Astrophotography & iTelescope.net
Let's face it, premium CCD imaging platforms are not cheap and produce the best results by far. The good news is these systems are no longer out of reach to most of us.
Save yourself tens of thousands of dollars by sharing a network of remote, internet controlled telescopes. Image on our variety of online research grade telescopes. Located under dark and clean skies, iTelescope will enable you to produce images like a professional.
You fully control the telescopes with total ownership of data and the freedom to choose your own targets at any time for your personal astronomy goals.
All of the iTelescope.net systems are highly tuned and maintained to give you a professional and painless imaging experience. Then you can work your own magic on the raw data to produce that masterpiece or confirm that discovery!
All it takes is a web browser to bring the observatory directly to your desktop.
After becoming a member you can choose from many different telescopes located around the world located in three different time zones, our systems are located in both northern and southern hemispheres. North America (New Mexico Skies), Spain (AstroCamp) and from our Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.
We are the first in the world to offer this 24 hour remote control telescope imaging service to the amateur and professional astronomer!
This service is simple to use and easily caters from novice to advanced users. You simply select your target. The telescopes do all the centering and focusing in real time, then take your selected series of exposures. Your FITS images are then transferred to our high speed FTP server for downloading.
You have all the tools you will need. Skycams, weather charts and advanced automated robotic software.
For the novice or serious user we provide ways for you to find help at any time. Dedicated Support tickets, Skype, Email or even just pick up a phone. We can put you in touch with one of our helpful professional staff, who can then provide assistance and have you remote telescope driving like a professional.
(See our Members in Focus section for more)
A Long time coming
By Peter George (Australia)
It's been a long quarter of a century, or so… In the 1960's I grew up in Australia with the gleaming white domes of Mt Stromlo Observatory within the view from my bedroom window. I wanted to be an astronomer. When later I started pointing my first small backyard telescope at the sky it was a matter of twisting and pushing in an effort to find and follow all those amazing objects of interest to a teenager with stars in his eyes. A star atlas came in handy too.
Lots of 'averted imagination' was called in for as I battled the Canberra cold, fatigue and local light pollution in an attempt to see those gems I had read about in astronomy books from the school library. Still, it was enthralling and addictive.
As my age and competence slowly increased I found myself wondering if there was a better way. The newly released 'Personal Computer' was an expensive elitist toy that seemed to cry out for an application that melded both my passion for astronomy with the fun and potential of the computer.
Alas only the world's major telescope observatories such as Mt Stromlo to my north, seemed to have the ability to match these devices. They provided ease and functionality to the astronomy pro of the automated point, track and shoot methodology. All with the pushing of a few buttons and the display of progress on flickering banks of B&W monitor screens.
I dreamed of my own 'Telescope Control Room'. Complete with a 'Cold Camera', which would allow me to capture those faint fuzzies and dim dodgers up there in the great southern skies. Many of today's younger generation of telescope users probably would not even know what a cold camera was!
Time passed, much film was wound on, a few telescopes came and went, life became more complex and obligations drew me away from my love of astronomy and nailed me solidly to the work a day Earth. But I still glanced upwards at night whilst driving to work or admired a bright planet as it coursed over my weary head on clear and inspiring summer's evening. It was an ongoing nagging habit.
Then a friend and member of our local astronomy club told me about 'Global Rent-a-Scope'. He saw the puzzled expression on my face and we spent the next hour discussing remotely controlled telescopes and what this meant to city bound and cloud cursed astronomers on a budget. I was impressed and we both agreed to look into it together 'one day'.
Well indeed that 'one day' arrived for me late one night, when a phone call invited me to test drive the iTelescope-008 12.5" RCOS remote telescope before it went online to the public. The telescope was many many miles from my home but I did not need to be asked twice! It did'nt matter!
I logged into the remote observatory computer via my Internet browser and found myself slewing to M20 within minutes! The remote telescope slewed to my target, focused, picked a guide star and then awaited my next command. I ordered a 300 second Clear exposure and nervously hit the Acquire Image button. I waited as the system status display took me back to my childhood dream of that "Telescope Control Room" of my own. I was smiling a lot.
