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GLORIA To Give Amateur Astronomers Access To Robotic Telescopes

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the just-like-youtube dept.

Space 35

Zothecula writes with an excerpt from a Gizmag article: "Amateur astronomers wanting to observe celestial bodies soon won't be limited to just their own personal telescopes, or visits to the local public observatory. Starting next year, the first in a worldwide network of robotic telescopes will be going online, which users from any location on the planet will be able to operate for free via the internet. Known as GLORIA (GLObal Robotic telescopes Intelligent Array for e-Science), the three-year European project will ultimately include 17 telescopes on four continents, run by 13 partner groups from Russia, Chile, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and Spain. Not only will users be able to control the telescopes from their computers, but they will also have access to the astronomical databases of GLORIA and other organizations."

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Can we trust robot telescopes? (4, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762560)

Can we really trust robot telescopes? How do we know they won't be sending SOS [save our sircuitry] signals to extraterrestrial robotic civilizations without our knowledge?

It is only a matter of time before the robot telescopes invite an invasion force of galactical roomba warlords to enslave humanity.

Re:Can we trust robot telescopes? (2)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762644)

But we can also tell them to send a different signal. That's the beauty of distributed computing: some nodes will misbehave, but the signal from the rest can overcome them.

Unless the number of rogue nodes exceeds a percolation threshold...

Who gets credit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37762570)

... if something new is discovered? Im not sure something being discovered by "Niggerdicks6969" would sit well with me

Re:Who gets credit.. (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762688)

When you discover something, there is a Wolowitz dilemma: you can be punished if you reveal your identity, but without revealing it, you won't get credit if the discovery is rewarded.

Re:Who gets credit.. (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763060)

May find out that it's his real name and people on forums have been awful to the guy for years. Poor Mr dicks6969.

Re:Who gets credit.. (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763490) []

"In nearly all states, a person cannot choose a name that is intended to mislead (such as adopting a celebrity's name), that is intentionally confusing, or that incites violence; nor can one adopt, as a name, a racial slur, a threat, or an obscenity."

Re:Who gets credit.. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37764452)

But that person doesn't need to be born in the U.S.
Maybe in some language "nigg" means "peace", "erd" means "of", "icks" means "world", and 6969 is considered a lucky number.

Re:Who gets credit.. (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765076)

"6969 is considered a lucky number" that name does not make any sense for a single person.

Re:Who gets credit.. (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762964)

I'm sure there's a really low supply of complete douchebags/morons interested in astronomy.

Cloud Astronomy (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762606)

We have already cloud computing and crowd sourcing, various @home, distributed hosting of data (torrents), what is else left undistributed? I am not even mentioning malicious applications (cf. Methods section of Office Space). CCTV cameras? It's all Internet based, of course. Amazing how information flow moving from server->clients to servers->clients to practically everybody->everybody. Our connected computers are truly becoming some kind of swarm organism with the control of myriad peripheral devices.

Old news (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762640)

Old old old old news []

Scroll down to "remote access telescope projects"

This seems to only list "free" options, I donno how you miss GRAS. To a first approximation GRAS is cheap enough compared to owning to be "free". []

I have always been into the AAVSO and have always had this desire to do CCD photometry, or at least for a decade or so since it became easy to do. The plan has been to rent time on a scope, and if I really like it, I'll drop four or so figures on the exact same model. Rent before buy.

Or I'll run the rental for awhile until I get sick of it and swear off the hobby forever. I've never done it, always planned to "when I have time".

Kind of like how I rented a Cessna 172 for many hours but thankfully never bought one outright (given that I don't do the private pilot thing anymore, it would have been a huge money loss)

Re:Old news (1)

mwlp (2019424) | more than 2 years ago | (#37764536)

Like *wicked* old old old news... The MicroObservatory here at the Harvard - Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has been online since 1998!

I don't get it (1, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762676)

The (tiny) community of professional astronomers can't agree on where to point their instruments, and for how long, how is a telescope which can be aimed by any idiot with a browser going to do anything but thrash?

