It's two o'clock in the morning. I'm observing under clear skies and my throat is sore. But not because of the cold! No, I'm sitting at my desk at home in London, Ontario, with a mug of hot chocolate. The telescope I'm using is southeast of Tucson, Arizona, at the Jarnac Observatory. The reason my throat is sore is that I've just spent 133min on the phone with RASC member David H. Levy (Honorary President of both Montreal Centre and Kingston Centre; 1980 Chant Medal winner), learning about David's web-based interface for remote observing.

David has agreed to make some time available on one of his telescopes ("Clyde") for RASC members. Members of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific will also be invited to join in the fun. Although David wants to do some more work on his system before opening it for general use, he let me take it for a spin, so to speak. We recorded this in David's observing log: it turns out this is session #15000EM3 since David began his observing career in 1959. Imagine having clear skies like that!

Now, I'm no digital imaging guru, so I wasn't expecting my first attempts to look like a Paul Mortfield or Jon Gunning sky masterpiece. Here's the result of targeting M79, the Milky Way Globular Cluster south of Orion:

Globular Cluster M79 by Peter Jedicke

It's pretty easy to use. I entered M79 in the database query textbox and the system found the proper coordinates for me. No Sky Atlas needed! Then I chose the exposure time (20sec) and clicked "Acquire." A few minutes later, Presto! The system also generated a FITS image of this picture, so if I knew how to massage the data, I could have some fun teasing more detail out of this. Stay tuned for further updates, particularly if you think you'd like to do some remote observing in the near future.

 Thanks for opening your dome to us, David!

eNews date: 
Wednesday, February 1, 2006