Soon a preview image was on my screen. It simply amazed me! There it was, the glorious Trifid Nebula on my screen, and you know what? It felt great. It was my best ever image and it was still just a monochrome picture. I had the color data still to come later that night. I couldn't help looking out my window to towards the dark peak of Mt Stromlo and shook my head a little in wonder.
I spent 2 hours gathering light that night from the comfort of my home, keeping a close eye on the B&W previews as they flicked onto my monitor and eagerly looked forward to downloading those RGB frames that would be the real test of my skills later. It was fun. I didn't have to battle with my own modest mount, optics and heavy urban light pollution. And though I love my own telescope its nothing like the equipment that was at my command at the other end of this remote connection. I felt like a pro!
Here was the synergy I had awaited all my astronomical life! A computer, the Internet, a first class telescope a huge CCD camera, and any imaging target at a whim. It was wonderful. And the final image? It made me very happy indeed.
Using the remote telescope network provided by iTelescope.Net has allowed me to use research grade telescopes without the huge costs involved in getting my own hardware, which would most likely spend most of its time sitting under Canberra clouds anyway!
My own telescope is a Meade 8" SCT and I love it. Its just fine for the odd night out with the family and friends, but my other scope is a iTelescope.Net! Thanks guys, thank you very much indeed!
Carl Tubbs - USA
This fall brings dead leaves, raking, crisp evenings and more clear skies, and amongst the fall chores I was curious to see how my little home mount stacked up ( no pun intended) against the bigger guns at GRAS.
I therefore performed a very non-randomized high end non-funded pseudoscientific prospective trial to see how my M706 with ST-2000 and Losmandy G11 mount would compare to the iTelescope T11, a 20 inch Planewave CDK with FLI camera in New Mexico.
Obviously, I could not blind myself as to processing the images, because they were certainly very different to begin with, and wearing a blindfold while processing just did not seem to work out very well either. But in the end I was pretty curious to see just what some of the differences were in using iTelescope.Net as compared to my home system, and chose a dimmer than usual image as a stretch for the home equipment. IC 243, a spiral galaxy in Camelopardalis, seemed a reasonable target. It has a respectable size and internal detail with a surface brightness listed as 14.9 with a blue magnitude of 9.1, and is not something that one sees imaged routinely.
No Surprises. The initial things that struck me was the detail in the iTelescope.Net T11 image overall, with nice luminance detail in the low SN data in the periphery of the galaxy, and fairly strong color as well in those low SN areas. There even appears to be a soft arm of one spiral heading off into the lower left corner, almost touching a small galaxy at 7:00.
Processing the detail and sharpening in the higher SN ranges becomes much easier, and in this image, these could actually be toned down somewhat in order to better balance out the overall brightness- the core area is wonderfully bright.
It is interesting how well the human brain adapts to image quality and to colors- every time I look at the lower end resolution image, I am taken by how much I like the detail- unless I again look at the T11 image in comparison. The star colors in the T11 image are also brighter and crisper, despite enhancing this in the Intes image. Obviously, the Intes should have collected more photos to make a more exact comparison as far as image timing, but the overall decrease in noise in further doubling the Intes exposure times would not amount to all that much help.
Well, iTelescope.Net is better, in this case, of course. If you can keep a secret, I was sort of expecting that to begin with. So why bother doing a comparison?
For me, such an exercise is motivational in attempting to tweak the home system to see if I can get a better image out of it next time.
I see things on my iTelescope.Net images that I want to go back and try to study in more detail with the smaller home system, and also use my home system to help select objects for high end quality images using iTelescope.Net.
It seems to be a nice marriage. And when I am too annoyed with the local weather or too tired to set up a home run, there's usually iTelescope.Net sky that’s clear and ready to use.
Of course, if you don't have a home telescope, you can remove yourself from those related uncertainties in data collection and get right to high end imaging!
Carl Tubbs - USA
iTelescope: The Answer to the "Imperfect" Storm