Armchair Astronomy

Ok.  Turns out I didn’t use my own wimpy telescope on International Observe the Moon Night.  It was chilly, I had a sore throat, and I couldn’t remember where I put my telescope lenses.

But I observed anyway.  That’s right, I took the image that you see here with my computer, on Saturday Night, using the Harvard‘s OWN Micro Observatory…or in long form, the OWN MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Harvard’s Micro Observatory
—and yes, I intend to use this cool site a lot in the future.  It is at http://mo-www.cfa.harvard.edu/OWN/ .

What you do is goto the website and choose your target.  Then one of these automated telescopes aims at it and takes a digital photo of your chosen celestial sight, which is then archived for you to pickup on the web later.  It creates what’s called a FITS file, which you then use special viewer software (downloadable for free from the site) to convert to a .GIF file.  Then use a .GIF viewer (I used Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office Picture Manager) to convert it into other formats.

The FITS viewer also allows you to zoom and annotate the image in various ways.  Of course, all I used this capability for was to snap a simple picture of the easiest telescope target in the world and stick it on the web—a very minimalist use for such a powerful tool.  I can’t afford the kind of equipment necessary to take photos of celestial objects and long aperture time photography can pick up things that the human eye can’t.

I challenge you to do more with this than I did on Saturday night.  I certainly intend to.  As I write this I am directing the micro observatory to snap me a shot of the Whirlpool Galaxy.

Try it out yourself some cold, rainy night.

International Observe the Moon Night homepageObserving Wth NASA

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~ by Bill Housley on September 20, 2010.

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