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iTelescope.Net is the world’s premier network of Internet connected telescopes, allowing members to take astronomical images of the night sky for the purposes of education, scientific research and astrophotography. (more)

iTelescope.Net is a self-funding, not for profit membership organisation; we exist to benefit our members and the astronomy community. Financial proceeds fund the expansion and growth of the network. iTelescope.Net is run by astronomers for astronomers.

The network is open to the public; anyone can join and become a member including students, amateurs and even professional astronomers.

With 20 telescopes, and observatories located in New Mexico, Australia and Spain, observers are able to follow the night sky around the globe 24x7.

iTelescope.Net puts professional telescopes within the reach of all, with systems ranging from single shot colour telescopes to 700mm (27”) research grade telescopes.

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Having access to professional telescopes means that doing real science has never been easier – great value for schools, educators, universities, amateur and professional astronomers. (more)

Exo-planets, comets, supernova, quasars, asteroids, binary stars, minor planets, near earth objects and variable stars can all be studied. iTelescope.Net can also send your data directly to AAVSO VPhot server for real-time online photometric analysis.

iTelescope.Net allows you to respond quickly to real-time astronomical phenomena such as supernova and outbursts events, gaining a competitive edge for discoveries. With more than 240 asteroid discoveries iTelescope.Net is ranked within the top 50 observatories in the world by the Minor Planet Center.

Get involved: members have used the network to provide supportive data for go/no-go decisions on Hubble space telescope missions.

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With science and numeracy at the forefront of the education revolution, iTelescope.Net provides the tools, along with research and education grants, to support the development of astronomy or science based curriculums in schools. Contact iTelescope.Net about a grant for your school or research project. (more)

Professional observatories use iTelescope.Net to supplement current research projects. The network provides alternate observatory sites in both southern and northern hemispheres and is a good way to continue research when seasonal poor weather hits your observatory.

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We offer a variety of ways to view the night sky, including our entry level Sky Tours Live Streams. These weekly streams, hosted by Dr. Christian Sasse, are a great way to get started with Remote Astronomy, allowing you to see our telescopes in action and learn about the Night Sky from a professional Astronomer.

Astrophotography

Take stunning images of the night sky, galaxies, comets and nebula. Have access to the best equipment from the comfort of your computer and without the huge financial and time commitments. (more)

The network has everything from beginner telescopes with single shot colour CCDs to large format CCDs with Ha, SII and OII and LRGB filter sets. Check out the member image gallery – the results speak for themselves.

Depending on your own image processing skills, you can even land yourself a NASA APOD.

How?

All you need is a web browser and an Internet connection; iTelescope.Net takes care of the rest. Our web-based launchpad application provides the real-time status of each telescope on the network as well as a host of other information such as a day-night map, observatory all-sky cameras and weather details. (more)

From the launchpad you can login to any available telescope, and once connected, you’re in command. Watch in real time as the telescope slews, focuses and images your target.

The image files (in FITS format) are then transmitted to a high-speed server ready for your download. All image data taken is your data – iTelescope.Net doesn’t hold any intellectual property rights.

Reserve and schedule observing plans in advance, even have them run while you are away from iTelescope.Net and have the image data waiting for you ready for download.

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A number of telescopes are fitted with colour cameras; these systems have been designed for ease of use. It’s as simple as selecting an astronomical target from the menu, watching the telescope image your target, and have the resulting image sent to your email address as a jpeg attachment. (more)

The image file is also sent to our high-speed server and can be downloaded in its raw image format, for post image processing if you want more of a challenge.

Already a Pro?

iTelescope.Net offers a large range of telescopes, fields of view and image scales, and NABG and ABG CCD camera combinations. Select from a large range of filters including narrowband, LRGB and UBVRI, as well as control pointing, filter selection, focusing, exposure times, image counts, repeat loops etc. All data is offered in its raw FITS format calibrated and non-calibrated.

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With remote astronomy observing plans can be interrupted from time to time, by clouds, wind gusts and even a rare equipment failure.

iTelescope.Net has you fully covered with our satisfaction guarantee; we will return your points if you are unsatisfied with your results. Help is just a click away. (more)

A dedicated team of professionals are working around the clock to keep the network operating. This includes local ground crews at each observatory, sophisticated monitoring systems and remote observatory administrators monitoring the quality of data coming off the network.

Our dedicated support website allows members to seek answers to frequently asked questions. Formal support can be requested by lodging a support ticket, which can be viewed, tracked and managed through to completion. Go to http://support.itelescope.net or simply email support@itelescope.net.

