I was perusing the January 2020 issue of Astronomy magazine when I happened upon an advertisement from “TELESCOPE LIVE”, an Internet-based service offering telescope/imaging access from a collaboration of observatories around the world. Normally, I would only give something like this a glancing review, but then I noticed that they were offering 20 free “credits” during the month of December. That piqued my interest.
I went to the web site, https://telescope.live to investigate further. I found that they have three sites in Australia, Spain and Chile, offering wide-field refractors and reflectors of various sizes and sensors, including a full range of filters. The pricing structure seems reasonable to me. It turns out that a credit is currently valued a 1 US Dollar and the cost of using a given telescope is based on several considerations, including discounts for the phase of the moon and setup time.
Imagine that, imaging with a Meade 14” LX200 in Australia or a 1-meter telescope in Chile from the comfort of my desk? So, I decided why not? I created an account and discovered that the 20 free credits in December are in addition to the 20 credits that are provide with opening an account, so I had 40 credits to work with.
Off I was to schedule my first observing session. The menu was easy to use and intuitive. I quickly discovered that I cannot use the 1 meter telescope with my free credits, since there is a minimum time of 60 minutes required to schedule that telescope. At 3.3 credits per minute of telescope time, I would need almost 200 credits to consider that scope.
Not to be deterred I chose the Meade 14” telescope, given it has the lowest cost (0.8 credits/minute.) By experimenting with the Moon avoidance parameters, I was able to schedule two targets, the Horsehead Nebula (15 minutes) and Centaurus A (25 minutes) total exposure time. The full-calibrated Horsehead images should be completed by the 12th and Centaurus A by the 17th of December.
I’ll post the results when I have downloaded and processed the images. My astro-imaging future may have just taken a detour with this test drive!
Anyone else have experience with Internet-based imaging?