Frequently Asked Questions
Below you can find some of our users most frequently asked questions. This FAQ is also available on the support forum. If you have a question that has not been mentioned below then check out the support forum as someone may have already answered your question. If all else fails you can submit a post in our support forum or contact us.
I have forgotten my username and password. What do I do?
Send an email to with your name and the name of the school you have registered under. We will send a reminder to the email address that you registered with.
Why don't you email me to tell me the weather is bad?
The weather at the locations of the telescopes is highly changable and although there are periods of uninterrupted good weather there are also periods where the weather is bad. In all of our documentation (planning section of our website and user guide) we stress the importance of planning your session. This includes checking the status of the telescope prior to your session. We have a section on the right hand side of the homepage indicating the current status of the telescope. We update this throughout the day so that the information is always current.
We do not email schools because situations change very quickly and half an hour can really make the difference. We do not want a situation where you abandon a session based on information that has been superceded.
UK and Irish schools can apply for more time for free, at any point, using the Application for telescope time form.
What is the difference between peak, off-peak and off-line?
Peak time is time that is allocated for schools use during the school day; Monday - Friday, 09h-15h. Other times will appear as off-peak and are for community users and amateur astronomers. Please note that the times at which the telescope is available each day will sometimes be longer or shorter than this.
Off-line time is used when observations are put into a queue to be done at the most efficient time for the telescope. This is mostly outside the peak time slots during the week and at the weekend.
How do I access the simulator (Teacher Training Server)?
The simulator can be accessed from here . This does not require opening ports on your firewall like the old system used to. We have tested this system but if you encounter any problems please add a posting to the support forums.
Unfortunately the simulator software is no longer supported by the
software engineers so faults with the simulator cannot always be fixed immediately. If you want to run through how to control the telescopes we recommend that you use the walk-through RTI demo, which can be found here.
If you were planning on using the simulator to plan your observing
session however, then we recommend that you use Stellarium or another
planetarium software package. Information on planning your session can
be found on our resources portal here.
Student access to the simulator?
If you would like to give your students access the simulator but not want them to be able to book time, there is a dedicated simulator account. Please contact the operations centre for further details.
What length of exposure should I use?
Advice on exposure lengths can be found by following this link. Note that planets must not be observed, as they cause a significant ghost image on the CCD.
What do all the different filter sets mean?
Advice on filters can be found by following this link.
Constraints on where the telescope will point
The telesope control systems will warn you if you try to observe between 25-30 deg of the horizon and will prevent you from observing below 25 degrees. They will do they same when in proximity of the moon.
What are FITS files?
Astronomers use a different sort of type of image file than you may have come across. It is called Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) and is like a very detailed version of a jpeg or tiff image file. These images cannot be read by your web browser, you will need to download a special application to read them.
For more information about FITS viewers, see our advice pages which list recommended software packages for use with FITS files.
How can I turn my FITS files into colour jpegs?
This is quite a tricky process but it can be very rewarding, exposing structure in your observations which may have been hidden. The process can be quite involved so it is worth looking at our colour imaging pages here for more advice on how to do this.
What is the latitude and longitude of the Telescope sites?
Latitude: N 20 42' 27.35" Longitude: W 156 15' 21.72"
Latitude: S 31 16' 23.5" Longitude: E 149 04' 13.0"