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Remote Imaging with iTelescope


Al.Grant
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Hi,


2 days ago I decided to give remote imaging a try by using the free trial at http://www.itelescope.net/


 


So I thought I’d just post a bit of info for  those who have never looked at it or heard about it, iTelescopse allows you to image via a remote login to a number of very nice telescopes at locations in the US, Spain and Australia.


 


I gave it a go mostly due to the frustration of not being able to do much locally and also there was a certain nerdy-geeky-techy-wow factor :geek:  attached to logging into a telescope 2500 meters up a mountain in New Mexico and setting it off to image a target.


 


 


The system is very easy to use ... it must be, because even I managed to do some live imaging and also set a script, so it was imaging whilst I was in the car driving to work.  The ease of use is both a plus point and perhaps one of its weaknesses. 


So very easy to log in and image often hard to find targets, including comets without any real 'plan' to what you want to achieve. 


 


Although you can set the number of imagers, duration, binning and filters (L,R,G,B & narrowband etc appropriate), I am sure many of the more experienced imagers would want more control over things.  And maybe this is possible, but I’ve not looked at every possible option yet!  The interface you see when imaging is fairly straightforward, but gives enough info so you can see what the mount is doing.  There is an option to ‘view observatory’ and this shows the true front end, which shows various MaximDL screens and ACP observatory control software. You can see what it’s doing and see the image being collected but the user has no direct interaction on these screens (understandable as they don’t want people like me just clicking things to ‘see what this does’).


 


The costs:  It will come as no real shocker when I say all this isn’t free! 


Although it does have the potential to get expensive if used with a little thought and prior planning it is not really prohibitive.  Telescope usage is based on a system of imaging credits. Different scopes having different rates.  Each imaging credit is roughly equivalent to 1 AUS dollar ( so about 53p at current exchange rates).  The costs are based on imaging time only.


 


You do not get charged for the time taken for things like slewing, focusing, guider setup etc. 


There is a system of ‘moon discounts’ and ‘self serve’ refunds.  Moon discounts can be 25%, 50% or 75% based on the phase of the moon.  The refunds are for when things don’t go according to plan, like any image/tracking problems, unexpected changes in the weather etc.


 


Any images you take get stored on their server for 60 days and can be downloaded at any time during that period.  They are your images and as such you have full ownership/credit for any images (copyright etc)


 


The trial limits you to 2 scopes a Takahashi TOA-150 in New Mexico and a Takahashi Sky90 in Australia, both fitted with an SBIG OSC.  The trial does restrict you to jpeg copies of your images.  There is an option for a cheap upgrade (about £2.50) to allow access to 4 more scopes with filters (including an RCOS 12.5" and Planewave CDK ) along with different file formats.  The free credits you get should give you about 40-60mins imaging time, depending on the rates at the time.


 


I have upgraded my trial to the Starter-Trial Plan, costs about £10 per month (less than I spend on take away coffee per week).  This gives me an extra 20 credits and access to all scopes and image formats.  If you upgrade your account you are not tied in to any particular time scale. Plans can be upgraded, downgraded or cancelled at any time and any unused credits roll over to the next month.  So nothing really to lose.


 


I’ve seen threads on SGL with people saying that unless it’s your own equipment and you did the set up then it’s cheating.  Well I’m not sure I agree with that there is no other way I’d ever get to use equipment of this quality in locations such as these.  Some of the OTA’s cost in excess of £50,000.


Damien Peach used iTelescope to capture this image  of comet ISON using iTelescope T11. 


 


bsi.JPG?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=13888


 


So I guess it must be OK (Do people class him as cheating!)  Of course access to the same equipment doesn't guarantee getting the same results!


 


 


Having said all of the above, iTelescope will never make me get rid of my own very modest equipment, it will simply add to what is available to me (especially on wet, cloudy, windy days).  There is still something satisfying about dragging my HEQ5 Pro and VC200L outside on a cold night and finding the object myself that iTelescope can't compete with  :)   But there are times when I'll use it. 


