I (Jari) have been interested in space all my life, I made a presentation in the school about the Moon just prior the moon expeditions and really wanted to know more about stars. I had purchased a cheap telescope, which I gladly returned after finding the many manufacturing flaws. The Nordic weather did prevent me (or I did not have enough perseverance and a proper councel) to make further learning about stars. Let's face it, when we have warm enough, the sky is too light and when the sky is dark, you are feeling chilly all the time. So, when my retirement was looming, I had decided to make one last effort for astronomy.
In April 2019, I made my first efforts to make some study how to do astronomy. I looked on different amateur telescopes, explored how to take images with my Canon D600 and downloaded many apps for my Mac and iPad. Also, I tried to find a good sighting place in the vicinity
At those times I learned about Messier Marathons and figured that it could be a good start: Take an image of all the 110 objects in the sky. It was a challenge, which turned out to be really hard - until I found Slooh. I also started to make my own notebook on the objects on OneNote, which would grow with my explorations.
With the many obstacles, I was thinking that there must be some way to have access to telescopes via the web. And I was right! With an annual cost of $20, one can access Slooh Observatories with nine telescopes. With that beginner's level you can reserve one five minute mission any time at night. The robotic telescope would then make your observation and process the image for you. Also, you are able to follow (robosnapp) five other missions reserved by your colleagues.The image from a mission is ready for use, though the PNG-type file has its limitations. Quite soon I found that with an annual $100 dollar investment one can do the same on the 'apprentice' level, but you get unprocessed telescope image files (FITS files). It means that the telescopes provides you with four files, each monochromatic, taken through different lenses. One luminosity (L), one red (R), one green (G) and one blue (B) image
And then here the fun starts as you need to process yourself these monochromatic images. Slooh has its own processor with excellent manuals and there are many programs available for astrophotography, some free and some commercial products. I decided to go with Pixinsight as it offered a three month testing using the full program. And after becoming familiar with it, I was ready to pay the $200+ price for the program. But wait, after a time I wasn't happy with my single mission. So I decided to update my status to 'astronomer' level (how nice that sounded) with five simultaneous missions and five robosnapps. The applied annual fee is $300. So this isn't free, but I still find the costs moderate
As an educator I want to point out the Mission of Slooh, which has a strong educational weight The web site has information about 1000 meaningful objects on the night sky and the guides also educates about various techniques with astronomy. The activities of each member earn membership point, where your internal level increases along your work. The members can join various quests that send them in hunting information about objects and requires you to make your own missions. Furthermore, members are also requested to file out their observations, which are shared in the chats and alerts on the web site. And Slooh provides affordable prices for schools, so the pupils don't have to invest as much as I have done. And boy, if I as a kid could have had something like this in my hands...
And not to mention the vivid discussions about all the observations that can happen, and that encouraged me to join the American Association of Star Observers (AAVSO), where amateurs like me can assist scientific astronomy by following stars that have changes in the light magnitude.
Slooh currently has two observatories on places were the conditions for astronomy are as best they can be. Tenerife Observatory is situated on the volcano Teide at the altitude of 2372 meters. The largest telescope has a mirror of a half a meter (20 inches). The other observatory is in Santa Marina in Chile at an altitude of 1450 m. Slooh installed here in February 2020 a new 17 inch telescope that has provided some amazing views.
As thrilling as it sounds, my quest to gather all Messier's objects is now over. This 'marathon' took six months, which was possible thanks to Slooh. I have collected ten images on this page, due to the large file sizes they are made quite small, though you can increase the image to a 500 pixel width by clicking the image or the name of the image. I also have made a Messier Info page, where the various Messier's objects are described in more details and compared to the interactive sky map provided by Aladin Lite.
The most challenging Quests provide us with awesome looking posters, where the images you have gathered in performing the Quest are laid out in a beautiful manner.
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