Our contact details are also available. You can phone or Skype us if you want to speak to a person directly; you can also contact us via Skype instant message, email and fax.

How much does this cost?

Rates vary based on your membership plan and the phase of the moon. Rates start as low as 17 to 100+ points per imaging hour, which is billed per minute of imaging time used; typically one point equals $1. Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter for special offers. Please visit our pricing page for more information on telescope operating rates. (more)

Each telescope has its imaging hourly rate displayed in real time in the launchpad before you login. At the end of each session you are also sent a detailed usage receipt which includes the costs, weather data, preview jpeg images and your observing session log file.

Membership Plans

We have a range of plans catering for everyone from the amateur to the professional astronomer. Each plan provides unrestricted access to each telescope and includes the plan’s dollar value in points, which is credited to your account each time the membership renews. (more)

Membership plans set the usage rates for each telescope on the network, expressed in points per operating hour. The entry level plans provide maximum flexibility on our single shot colour systems, and the heavy usage plans focus more on the large research grade systems. Memberships start from $19.95 and range to $999.95 per 28 day period.

Additional points can be purchased at any time to supplement your account balance.

Hosting and Affiliates

iTelescope.Net offers a range of telescope hosting solutions to members with special projects, allowing you to host your own telescope at three of our four observatory locations. Conditions and approvals apply. Contact us for more information.(more)

Affiliate membership allows you to connect your own telescope to iTelescope.Net with reasonable rates of return. Limited availability exists and is subject to telescope network balance.

Please contact us for more information.


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Members in Focus

Astronomy by iTelescope.Net Members

As part of an iTelescope initiative we want to help put YOU our members in the spotlight!

If you really want the world to see and read about your own astronomical story and achievements, then lets us know! We will publish a short article about you and your adventures in astronomy! Write as much as you feel like, but we will also need a few images. Pictures of yourself doing astronomy and some of your favourite astroshots!

Send your story to Pete today!

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Saturday
Apr092011

Dr John Nunn - Stars in His Eyes

iTelescope Member - Dr John Nunn

Have you ever noticed how children often look at the sky, whereas adults rarely do? Certainly my fascination with the sky started at an early age, although initially my interest focussed on the weather rather than the stars. It is said that the English are fascinated by the weather, and it’s true that the changeable English climate, with its frequent and unpredictable variations, provides plenty to talk about. When I was six years old I was already spending a lot of time watching the clouds drifting in the London sky, so for Christmas my parents presented me with a barometer.

I still have the notebook which I kept for several months in 1962, in which I carefully recorded the wind, temperature and barometric pressure every day - climate change researchers may contact me if they wish :)

1955 - I’m the little one.Given my interest in the sky, it was perhaps only natural that when my older brother David took an interest in astronomy, I followed in his wake. The night sky in London was no better for astronomy then than it is now. These days there is more light pollution, but in the early 1960s the air pollution in London was dreadful. The infamous London smogs often struck in the winter, and when that happened you not only couldn’t see the stars, you couldn’t see the sun either.

Daytime was marked only by a general overall brightening of the environment without any particular source, and when the sun set nothing whatsoever was visible above. The impact of these smogs was so serious that anti-pollution laws were established, which over a period of years dramatically improved the air quality in London. When there was no smog you could see the Moon, the planets and a few stars. However, for the first time in history there was something else to see in the sky - artificial satellites.

These days communication satellites are small, efficient and high up in stationary orbit, so are invisible to the naked eye. Apart from the ISS and the occasional Iridium flare, present-day satellites are unspectacular when viewed from the ground. But back in the early 1960s the Echo 2 satellite, which was just a large metal-coated balloon, was put in a polar orbit and was clearly visible over the whole Earth. This obvious sign of human activity in space caused a lot of people (even adults!) to look at the night sky with a renewed interest and probably stimulated astronomical interest in the Nunn family.

At some point my brother acquired a rather poor-quality 60mm refractor. It was quite pleasant to look at the Pleiades through this modest instrument, but although David claimed to be able to see the Andromeda galaxy with it, I was never able to definitely confirm this. In London, the opportunities for visual astronomy were limited, but once or twice a year my family went camping in the countryside far away from urban light pollution.

Perhaps for some people camping is a pleasant experience, enabling them to appreciate the beauties of nature and so on, but I hated it and the only thing I learnt was how pleasant it is to stay in a comfortable hotel. It also altered my view of history, since hitherto I had felt that the wheel was the most significant human invention, but then I realised that it was actually the flush toilet. So far as I was concerned, the only positive feature of camping was the opportunity to see the night sky in its full glory.