There are a few things I’ve noticed: 


 


>  There are 17 scopes currently online (2 more coming soon), and these can be booked up.  Not hard to get access, but it’s best to plan ahead and reserve some time in advance.


 


> On a couple of occasions the server had seemed a bit slow when logging into a scope, but one in it’s fine.


 


> The simple act of me booking time on a scope can ruin weather on a global scale!  My first booking was cut short by bad weather in New Mexico :wallbash:   The refund policy works and I got some credits back


 


> It would be easy to get carried away, spending lots of time of the biggest & best equipment & that would work out costly.  A bit of prior planning can take care of that  (if you can stick to a plan!)


 


> I decided to do a couple of single 5 min captures and take advantage of the moon discount.  This was to use my free trial credits to get a look at the system with the cheaper rate with the current moon discount.  My resulting images did suffer from the Mr Blobby effect, but gave me a good idea on how to proceed for any future runs.


 


> One thing that may work is if a few people signed up for the trial or low level Plan and coordinated their efforts on a common target, then share the resultant files and process individually.  There are lots of people currently using it to look at M82. Imagine if they were sharing the scope time and images.


 


There are a bunch of info videos here  http://www.itelescope.net/video-tutorials that I looked through before giving the free trial a go. Stellarium helps with unfamiliar skies and don't forget the time differences.


 


Interested to know if any other EMS members have used this and have any tips


 


 


Al

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nothing wrong with a little cheating L.O.L.


the faukes telescopes do a similar thing, mainly set up for schools but you can book time on scopes yourself now, no idea what it costs but as you say the equipment if first class 


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No problem.  I've not done anything with them yet, but will resize one of the unprocessed images suitable for posting, but will probably be tomorrow as I'm at work at the moment.  As I mentioned the moon was out and that shows in the image quality, but still not too bad.


 


What I should also have mentioned is that each scope has a library of images for things like darks/flats etc at the most common exposures.


These get updated regularly, but you can also choose to do your own and as far as I am aware these are not charged for.


 


Each imaging session gives sends you a breakdown of the costs, so it's easy to keep track on what it is costing you.


 


It also allows for dithering and a bunch of other options that I've not even started looking at yet.

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I was bought half hour on global rent a scope (GRAS) a few years ago, sadly they are no longer going but I fondly remember doing an imaging run using a Tak sky 90 with an Sbig somat or other camera in Moorook Australia one monday morning.

I still have a couple of the images 8n my web site.

I dont consider it cheating, it helps scratch the itch in weather like this.

I decided not to use it regularly as I felt I would have spent a fortune in no time. But, weigh that against the amount of money one spends on kit and the few times you can actually get to use it, then it starts to make sense.

good luck if you decide to have a go and dont forget to post the results

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I was bought half hour on global rent a scope (GRAS) a few years ago, sadly they are no longer going but I fondly remember doing an imaging run using a Tak sky 90 with an Sbig somat or other camera in Moorook Australia one monday morning.

I still have a couple of the images 8n my web site.

I dont consider it cheating, it helps scratch the itch in weather like this.

I decided not to use it regularly as I felt I would have spent a fortune in no time. But, weigh that against the amount of money one spends on kit and the few times you can actually get to use it, then it starts to make sense.

good luck if you decide to have a go and dont forget to post the results

 

Phil,  GRAS is now iTelescope   http://www.global-rent-a-scope.com/

"The name ‘GRAS - Global Rent A Scope’ has been replaced along with a new logo and a fresh website to match. We are now iTelescope.Net"

 

They've given it a bit of a revamp and upgraded a few things, but essentially the same thing.

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The current weather was part of why I gave it a try ....  seems I'm a jinx!


The only location currently in darkness is Siding Springs Obs in Australia - just check weather info for that site .... Cloud & occasional rain = Obs roof closed!

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Its definitely not cheating - There's no  difference between looking thru a rented Scope which you may never be able to afford / from a place that has clear skies and looking thru your own scope etc - except the obvious points .


 


Its just another string to the bow. 


