Astronomy with an online telescope
Astronomy with an online telescope

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Astronomy with an online telescope

Week 1: The night sky

Introduction

Welcome to Astronomy with an online telescope. If you have ever looked up at the night sky and wanted to know more about the stars, galaxies and other celestial objects in the universe, then this course will help you to find your way around and develop a deeper understanding.

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Transcript

JO JARVIS:
We've got a lovely clear sky tonight.
ALAN CAYLESS:
We have. It's pretty cold, but then, the best nights for astronomy often are.
JO JARVIS:
That's very true. I'm Jo Jarvis, I'm public engagement officer for the School of Physical Sciences at the Open University.
ALAN CAYLESS:
I'm Alan Cayless, and I'm a physicist an astronomer at the Open University.
JO JARVIS:
During this first week of the course, we're hoping to guide you around the night sky and prove that you don't have to have a telescope to learn your way around. In fact, Alan, you started off with binoculars, didn't you?
ALAN CAYLESS:
That's right, yes. The important thing is to find your way around the night sky so that you know what you're looking at. And there's a lot that you can see just with a simple pair of binoculars. So as long as you know where to find the objects that you're interested in, there's always something fascinating to look at in the night sky.
JO JARVIS:
So let's go for it. Let's see what we can find in the night sky.
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During the course you will have the opportunity to use a powerful telescope located in Tenerife to take your own images of some of these objects. This telescope, known as COAST (COmpletely Autonomous Service Telescope), is one of two telescopes in Tenerife that form part of the Open University’s OpenScience Observatories.

Described image
Figure 1 The COAST dome on Tenerife. This houses the 14-inch telescope that you will use in this course, requesting images remotely. The dome visible in the background houses PIRATE (the Physics Innovations Robotic Astronomical Telescope Explorer), another Open University telescope. Behind this second dome can be seen the top of the mast holding the all-sky camera and a number of other weather sensors and instruments.

The COAST telescope that you will be using sits alongside many professional instruments from around the world at the Observatorio del Teide in Tenerife. Dr Miquel Serra-Ricart, an astronomer from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and administrator of the Teide observatory, gives an introduction to the site and to the various telescopes and facilities there.

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Transcript

NARRATOR:
The Teide Observatory belongs to Canarian Observatories and managed by the Institute Office of the Canaries. We have a lot of different countries here in the Teide and also in the Roque. Here, for instance, we have installations, telescopes from the United States. Las Cumbres robotic telescopes.
Here also are robotics telescope from Qatar. Our Qatar telescope, this is also robotic. Open University from England. We have also from Russia also MASTER telescope. It's another robotic telescope from Russia.
We have also solar installations, not only night telescopes. We have the largest telescopes in the world here. Many from Germany and from France. Taiwan. Danish, you have a Danish telescope. OK. You have a lot of different installations from different countries.
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Throughout history people have studied the heavens, first with simple visual observation and then with the aid of optical instruments such as telescopes and binoculars. In recent times, computers and imaging technology have extended our ability to reach further into the Universe. You will learn to use all of these techniques as you work through this short course.

In this first week of the course you will start to find your way around the night sky with the aid of a powerful software package called Stellarium. This is a free-to-use program that provides a detailed representation of the night sky as seen from any location in the world. Using this software you will be able to identify the patterns of the constellations, understand the apparent movement of the sky with the seasons and throughout the night, and use the system of celestial coordinates to find and specify the position of individual objects in the night sky.

By the end of this week you will be able to:

  • use Stellarium to identify a number of prominent stars and constellations
  • use Stellarium to identify which celestial objects are visible from your location at any given time and date
  • use Stellarium to identify which objects are visible from the location of the COAST telescope in Tenerife in order to plan your observations
  • understand the use of celestial coordinates to find objects in the night sky and understand how these coordinates will be used later in the course to control the pointing of the telescope.

Course forum

Each week of this course has its own forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] allowing you to communicate with the course authors and fellow participants to make connections, share ideas and ask questions.

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