Recent News

June 23, 2017: A poster-paper titled: A Robotic "Social Media" Controlled Observatory for Education and Research was displayed at the Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education Conference held in San Diego. A version of the poster reformatted for easy printing and reading is here.

June 12, 2017: Here are a few items of note:

  1. German amateur astronomer Jan Hattenbach as written a blog about Das Twitter-Teleskop (its in German but Google Translate does a good job of translating it into English).
  2. John Read has produced a couple of new robotic telescope tutorial videos about becoming authorized and making colour images. 
  3. Observatory Director Dave Lane, is off to two conferences in Ontario and San Diego, California later this week - he will be tweeting from the conferences. The first is the Symposium on Telescope Science and the second is Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education Conference - a poster paper on the BGO Robotic Telescope will be displayed there.

March 8, 2017: A major new robotic telescope feature is released today: social media-based image processing. See the documentation for how to use it and watch this video tutorial.

Highlights of 2016 (January 9, 2016)

Since the 2016 year is now over, I thought I'd summarize some highlights of what was the busiest and most exciting year in the observatory's 45 year history!

I am also pleased to report that the promised Facebook interface is now live for beta testing! This now means you can interact with it by public tweets, Twitter direct messages, email, and Facebook messaging!

Some highlights and statistics of the year:

  • 30 Monday night Group Tours were completed (usually 15-25 people)
  • 27 Friday Public Open Houses were scheduled - due to bad weather only about 12 events actually took place (tickets for these events are limited at 24 people and are typically gone within a couple of hours of being posted.
  • 22 (recorded) media interviews with me about various topics during the year.
  • Over 2,200 robotic observations were completed during 148 nights of operation, the shortest being a snapshot of the Moon and the longest being several hour time-series observations of variable stars! 310 "observers" are now authorized to use it
  • SMU course usage: ASTR1001, ASTR1100, ASTR2100, ASTR4200. This was a combination of both robotic imaging and in person observing (typically staffed Tues/Weds/Thurs evenings during the Fall and Winter terms).
  • Robotic software development has been on-going during the year and many, many new features have been released during the year, including time series observations, live image posting, Twitter direct message control, position and focus offsets, and better reliability. Many exciting new features are planned for 2017!
  • It is beginning to be used by high-school classes - notably French high school astronomy classes from New Brunswick (Spring and Fall semesters).
  • Thousands of variable star observations were taken automatically and submitted to the American Association of Variable Star Observers. It is also being used by several external researchers for research projects.
  • In March, Twitter recognized the observatory as one of 10 unique ways that Twitter was being used in Canada. Extensive local and national media coverage resulted.
  • In the summer, the SMU development department produced a professional donor "thank you" video for Dr. Medjuck that featured Luigi Gallo, Tiffany Fields, Martin Hellmich and Dave Lane. A shortened version for our own promotional use was created and is now featured on our home page.
  • This past fall, SMU recruiting chose the Twitter observatory as one of It All Starts Here items featuring Tiffany Fields.
  • In December, an image taken for and processed by student Martin Hellmich has apparently been chosen as the cover shot for the 2017 science faculty calendar.
  • In June, a special issue of Nova Notes, the local newsletter of the RASC contained an article about the observatory written by me and several others written by observatory users.
  • In August, the observatory was featured in the major US physics magazine: Physics Today. The article resulted from interviews with Tiffany Fields, Dave Chapman (RASC member) and myself.
  • In December, a new re-styled mobile-friendly and updated/expanded website was developed.

Dave Lane, BGO Director


News Coverage about the World's First Twitter-Controlled Observatory

Twitter tweets about us and takes notices what we are doing as part of their 10th anniversary. See this BLOG (March 21, 2016)

Quoted from the CBC News article:

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory (@smubgobs) at Saint Mary's University in Halifax takes space image requests from Twitter-users and tweets back pictures the next time there is a clear night.

"We couldn't find anything else like it," said Rory Capern, managing director of Twitter Canada, "We think it's a first in the world for an observatory to have a Twitter-controlled application and we think that's special."

Dave Lane, the observatory director as Saint Mary's University, developed the page.

"I think it's pretty cool. I suspect they found out about us because one of their employees in California stumbled upon our site a couple of weeks ago and he called it really cool so he must have shared it with his colleagues," said Lane.

Selected media coverage:


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