Astronomy with an online telescope
Astronomy with an online telescope

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Astronomy with an online telescope

3 Collecting your first image

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Congratulations to your first image with COAST. I hope the image is in focus and came out as you wanted it to be. Chances are, I saw your image before you did. Because here at headquarters, we have control of the Open Science observatory facilities, including PIRATE and COAST. And in fact, let's have a quick look at the sort of interfaces we use on a daily basis to make sure that the facilities run as they are meant to do.
So on screen, I have a shot of the site using the webcam. And this is live. We can see currently, the weather isn't too kind. There's clouds passing through. We see on the webcam, the PIRATE down in the foreground, and COAST in the background here. The sensors are telling me when they are blue, that all is safe. And when they are red, it's not. And of course, now, during daytime, it's not safe to observe.
Now, more interestingly, perhaps for you is to note I can see all the images that were taken last night, or at any night. And that's just a collection of data and images taken a few days ago, when the weather was indeed very good all night long. And it is a mix of nebulae, galaxies, star fields, and the like. And this is our way of detecting any problems and technical issues. But of course, a more detailed analysis has to be done by the author of the images, by yourself. You can download and look at them and analyse them, or just play with them as you wish.
Now, PIRATE and COAST are our primary facilities of the Open Science observatories. They are in Teneriffe, and they are there for a good reason, because we identified Teneriffe as a prime observing site for doing astronomical work. We, at the Open University, have invested heavily to bring the best of technology available today to you, and for you to use. So our facilities are very versatile. They are for professional use in research projects. They work for amateur astronomers who really wanted to get the best colour images of star fields and galaxies and nebula. And they are for anyone who would like to have their own shot of an interesting target on the sky.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

By now, if the weather has been clear in Tenerife, your image along with many others that have been requested will have worked its way up the queue and you may already have received a message to tell you that your image is ready.

If not, don’t worry: As Ulrich explains in the video, the weather is not always clear in Tenerife; sometimes it can be misty or cloudy, in which case it may take a little longer before COAST can take your image.

Once it has been taken, your image will be stored along with many others taken on the same evening. The video shows the many different objects that COAST will have taken images of – galaxies, nebulae and star clusters – depending on the requests sent in by different users. Among these will be your image, and this will be waiting for you when you next log on to

Activity 5 Retrieving your completed image

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes
  1. To retrieve your image, log in to the website using the login information that you have been given.
  2. Look for the announcement ‘You have new images’ on the right-hand side of the page. Click here to view a list of your completed images. You can also get to this list by clicking ‘Your requests’ on the left-hand side.
  3. On the list any images that have been taken will show as ‘Complete’. Any images still in the queue and not yet taken will be shown as ‘Waiting’. You will need to check back later to see if these have been completed.
  4. Click on one of the completed images to view it. This takes you to a ‘View’ window.
  5. To save your image, click on ‘edit’ at the top of the viewing window, then click on the floppy disk icon top right. Select ‘image’ and then ‘save file’ to save a copy of the image to your computer. Remember to keep a note of where you have saved it,as well as the filename of the image. (It would be a good idea to set up a work folder for all of your images so that you can find them easily).
  6. If you have requested more than one image, click on each one in turn to view in the same way.
  7. If you are happy with your images, then you are done! However, as Alan mentioned in an earlier video, you can often use the results from your first image to improve things. If you have time you may want to experiment with the settings. For instance, to adjust the exposure: if your images are quite dark you could try requesting more images with longer exposures. If your first images are too bright, you could try shorter exposures. As you refine your technique you should find that your images improve, each time using what you have learned from one set of images to help you plan for the next ones.

There are a number of other options in the ‘edit’ window, which you will look at later in the course. For now, you have your first image of a Messier object!


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