Re:I don't get it (1)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763610)

A simple method of requiring a user to create an account, which could then either be timeslotted or placed in a queue would be the obvious answer. Once it's your turn, you get 10 minutes or whatever. It's the norm today for almost all telescopes.

Situation right now (3, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762686)

This isn't as big a jump as the summary suggests. There are amateurs who sometimes get access to large telescopes, and one can do decent in system astronomy with backyard telescopes. Similarly, a lot of the observation of the recent supernova in M85 were done by amateur astronomers. Since one of the most important things to determine about a supernova is how the brightness rises and falls, for close by supernova it is very important to have near continual observation with a lot of data points. Since there are a lot of amateur astronomers out there this means that even when a major telescope doesn't have a good view of the event they can still see it. Also, while not amateurs in the sense of adults, similar programs to give telescope time to highschool and college students exist. Significant discoveries from that sort of work have been discussed on Slashdot before. [] .

This is not the first of its kind (1)

manlygeek (958223) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762804)

I applaud the annoucement and access to so many scopes, but it's not a first. SLOOH is a service (i.e. you have to pay for it) that has access to some robotic scopes to do very short observing runs and capture some crude astrophotography. I'm sure that GLORIA will probably be much better but the question is, how are targets going to be prioritized. That's the problem with professionals getting time on scopes. Just imagine what a nightmare that will be for all us Amateurs.

Re:This is not the first of its kind (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762898)

how are targets going to be prioritized. That's the problem with professionals getting time on scopes. Just imagine what a nightmare that will be for all us Amateurs.

With the "pay to play" providers its pretty straightforward.

With it being free, I'm assuming its going to be demographic and politically correct multiculturalism on a quota system, friends of friends, "online social media campaigns", and so forth. May as well just ignore it.

ESA video from Ireland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37762868)

Safeties? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37762954)

Are there any provisions for safety mechanisms? Like, aren't there a few (okay maybe just one, the Moon) celestial objects that are so bright it could damage the sensors on a moderately large telescope?

Also, as an earlier poster mentioned, what's to keep a user from "thrashing" the telescope from side to side possibly damaging/wearing it out? On the other hand, are these agile enough to track objects in LEO? Can the users "program" it to do so (have a track a moving object as opposed to a spot in the sky?).

I assume none of them have that fancy anti-atmospheric aberration green laser attached to the scope, THEN a remote user could do some real damage to some passing planes/satellites!

Re:Safeties? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37763476)

All the conspiracy theorists with no notion of resolving power can point it at the moon and smugly announce the lack of a visible landing sight.

Re:Safeties? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763546)

I guess they will have safety limitations built in. The position of the moon is well known, as are the times with daylight, and the limitations of the instruments. There may also be some staff overseeing the operations able to do an emergency shutdown of the instruments (stop motors, cover telescope). After all, even without malicious or stupid users, there may be situations where the telescope has to be shut down e.g. to protect it from extreme weather conditions.

Re:Safeties? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763684)

Also, as an earlier poster mentioned, what's to keep a user from "thrashing" the telescope from side to side possibly damaging/wearing it out?

Despite being called "new" this is very old, and historically the interface has been batchy, like gimme that R.A. and Dec and some optical parameters and away you go.

I'd be curious how they handle focusing. Live human being on site?

Telescopes need to be focused? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37764882)

They can't be just set at infinity? :)

Though it would be kinda neat if you could focus say from 1500-2000 light years. That way all the junk (planets, satellites, aliens) in front and all the stuff behind (galaxies, heaven, god) would be pleasantly blurry.

More seriously, I'm surprised they don't have some autofocusing mechanism like my cheap pocket camera does. I guess they can't project a little pattern onto the scene like some cameras used to do (it would require quite a light source and you'd be waiting a looooonnnnng time.). Even that would work better than the sonar focusing system the Polaroid SX-70 camera I suppose.

Re:Telescopes need to be focused? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765932)

I think you're going to need a bigger mirror for that... :)

Focal planes only exist at less than the hyperfocal distance, given by H=f^2/NC.

