One of the best things about camping out is to lay in the sleeping bag at night, high up in the mountains, and look up at the night sky. All those familiar objects like the belt of Orion, Vega, Polaris, and the Big Dipper are gone. Well not really, there are just another million or so lights up there with them. There are huge rivers of stars, blotches of stars and gaggles of stars everywhere. That does not count the shooting stars, satellites, and the occasional bat flitting by.
On Mother’s Day I saw an article about narco submarines and that had me looking up blue-green lasers for penetrating seawater to track submarines, which lead to tripping over telescopes. Hmm, there must be places where you can use robot telescopes online, right?
I found one site called Bright Hub with a list of available online telescopes. So I tried a couple.
The first one was the Micro Observatory by way of NASA and Harvard. It looks like the telescope is in Southern California from the web site. I chose a suggested view of the Lagoon Nebula in color and with a few clicks and my email I got this back the next day:
The return email had instructions on how to use the software and align the three filtered photographs of the observation I had selected to make the color image. There is a link to free software to doing the assembly and adjusting the image quality. (You can also just get black and white images that are very good also.)
Yes, this is a real image of the night sky from telescope you can order made yourself. There are many great pictures of this particular nebula that you can find, and this one is not in the drawer with National Geographic, but it is one I had done in real-time from my own computer.