This brief Twitter tutorial should help you learn how to use the Robotic Telescope to obtain your first image. While this tutorial assumes you are using Twitter public tweets to communicate with the telescope, the syntax is the same (just leave off the "@smubgobs") for the other communication methods.

The first step is to obtain an Observer Account and become authorized – see the Getting Started page. After you are authorized, you are then considered an "observer" and requested images will be taken by the telescope. You will also find your name on our Authorized Observers page (this page is good way to find your observations - requested and completed).

You should start by sending a test tweet like:

@smubgobs #hello

If it received and understood your message, it will reply with:

#bgoreplies @davidjameslane Hi, I'm the Burke-Gaffney Observatory with its Ralph Medjuck telescope at Saint Mary's University!

In the simplest form, sending the following message will cause it to take a 5 minute exposure of the galaxy Messier 65.

@smubgobs #request object=M65

Which it may reply with:

#bgoreplies @davidjameslane Sorry, I cannot observe M65 in the next 30 days!

Opps, my mistake. M65 is a spring object in Leo and could not be observed at that time. The telescope validates every request to make sure that it is in its database and reasonably observable from Halifax in the next month.

If you want to check an object’s validity before actually requesting it, try this:

@smubgobs #lookupobject object=M33

It replies with:

#bgoreplies @davidjameslane Fixed object M33 found at position RA=01:33:53.4 DEC=+30d39'04", and it can be observed now

Success! Now let’s actually request it, but perhaps with a longer exposure than the default and let’s improve the image quality by observing it when it is high in the sky and with a not too bright Moon:

@smubgobs #request object=M33

It replies with:

#bgoreplies @davidjameslane Object M33 is in my request queue as ID 1574 (exposure=300 seconds filter=LUM)

The Requested Observations page always has a live listing of the telescope's request queue.

When the observation actually takes place depends not only the availability of clear weather. Every time it’s ready to make an observation, it scans through the queue to see which observations can take place at that moment. Then, it plays a "points" game involving a number of factors including the priority (our students and special projects get a higher priority), how far the telescope has to move from its present position, how long the object has been in the queue, and several other factors. The request with the highest point score is done.

Just after your request is done it replies with a live (lower resolution) image and a message like:

#bgoreplies @davidjameslane I just took this image for you of M33 (ID 1574) in the LUM filter! Raw data will be ready in the morning.

And in the morning after all images are processed, you will be notified:

#bgoreplies @davidjameslane Your observations are ready - see the Queue and Observer's page on the website

Look for your observations on the Completed Observations page. More recent observations are near the top, but you can search by object name. All of this "magic" happens while most of us are sleeping! You are provided both the raw data (a FITS format file) and a jpeg image automatically processed, which usually shows the requested object quite nicely.

After you have completed observations you can improve them using the #process command.

Next Steps

  • Review the available commands
  • Read our FAQ
  • If you get stuck, ask for help from a human by using the #human command
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