Last night’s class was a lab using images the students had requested last week from an automated-telescope located at the Whipple Observatory in Amado Arizona. The telescope we used is part of a network of 6-inch reflector telescopes equipped with a CCD camera that are accessible via the web site. The web site, OWN, Observing With NASA, is maintained through a joint venture between NASA and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
From the OWN
web site you will be able to request images of a variety of objects including the Sun, our Moon, planets, galaxies, nebula, and even asteroids. Allowing a couple of days for your image(s) to be taken you will then receive an e-mail notification that your images are ready for download. Once downloaded the images, in the FITS image format, are then loaded into the MicroObservatory Image Processing software and processed. The FITS
, Flexible Image Transport System, is not the typical GIF or JPEG type of image file as the FITS image contains all of the data collected by the CCD. By having all data within the file allows it to be processed more so than how a graphic editing program would.
Images may be taken as a single black/white image, or with one of three color filters – red, blue, or green. The most popular selection seems to be the request for 3 images using each of the three color filters. Once the three images are downloaded and processed the result is an RGB, or color, image.
There is no fee for using the OWN system, and the MicroObservatory software is free and is available in PC, Mac, and Linux versions. On a PC the software is extracted from the downloaded file into a folder. Since the software is not actually installed on the computer that means it can run from a Flash Drive or from a CD – which usually makes the IT folks happy!
If you are close by and would like a workshop for teachers or for a classroom get in touch and we will work out the particulars. No charge but I may ask for lunch!
Click here to go to the OWN web site.