I spent hours lying on my back looking up at the sky, enjoying the Milky Way (which hitherto I had only read about and never actually seen), the moving beacons of the satellites and the occasional flash of a meteor. Round about this time I received a couple of astronomy books as presents and soon became relatively knowledgeable on the subject.

It is said that all good things come to an end, and so it was with my early interest in astronomy. I had shown some talent in mathematics and was also keen on chess, and these two subjects gradually took up more and more of my time.

Early chess successThe difficulties of doing practical astronomy in London and the lack of a suitable telescope also tended to dampen my enthusiasm. However, I continued to follow developments in astronomy with some interest. In the mid 1960s, one of the main mysteries in astronomy concerned the redshift of quasars. If this was due to their great distance then their enormous energy output was hard to explain, but if they were close by then some unknown mechanism must be responsible for the redshift. Now that black holes are known to have a huge energy output, the cosmological origin of quasar redshifts is generally accepted, but at the time the whole subject was hotly debated.

At that time astronomy was going through a kind of revolution and I well remember the excitement when the first pulsar was discovered in 1967, ushering in a whole new branch of the subject. The past half-century has been an exciting age for astronomy, with new developments in all areas, from the use of space probes to further planetary astronomy to the giant telescopes which have probed back almost to the Big Bang itself (and that was another controversial subject in its time).

While all this was happening, my own career was developing. In 1970 I went to Oxford to study mathematics, but central Oxford was no better for astronomy than London. In the vacations, I was playing in as many chess tournaments as possible, which not only improved my chess but also helped fund my university studies.

At any rate it was more fun than traditional student holiday jobs! My big chess breakthrough came  at the end of 1974, when I won the European Junior Championship, thereby automatically gaining the title of International Master. After that my chess and mathematics careers continued in parallel, and in 1978 I gained both my doctorate and my Grandmaster title.

I took up a lecturing job at Oxford, but in 1981 I left the academic world to become a professional chess player. This proved a good decision as it gave me more time to study chess, and in the 1980s I achieved several good results, including winning three individual gold medals in the 1984 Chess Olympiad. My peak period was 1989-91, when I was ranked in the world top ten and won a number of top-level tournaments, including two consecutive victories in the famous event at Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands.

However, it’s difficult to continue playing at the same level indefinitely and in the mid-1990s my life started to change again. Foreseeing the decline of my playing career, I and two friends set up a chess publishing company, Gambit Publications. This company continues to operate today and is recognised as a leading publisher of high-quality chess books.

In 1995 I married Petra Fink, a German chess player, and in 1998 we had a son, Michael. I started to play fewer individual events, preferring instead team chess, and I was part of the successful Lübeck team which won the German chess Bundesliga in 2001, 2002 and 2003. At the end of the 2002/3 Bundesliga season I more or less retired from competitive chess and started to look around for other activities. At one time I had been interested in chess problems and now I decided to take up problem solving, a slightly esoteric branch of chess. This turned out successfully and I have since won the World Chess Problem Solving Championship three times, in 2004, 2007 and 2010, in addition to the European and British solving titles.

Winning Championship in 2010At the same time I decided to revive my boyhood interest in practical astronomy, which had lain dormant for more than 35 years. I hadn’t looked at amateur telescopes in all that time and I was amazed by what was available. GoTo seemed like magic, and a world away from the small refractor which I had used so many years before.

I bought a Meade EXT-125 and spent a long time in the evenings scanning the sky. I don’t have anywhere to set up a telescope permanently, and in many ways the ETX was an excellent scope since it was light enough to set up easily in the evening, spend an hour or two observing, and then pack away quickly. I no longer lived in London, but the area of Surrey I had moved to is heavily populated and the light pollution remains a major problem.

After a time I became dissatisfied with what I could do with the ETX, so I bought a 10 inch Meade LX200-GPS. The disadvantage of this was that it was too heavy for me to set up on my own, so I required Petra’s help at the beginning and end of each observing session. Fortunately my marriage survived this acquisition, even when I insisted on setting it up at 2 a.m. to observe a grazing occultation of Saturn by the Moon (which was memorable). Thank you, Petra!

After a couple of years I felt that I had looked at everything of interest that could reasonably be seen with the LX200, at least from my location, and I started to wonder about astrophotography.

John, Christian and friendAt the same time I was becoming interested in terrestrial photography and I decided to try attaching my Canon DSLR to the LX200. There was quite a learning curve involved here, and I did manage to take a few pictures of brighter objects, but using the LX200 in AltAz mode wasn’t ideal for astrophotography. The length of time taken to set everything up was awkward and on top of that the light pollution became suddenly much more obvious. My best results with the Meade came when I bought a 400mm telephoto lens and simply bolted the camera and lens to the top of the telescope, which was used solely for tracking. However, only larger objects could be imaged using this method, and the results were still not very impressive.

