Rolando Ligustri - The Comet Man
Master Imager, Rolando Ligustri, Comet Researcher, Italy.
My love affair with astronomy began in 1973. However it was in 1986 (the return of comet Halley) that I purchased my first serious telescope. It was with this instrument I took various pictures of deep sky objects; some of them were published in 'l'Astronomia' and 'Orione', two Italian astronomy magazines.
In 1995 I bought my first CCD camera and with the help of two astronomers, G.Cremonese and M.Fulle I followed comet Hale Bopp with narrow band filters over the next year. These narrow band filters were centered about frequencies of 647nm and 627nm.
My research was unique in that I was the only one using these specialized filters to make observations. From 1997 I started to follow and study comets on a regular basis, producing a lot of pictures. Many of these images were published on a variety of international websites and in various international magazines (also on Sky and Telescope). A Google search on my name will retrieve about 20.000 citations about astronomy.
In 2000 I started making photometric measurements producing hundreds of notations published on ICQ and BAA websites. During the same year I started to produce astrometric measurements that were published by the Minor Planet Center. In 2003 I joined the C.A.R.A. project http://cara.uai.it .
In cooperation with C.A.R.A., we have produced an article regarding comet 9P (Tempel) that was published in the prestigious magazine ICARUS. Moreover I received an honorable mention and big thanks from the NASA people responsible for mission Deep Impact.
In 1999 I was given the responsibility of the comet section of U.A.I. http://comete.uai.it On our association's website, you can find images of more then 90 comets I captured during this timewww.castfvg.it/fotoccd.htm#comete. Some of my personal goals included establishing a baseline for comet 67P. My work in this area was further confirmed by other astronomers.
As I was a co-discoverer of some NEOCP objects I was also awarded the second place in a contest by ESA. This was in conjunction with taking pictures of the Rosetta spacecraft. This will be an example for my future work. I think I will follow various comets for the C.A.R.A. project and also to follow objects reported on NEOCP.
For several years I had heard about a very high quality remote telescope system called iTelescope.Net. Some amateur astronomers I knew used the system. Personally I was a little afraid to use this system as it sounded too complicated. So after waiting and thinking and waiting but not using it my friend Stefano Padovan, who had just become an affiliate with iTelescope, insisted I try the iTelescope T5 (Epsilon 250 in New Mexico). Wow! I discovered a new world!
To use the different systems (equipped with state of the art telescopes mostly by Takahashi, RCOS and Planewave systems all on Paramount remote telescope mounts and SBIG- FLI CCD cameras) is really maybe…too simple. Thanks to dedicated, extremely user-friendly software, within just a few minutes you find yourself directing the telescope system to slew to the subject, center it, focus it (most of the times it is already focused) and you can start shooting. Meanwhile, while the system is automatically carrying out your instructions in the background, you can download your raw files or view a jpg preview so you can adjust the imaging session to suit your specific requirements.
It is so unbelievable! The efficiency is truly remarkable. In just a few minutes you can do everything. No need to go out, drive a car in the cold winter, let the system cool down, center, shoot, maybe clouds roll in and spoil your session, go back home…this is much easier. Of course is different to be out in the field but sometimes when we need images and here in Europe is often cloudy, this type of an approach really helps.
Moreover thanks to the kindness of the boss of iTelescope Mr Brad Moore and his support crew. we can ask anything of him. If we need a different dark or flat frame (that they are not already on the ftp server week by week) iTelescope will do it for you.
The system is continually expanding and growing bigger and bigger; in fact right now there are 7 different telescopes in New Mexico plus in Australia and three in Spain. After that who knows? Maybe there will be even more to come.
In conclusion it is enough to simply say the system is very good and you are able to shoot 24 hours a day all around the world."
CAST: Circolo AStrofili Talmassons
See Rolando's Hartley 2 image in National Geographic