The hubble has a focal length of 58m - let's consider that a good figure to shoot for. Let's say the pixel size is 10uM. Suppose we want a hyperfocal distance of 2000 light years.

Plugging it all into google [] we get that we need an aperature of f-1.8x10^-10. That's a bit faster than the typical DSLR lens. F-number is just f/d, so given that f is 56m we can plug that back into google [] and get that you need a mirror about 2.8 au in diameter. Have fun with that... :)

Re:Telescopes need to be focused? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37766216)

Oh, I forgot to say - the reason for the focus on a telescope is to correct for warping of the structure of the telescope, not really to move the focal plane per se.

And there is something comical about having a mirror the size of the earth's orbit focusing its light in on a central point floating only 56 meters above the surface of the meter at the center. I imagine that all kinds of crazy effects come into play in such a situation. Sunlight reflecting off of a comet in the ort cloud would probably burn a hole in a steel plate for starters...

Hmm, the CMB has a flux of [] 3uW/m^2. The mirror has an area of [] 5*10^23 m^2. So, that means that your eyepiece has [] 1.6 exawatts of power focused on it just from the big bang. You'd certainly have no trouble making out the structure of the early universe.

Actually, I'm not certain about the last calculation - the mirror has that much radiation falling on it, but I'm not sure if all of that would be focused on the eyepiece. Plus, that assumes that your mirror reflects all wavelengths of EM since most of that energy is way down into the RF range.

Re:Telescopes need to be focused? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37767570)

Oh, too bad, I thought maybe I had stumbled across an idea that would've helped astronomy. I would've called it the "Vari-Focus Telescope". Clearly impractical for now, especially with our current fiscal problems.

Wow (1)

honeymoondestination (1849704) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763268)

Just few days ago I was searching for such an online telescope and now here it is.

Oblig. (1)

No, I am Spratacus! (2281684) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763364)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic telescope overlords..

Hey! Does this include RADIO telescopes? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763706)

I couldn't tell (from my incredibly brief skimming of the article) whether this included non-visible spectrum telescopes, notably radio telescopes.

Although it seems that radio telescopes are far too specialized and technical (expensive) a resource to be shared with the public, it would be neat to control one of those "dishes". I once worked on a S.E.T.I. project using the 84 ft. telescope at Harvard, MA (owned by Harvard U.) and I wouldn't mind more time on it. Of course probably the only thing we "amateurs" would do with it is look (or rather listen) for E.T. There might be someone out there who "knows" that the real interstellar communications frequency isn't around the "water hole" but around the methane line because that's what everybody who's anybody breathes!

If there are any (very high) ground based far-infrared telescopes available perhaps the sophisticated amateur could look for Dyson spheres (although it might to hard to tell them apart from the super cool brown dwarfs they've been finding).

One meeting does not make a Web 2.0 service (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37763758)

So a bunch of universities have got together and decided it would be a nice idea to let people play with some of their telescopes. They held a meeting in Madrid a couple of weeks ago and ... that's it.
The website contains a lot of "will" and "going" but no "is" or "does", so personally I'll give it a year or two and see if it ever gets beyond a few meetings and some nice ideas. In the meantime, there's always the commercial outfits (e.g. GRAS, no association) that ARE actually connecting eyeballs with telescopes, via the web.

That's not a GLORIA picture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37764580)

The (rather terrible) image that Gizmag has used is not from the GLORIA lot at all, it was infact taken by the Bradford Robotic Telescope which is based in Tenerife and which I help to run! You can see the image of it here [] .

The BRT has taken far better images than this, I'm not entirely sure why they chose that one...

Good idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37764584)

This is a great idea until someone decides to use it to spy on their best friend's mom when they take a shower. Observing heavenly bodies does not include that! XD

Don't forget about current data availability (1)

xeeno (313431) | more than 2 years ago | (#37764774)

There is a gigantic amount of available observational data through projects like VSO, and people have written lots of nifty interfaces, e.g. aladin ( It's even GPL...

space pr0n (1)

anjilslaire (968692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37764948)

Now they'll be looking for the Gloria Hole next...

fapturbo (1)

orange2008 (1440407) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765264)

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