XME

11º/40.4x60

R, G, B, Ha, SII, OIII, Clear, Photometric; B, V, I

26 (A$26/£14.30)

0.43 (A$0.43/£0.24)

T20

106mm Takahashi FEQ-ED refractor

SBIG STL-11000M

90º/155.8x233.7

L, R, G, B, Ha, SII, OIII, Photometric; V

28 (A$28/£15.40)

0.47 (A$0.47/£0.26)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia (Q62)

 

 

 

 

 

 

T9

317mm RCOS 12.5” Ritchey-Chrétien Cassegrain

SBIG ST8 XME

357º/13.6x20.4

Luminance, R, G, B, Ha, OIII, SII, Photometric; V, R, B

45 (A$45/£24.75)

0.75 (A$0.75/£0.41)

T13

90mm Takahashi SKY90 refractor

SBIG ST2000XMV one shot colour camera

181º/75.3x100.4

-

36 (A$36/£19.80)

0.6 (A$0.60/£0.33)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain (I89)

 

 

 

 

 

 

T18

318mm Planewave Corrected Dall-Kirkham

KAF-6303E

220º/75.4x113.1

L, R, G, B, 10nm Ha, SII, OIII, Photometric; V

36 (A$36/£19.80)

0.6 (A$0.60/£0.33)

Table 1. Telescope specifications available with Demo Upgrade package.

 

Note 1. Each point costs A$1. On 2014 August 8 A$1 was worth £0.55.

Note 2; MPC codes are at http://www.itelescope.net/telescope-information

 

Figure 2. Additional telescope available with the demo upgrade

 

Launchpad overview

 

For a detailed description please review the Launchpad Tutorial Part 1: Launchpad overview at http://www.itelescope.net/launchpad-series/  All tutorials can be linked to from the Launchpad – click on ‘Video tutorials’ under the map

 

After login from home page, http://www.itelescope.net , the Launchpad will be displayed – Figure 3.

 

Figure 3. Launchpad.

 

Check Network messages which are shown at top of screen.

 

The Select Action tab allows access to e.g. your account, support, web based ftp for retrieving images, and points purchase.

 

The map shows day and night zones, Sun and Moon.

 

Weather info for telescope locations can be accessed form the links below, left of the map.

 

Under ‘Other Links’ the ‘iTelescope.net website’ includes image galleries (link is below ‘Organisation’ at bottom of page).

 

Support functions are located to the bottom right of the map. If you experience a telescope malfunction which requires immediate action this can be reported via ‘Page on Duty engineer’. Less serious problems can be reported by email or by accessing the support web pages.

 

Your membership plan (including plan options) and a facility to purchase extra points and plans are available under ‘Plans and Services’ below the map (0ne Australian dollar purchases one point).

 

All-sky cameras for the various sites are shown towards the bottom of the page. Clicking on the location name e.g. Siding Spring brings up a full screen version – Figure 4.

 

Figure 4. Siding Spring all-sky camera

 

Site information and telescope rates are shown below the all-sky images.

 

Telescope status and availability is shown in the telescope section to the right of the map. Green indicates telescopes which can be accessed (according to your plan). Telescopes in red are unavailable to you (not in your plan or for reason shown).

 

Clicking on the telescope number e.g. T9, takes you to the telescope info page.

 

Figure 5. Telescope info page

 

Clicking on the telescope status (to right of telescope number) takes you to the imaging page, Figure 6, where you can set up your imaging runs, check and make reservations, access your files, etc.

 

 

Figure 6. Telescope 9 imaging page

 

Taking an image

 

For a detailed description please review the Launchpad Tutorial Part 2: Taking an Image at http://www.itelescope.net/launchpad-series/

 

Before taking an image check the reservation calendar for the telescope you plan to use  – Figure 7. Do not start your imaging run if it cannot be completed before the beginning of a reserved time slot as you will be charged for the time but will not obtain any images. A reservation page for each telescope is accessible from the Launchpad by selecting ‘Reservations’ above the map and then the telescope of interest.

 

Figure 7. Reservation calendar (part)

 

This section describes how to take a image using the One Click Image or One Click Comet facility.

 

From the Lauchpad, Figure 8, select an available telescope, T9 in this example which opens the telescope window, Figure 9. You will be asked to log in again.

 

Figure 8. Launchpad showing available telescopes at top right

 

Figure 9. Telescope welcome window

 

On the top left of the screen select One Click image and available deep sky objects are listed below the all-sky camera image – Figure 10.

 

Figure 10. Available deep sky objects  

 

Scroll down the page and select an object – M73 in this example. Click ‘Submit’ to begin the imaging run. Progress can be monitored by selecting ‘System Status’ under ‘Toolbox’ from the list on the left of the page.

 

To image a comet select One Click Comet (you will need to purchase the demo upgrade, additional points or a plan as this feature is not available with the demo package). Available comets will be listed below the all-sky camera image, Figure 11. While compiling this tutorial only one was listed and ‘Not Visible’.

 

 

Figure 11. Available comets (or not in this case).

 

Progress can be monitored by selecting Toolbox/System Status. Before the actual image is obtained this window will show the telescope slewing to the object and focusing.

