Getting Started: Making Your First Observation


Making your first astronomical observation with one of the telescopes is incredibly easy and can be done in just a couple of minutes. With the Faulkes Telescopes, you do not observe real time; instead you instruct the telescopes what you want to observe and when. This means you don't have to be sat at you computer waiting to take an image; instead the telescope will automatically observe for you and send you the images when it's complete. 

So, let's run through an example of how to observe something with the Faulkes telescopes.


1) Begin by logging in to your Faulkes Telescope account, as described previously in Guide 1. You will be logged in to the LCOGT website, from which you can set up your observations with the Faulkes Telescopes, as seen in the image below:

You will see two blue buttons in the middle of the page: 'Book an observing slot' and 'Request observations'. Beneath these will be your current telescope quota. This is how long you have left on your account to use the telescopes. Your quota will tell you how much time you have for each of the 2 metre wide and 1 metre wide telescopes. To make any observations, you must have an available telescope quota. If you need to request more time, please email with your name and the name of the school you are registered under. We will then credit extra time to your account.


2) The first step to making an observation is booking a time slot when we want to be able to control the telescope. Let's click on the blue 'Book an observing slot' button. This will take you to the page shown below:


On this screen you will see a calendar on the left hand side. This is how you select which day you would like to control the telescope and hence make your observations. Any day that is highlighted in blue is an available day. Select which day you would like to observe by clicking on it. When you have selected a day, a list of 15 minute time slots will be shown along with the location and size of the telescopes that are free in that time slot. Select which time and telescope slot you would like. You can then confirm your choice by clicking the 'Yes' button that has appeared at the top of the page.

We'll go through the difference between the two telescopes in a later tutorial, but for your first observation, don't worry which telescope or time slot you choose, if you don't have an object to observe in mind.


3) After booking your time slot, you will be taken back to the previous page. At the bottom of the page, you will see a calendar icon has been added underneath 'Up-coming bookings', representing the time slot you have booked. For this 15 minute the window, the telescope is yours to control, to observe what you wish. However, at the moment, we haven't told the telescope what we want to observe. So, the next step is to request an observation.


4) Click on the other blue button labelled 'Request Observations'. You will be taken to the following page:


On this page is where we can add observations in our time slot. Here you can select to either book an observation in the time slot you just selected. If you haven't booked a time slot, you can instead tell the telescopes to try to observe an object for you in the next 24 hours, 1 week or 2 weeks. The telescope will then try to fit your observation in when it can, within the specified time range. For your first observation, let's use the time slot we just booked. Under 'Your pre-booked slots', select the time slot you created a minute ago. If no time slot appears here, it will ask you to book a time slot, which you can do by pressing the 'Book a time slot' button under 'Your pre-booked slots'.


5) You will be taken to the following page:


Here we can add the object or objects we want to observe. These can be galaxies, stars, nebulae, planets or most other types of astornomical object in the night sky. At the moment there are no observations lined up in our telescope slot. So, let's add and observation by clicking the 'Add Observation' button at the bottom of the screen.


6) A new window will appear that looks like this:


In this window, we need to add the details of the object we want to observe. The boxes on the left allow you to either search for an object or enter your own Right Ascension and Declination positions on the sky. You can then choose which colour filters you want to observe it with and the exposure time. Don't worry if you don't understand these terms yet, we will explain them in a later tutorial. In the mean time, let's select one of the objects listed on the right hand side. These are recommended objects beacuse they are easy to see or particularly interesting. Click on the name of one of the objects and you will see it fills in all the boxes on the left for you automatically, so you don't need to fill them in yourself. When you're happy with your selected object to observe, click 'Add' at the bottom and you'll see your observation appear at the bottom of the page, as seen below:


Each slot is 15 minutes. Observing the object you just chose probably took less time than this, so why not try adding another object. As long as the total time is less than 15 minutes, you can observe as many different objects as you like!   

Now you just need to add a name for your observations in the box at the top of the screen and click the 'Submit' button at the top of the page. If the submit button is greyed out, it might be that the system is chekcing everything with your observation is OK. If it remains greyed out after a few seconds, make sure you've given a title for your observations and that the total observing time of all the objects you've queued up doesn't exceed your allotted time slot (usually 15 minutes).


7) And that's it! In your time slot you chose earlier, the telescope will observe the object(s) you just chose and return the images to you. When your time slot is done, come back to the main LCOGT observing portal screen and click the 'View all your observations' green button. From here you can click on any of your observations. To download them, right click on the 'FITS' or 'JPEG' link and click 'Save link as'.


In a later guide we will teach you how you can create colour images from your observations and some activities you can do with the final images.



You can also watch this video produced by LCOGT which goes through the basics of making an observation: 




Next: Guide 3 - Choosing your own target