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Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescope

Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 11:16 am
by rwilkinson
Whilst waiting patiently for a clear night here in Bolton, why not have a go at remote-controlled imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescope on Tenerife?
The skies there are clear more often than not!

The BRT Director John Baruch came to talk to us in 2007, and explained that these instruments were set up by his team at the University of Bradford as a test-bed for "robotic" telescope technology, and schools (and individual amateurs) are encouraged to make use of them.

Once you've registered as a user (which is free!) you can login and submit a "job request" - select your target object and choose a camera, filter and exposure time.
The "robot" will then add this to the job-queue, and eventually will email you to tell you that your job is complete - you can then login to the site and retrieve your files for further processing.

Here's an example of an image of M101 which I took with the Galaxy camera in March 2007 (I submitted the request on the 17th, and it was completed on the 31st):
The M101 "pinwheel" galaxy, imaged with a single 2-minute exposure
m101_brt.jpg (61.58 KiB) Viewed 20433 times
The "robot" knows the positions of most of the Messier, SAO, NGC and IC catalogue objects, and the planets, so it's easy to target these.
But it doesn't know about comets, so to capture these you need to guess when your job will run and work out their positions (RA and Dec co-ordinates) for this time, If the comet is in the inner solar system (and so moving quickly) - you need to use the wider field Cluster camera to have a chance of catching it in the field of view. My strategy was to choose a time over the school holidays, and submit a job request for the following night - if the job hadn't executed, then I'd cancel it and try again. I did manage a couple of successes:
Comet 29P/Holmes on 9-Nov-2007, using 2-min exposure on Cluster camera
holmes7.jpg (81.64 KiB) Viewed 20433 times
Comet 2006 VZ13 (LINEAR) on 12-Jul-2007 using 1-min exposure with Cluster camera.
c2006vz13b.jpg (39.49 KiB) Viewed 20433 times

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:55 pm
by rwilkinson
There's now a real-time data portal on the BRT website:
so you can watch the robot scheduling and executing jobs through the night - and if you're really lucky, see your own one run!
It started imaging just before 10pm this evening, and will be running through to 6:28am BST.

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 11:21 am
by rwilkinson
Following a servicing in June, the BRT's Cluster Cam is working well at the moment, and it executed my request of an image of Comet Hergenrother the following night:
request.jpg (49.86 KiB) Viewed 19740 times

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:47 pm
by rwilkinson
I've spent ages puzzling over an image which I took with the BRT's Galaxy Cam some months back, trying to capture Pluto.
But this morning I finally realised that when looking at their FITS file in IRIS, it's laterally inverted (a mirror-image) - so after applying Geometry.. Flip.. Vertical, I could suddenly recognise the star-field!
And the elusive minor planet was there in the middle of my image all the time: ... fullsize=1

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 12:47 pm
by rwilkinson
In order to maximise my chances of capturing a comet with the BRT, I carefully chose the RADEC co-ordinates so as to keep it in view for a few consecutive nights:
I had to wait four nights for this one
menu.png (14.39 KiB) Viewed 19718 times
But if it hadn't executed my request within this interval, I could login to cancel that job and submit a fresh one.

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Sat May 25, 2013 8:07 am
by rwilkinson
Now that the BRT has moved to a subscription-only regime
I've set up an account for BAS Members who'd like to use it from time to time (but not to the extent of subscribing themselves at £3 per month).
There's no limit to the number of images per month, but this account allows us to have ten jobs in the queue at any one time.

This observatory is on a mountain-top in Tenerife, and comprises three imaging systems (two camera lenses and a C14 SCT) with a variety of filter options. Jobs are limited to single images of up to 3 mins' duration, but there's nothing to stop you running a series of jobs on the same object.
Once the job is complete, you download the resulting FITS files and then process them as usual (e.g. using IRIS).
It can take a while for jobs to run - depending on the weather, and how many other users' (including many schools) jobs are in the queue, but it's a good way to image objects which are too far South to get from Bolton.

If you'd like to give this a try, contact me for details.

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Sat May 25, 2013 9:29 am
by bbones
Cheers Ross

Please include me as I would like to improve my image processing

Thanks Bill

Using "Library pictures" from the Bradford Robotic Telescope

Posted: Sun May 26, 2013 9:23 pm
by rwilkinson
Another very handy facility with the BRT is its Image Gallery.
From this it's possible to search its archive of completed jobs for previous images of a specific object, taken with a particular combintation of camera, filter, etc.

So earlier today I found a set of three images of Pluto taken on consecutive nights earlier this month, and was able to download the datasets (tri-colour FITS files for each image) for processing in IRIS. But when I made these into a GIF animation (using unFREEz) to illustrate the movement of the minor planet against the stellar background, I spotted another object moving across the three frames. On checking in Cartes du Ciel, I found that I'd "discovered" the asterioid (364) Isara!
I've loaded this animation into our Gallery: ... p?pid=1256

Re: Long-distance imaging with the Bradford Robotic Telescop

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 8:28 am
by bholmes
That's pretty neat Ross, well done. At £3 a month it's got to be worth a punt especially if you can download other images and practice processing them.

Imaging comet PanSTARRS with the Bradford Robotic Telescope

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 10:04 am
by rwilkinson
Since the BRT control system doesn't know about the position of comets, I have to use the wide-field Cluster Camera (a 180mm telephoto lens) and specify the RADEC co-ordinates of their estimated position a few nights ahead.
I submitted my request for this image of PanSTARRS last Friday and the image was taken at 2:30 this morning - I'd scored a "bulls-eye" on the target :D : ... p?pid=1261

And here's the image in normal rendering:
PS_28May.jpg (34.79 KiB) Viewed 19256 times