 

Retrieving images

 

For a detailed description please review Launchpad Tutorial Part 8: Web Based FTP Data Delivery at http://www.itelescope.net/launchpad-series/

 

When your images (held for ninety days) are available you will receive an email containing transaction details and with the following attachments;

- all-sky camera jpg

- weather station jpg

- cloud graph jpg

- low resolution image jpg

- telescope status for imaging run

 

From the Lauchpad click on ‘Get My Images (via Web) under the ‘Select Action’ tab above the map. After logging in you will be presented with a list of your files. Double clicking on a telescope file (e.g. t13) will list dates and double clicking on a date will list the images obtained on that date. Figure 12 lists the files for an image of comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) obtained using telescope T13 on 2014 July 29 including (as zip files);

- a calibrated color fits image

- an uncelebrated fits image

- a black and white fits image

- an uncelebrated jpg image

 

 

Figure 12. Imaging files

 

To download a single image

- select image by clicking on it

- click on Download button (underlined arrow at top left)

- select folder on your PC and then Save

 

To download multiple images;

- select More actions/Batch download (Figure 13)

- Add required files from Current Directory Files to Download Queue Files

- click on Choose Directory and select directory on your PC.

- click on Start

- after all files have been downloaded close window

 

Figure 13. Batch download

 

To zip and download zipped files;

- check files you wish to zip

- click on Zip Files at top left of screen

- enter a name for the zip files and then click on OK (Figure 14)

- completion (successful or otherwise) will then be indicated and your new zip file listed

- download zip file as in ‘Download a single image’ above

 

Figure 14. Zipping files for download

 

Images obtained using the One click image, Figure 15 – M7 (Figure 16 - Megastar chart) -   and One click comet, Figure 17 - C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) (Figure 18 – Megastar chart) facilities on telescope T13.

 

jpeg-t13-rogerdymock-m7-20140728-000148-color-bin1-w-600-001

Figure 15. Messier 7, 2014 July 28

 

Figure 16. Megastar chart relating to Figure 15

 

jpeg-t13-rogerdymock-ck13a010-20140729-045659-color-bin1-e-600-001

Figure 17. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), 2014 July 29

 

Figure 18. Megastar chart relating to Figure 17

 

Imaging comets and asteroids

 

Before taking an image check the reservation calendar for the telescope you plan to use – Figure 7. Do not start your imaging run if it cannot be completed before the beginning of a reserved time slot as you will be charged for the time but will not obtain any images. A reservation page for each telescope is accessible from the Launchpad by selecting ‘Reservations’ above the map and then the telescope of interest.

 

One Click Comet imaging is covered above. Here we look at imaging a comet (or asteroid) using MPC data.

 

To access a tutorial on the iTelescope website;

- from the Launchpad select support under the Select Action tab

- under Knowledge base/Getting Started select ‘How can I image Comets or Asteroids?’

 

Which comets are observable ?

 

Here is an example of the method I used to image a comet using T9 located in Australia;

- set a southern hemisphere planisphere to the current date and time or use the all-sky camera, Figure 20, which can be accessed from the Launchpad

- plot comets using Megastar and choose one of the brightest – in this case C/2010 S1 (LINEAR) - Figure 19.

- check Moon is not interfering with target

 

Figure 19. Megastar plot of the brighter southern hemisphere comets

 

https://go.itelescope.net/Images/AllSky-SSO-temp.jpg

Figure 20. Siding Spring all-sky camera at 11:37 pm local time, 13:38 UT, 14:38 BST

 

Obtaining comet ephemeris

- go to the MPC Minor Planet and Comet Ephemeris Service at http://minorplanetcenter.net/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html

- enter;

          - comet designation                                                C/2010 S1

          - ephemeris start date                                                      2014 08 20

          - number of dates output                                        1

          - ephemeris interval and units                                           1 and days

          - observatory code                                                 Q62

- under ‘Format for elements output’ select ‘MPC 1-line’

- save the file which is shown below

 

    CK10S010  2013 05 20.1945  5.899172  1.002994  118.5982   93.4341  125.3294  20141209   3.5  4.0      C/2010 S1 (LINEAR)

 

Imaging

- on the Launchpad select a telescope – T9 in this case.

- under Imaging select ‘Acquire Comet/NEO’

- open the above file (in WordPad for example) and paste it into the box ‘Comet/NEO Ephemeris (in MPC 1-line format)

- in the boxes below enter; Count, Filter, Duration and Binning – Figure 20 (100sec was maximum exposure time to avoid trailing)

- click on ‘Acquire images’

 

Notes;

- time in FITS header is start of exposure which should be entered into Astrometrica (or whichever astrometric and photometric software you use).

- images are oriented north up, east left

 

Figure 20. Acquire Comet/NEO input screen

 

Progress can be observed by selecting ‘System Status’ under ‘Toolbox’ on the left of the screen – Figure 21.

 

Figure 21. System Status

 

Images were zipped and downloaded as described in ‘Retrieving images’ above.

 

The comets motion was ascertained using the MPC’s Minor Planet and Comet Ephemeris Service and the four images were stacked using Astrometrica. The stacked image  and a corresponding Megastar chart are shown in Figures 22 and 23 below. The comet can be seen in the centre of the image.

 

Figure 22. 100 sec luminance exposure of comet C/2010 S1 (LINEAR)

 

Figure 23. Megastar chart corresponding to Figure 22

 

Plan generation and making a reservation

 

These will not be covered here but for detailed descriptions please review the relevant tutorials;

- Launchpad Tutorial Part 4: Launch-a-Plan at http://www.itelescope.net/launchpad-series/

- Launchpad Tutorial Part 3: Making a Reservation at http://www.itelescope.net/launchpad-series/

 

Contents