 


I will be trying it out thanks Alastair


 


P.S. If you haven't done so - Dont forget to change your password as they are naughty sending it together with your login in the same email etc etc


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P.S. If you haven't done so - Dont forget to change your password as they are naughty sending it together with your login in the same email etc etc

 Yeah I noticed that .... and changed it when I logged in.

 

I'm certainly no expert with iTelescope, but if anybody has any questions then I can try answer them ... I can easily log in and look at screens if there are any questions about the actual imaging options.

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I'll be interested to see your results Al

 

JD

 

James,

 

After an imaging run you get a number of different files made available for download (if your Plan supports them).

You get a jpeg preview image and larger calibrated and no calibrated FITS images.

 

On my first attempt using iTelescope. Run on T3 the Tak TOA-150 with OSC I set it for 4 x 200sec subs, 1 x binning on M51.  

There was a moon discount of 50% due to that big bright thing in the sky.   The system does warn you if your target is within 60 degrees of the moon, mine was around 56 degs at the time.

 

This is one of those preview jpeg images reduced in size for posting.  No processing or stacking etc, this is how it comes from the server.

I certainly wouldn't use it to judge the quality of images these scopes/ccd's can produce.  The calibrated FITS image for this one is about 50mb in size

 

jpeg-t3-algrant-m51-20140213-021426-colo

 

I doubt I'll even bother to stack this with the other 3, but it did give me a good feel for how the system works.

 

To set this up took no more that a few seconds.  Log in, select how many images, how long, binning and go!

 

As it was my first look, I didn't bother with the additional options and I need to look at exactly what they bring to the process.

 

Al

Edited by Al.Grant
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Guest peepshow

Thanks for posting that Al.

 

That is very interesting, and could even tempt me into imaging :) .

Hope you are in good shape, Pete, as one can get out of breath climbing that steepish learning curve,

which is not 'imagin' ary. :D

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Hope you are in good shape, Pete, as one can get out of breath climbing that steepish learning curve,

which is not 'imagin' ary. :D

:lol: According to Al, I could be imaging whilst driving the car. So maybe even I could do it. Not sure how legal it would be whilst driving though :D :D

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:lol: According to Al, I could be imaging whilst driving the car. So maybe even I could do it. Not sure how legal it would be whilst driving though :D :D

 

LoL Apparently you could probably do it just about anywhere you can get a decent wifi signal, it certainly lets me log in to reserve time slots or set up imaging via my mobile phone.

 

 

When I was a kid Tomorrows World promised robot butlers making tea and coffee ..... what we got was the chance to use a phone to image galaxies using a telescope on the other side of the world ...... I'll take that over a walking talking coffee machine any day!  :D

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The latest edition of S@N was waiting for me when I got home last night.  Had a quick read through and there is 4 page article about using remote scopes.


 


It mentions the Bradford Robotic Scope, iTelescope, Observing With Nasa, and Lightbuckets.

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Sat at work at saw some of the scopes in Australia were free and the moon isn't up yet  


Decided to have a quick attempt at NGC2244 (Rosette Nebula) using narrow band filters using this scope  iTelescope T8  .


As I sit here at work with a coffee it has just started it's first 5min Ha capture. (SWMBO - doesn't even know I'm imaging   :D   )


 


If they are successful then I can add more data in other sessions.

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Be interesting to see the result.

 

P.S. make sure your IT dept is snooping where you are looking  :D

 

Self employed, so me and my laptop are the IT department  :D  

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I gave the trial a go about a year ago, and decided against purchasing a full account mainly due to the fact you had to queue for the scopes and most of the timed they seemed very highly booked up.


 


Whilst the cost is per minute or credits?(iirc), it's no good having to wait forever and ever to get the scope you want to use, and some of the bigger scopes they have soon rack up the cost of it as I seem to recall they used up more credits.


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Guest peepshow

I would sooner image on my own inferior equipment than on a remote super duper. :)  


To me, DIY gives more satisfaction.  It's MY own image,  but horses for courses I guess. 

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Guest peepshow

I see that they don't have a barn door tracker to rent. 


  I shall offer mine.  Not with a moon discount but with


a slight star trailing discount. :lol:  :lol:


Taking the lens cap off my dslr will incur an extra charge. :)


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