My astronomical interests took an interesting turn when Frederic Friedel of ChessBase put me in touch with Christian Sasse, who readers will know as one of the motivating forces at GRAS. This was another revelation for me. Suddenly I had access to excellent equipment but, as I soon discovered, there was another learning curve involved. Fortunately, thanks to Christian’s patient help, and the assistance of others at iTelescope such as Pete and Brad.

I soon grasped the concepts involved, and while my skill hardly matches those of astrophotography experts, I was able to produce images which, at any rate, I enjoyed. The person most delighted with this development was of course the long-suffering Petra, who could relax in the evenings. I need not give any examples of these images, as many can be found in the GRAS gallery. Suffice to say that astronomy has given me a great deal of pleasure over the years and has been an important part of my life.


John Nunn


Friday
Feb182011

The 'Right Stuff' Generation - Gordon Mandell

I can remember in elementary school, listening to the Mercury launches with a transistor radio held to my ear.  What a thrill.  By the time Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon I was in high school having never lost my enthusiasm for astronomy and space exploration.

Our high school was fortunate to have an observatory with a rotating dome and an Alvan Clark refractor that had been donated to the school years before.  I had my first view of Saturn through that telescope.

I joined the local astronomy club and with the help of several members built a Newtonian telescope with an eight inch mirror that I ground myself. The tube was constructed out of an aluminum liner around which cloth soaked in a plastic resin was applied.  The mount was fashioned from plumber's pipe and the counterweight was an old coffee can filled with lead.  Crude but what marvelous wonders I could see with that instrument. I can still remember the eerie, greenish tint of the Orion Nebula.  Unfortunately I had to put the reflector away for awhile. 

There was college, medical school and residency.  I met my wife and we were married while I was a medical resident.  Then came the kids.  Work and family responsibilities didn't leave much time for astronomy.  After 20 years in my parent's basement the Newtonian had fallen into disrepair.  Could my old friend be resuscitated? I retrieved what was left of the telescope, determined to use it again.  Fortunately the mirror was in good shape, it just needed a new beryllium facelift. The secondary mirror and helical focuser were fine.  Sadly the tube and mount were DOA (dead-on-arrival).  I found instructions in one of the astronomical magazines how to build a Dobsonian mount.  Amazing!  Some wood, a little Teflon® and I was back in business. 

My kids and I used that scope for 10 years.  I taught my sons the constellations and basic astronomy.  We spent many enjoyable nights together with the telescope.  Kids grow up and become interested in other things.  I was at a point in my life that I had more time (and more money) and decided to retire the old reflector and purchase a new telescope and mount with the purpose of using it for astrophotography. 

That was six years ago.  I purchased a five inch refractor and a computer-controlled mount that I still use.  Approximately one year later I captured my first image, M13 globular cluster in Hercules using an off-the-shelf digital camera and from my own driveway.  Since that time I have acquired a permanent, roll-off roof observatory located off our back deck and have clocked many hours under the stars and in front of a computer screen. 

Despite continued enthusiasm and the acquisition of great equipment, I was facing a dilemma.  The community where my  permanent observatory is located had grown considerably and so had the number of businesses, homes, post lamps and street lights.  The light pollution had gotten to the point where the only serious astrophotography I could accomplish from home was narrowband imaging; and I wanted more.  I had heard about remote astrophotography but was filled with uncertainty.  I really enjoyed using my own equipment and sharing astrophotographs captured from my own back yard. 

I believe that there is no better way to learn this hobby than to use one's own equipment, but there were other problems at home.  Pittsburgh only has 59 sunny days (and clear nights) per year.  And who wants to remove snow off the roof of the observatory in the middle of Winter?  iTelescope.Net came to my rescue. 

Great equipment, great customer support and clear, dark nights galore.  Since joining iTelescope in September 2010, I have found that there aren't many nights that I can't image (if I want to).  The sky conditions are outstanding and how wonderful it is to photograph targets that would otherwise not be possible from my location.  There's something to be said about taking images from one's own backyard but after successfully executing a scripted plan at a iTelescope facility and downloading and processing the data, the images are mine. 

When I see the preview images being displayed on my monitor, I get the same thrill I got  listening to the Mercury launches all those years ago.  Since joining iTelescope, I am rediscovering astronomy; only this time from the comfort of my own study.

G.Mandell

You can find many of Gordon's finest images in our Gallery

 

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