A web-based observatory (WBO) is an internet tool that makes high-end observing equipment available to the public. Whether you are a beginner, a seasoned astrophotographer, a science teacher, or a researcher, there are WBO services available for your needs. WBOs are the logical melding of today’s astro-imaging technology and widespread high-speed internet access. Computer-controlled CCD cameras entered the amateur scene about 20 years ago, followed soon after by computerized Go To telescope mounts. By the turn of the century software developers had created the necessary automation for observers to set up high-end observatories that could be remotely operated over the internet. WBOs make this technology available, for a modest fee, to any computer or mobile user with internet access.
I’m an autoditact and my philosophy is to use as few shots as possible and get the most out of this images with my own developed processing technics. We have to deal with many problems as astrophotographer in the netherlands but because of this problems I’m looking for solutions that do more advanced than that you do not have those problems. I always used low-budget equipment but with great results, how would it be if I would have quality instruments that I never can afford.
My dream come true, last year in october 2010 I got older issues Sky&Telescopes from my astro-friend who lives in Fullerton CA. I read an article about Web Based Observatories and this caught my attention (ObservatoriesOnTheWeb.pdf). I studied this article and I liked two Web Based Observatories very much (Lightbukets and GRAS) because you are in full command. When I was back at home in the Netherlands, I got a free 60 min drive with G3. I was at work doing my day job and stopped for a break and activated my iPhone 3GS and imaged my first picture of 103p/Hartley-2, Wow…, this is great. All I had to log in and enter the RA and Dec coordinates and the required exposure time and then click on the “Acquire Image” button. I could see the results direct on my iPhone 3GS. I did the same on a other day and imaged M33 (ET iPhone home). I like the possibility of using equipment in north and south latitudes at dark sites with the command of your mobile phone or wherever you are in the world, you have always your world-observatory in your pocket. GRAS is easy and direct to use, and you are in the heat of the explosion when something happens with GRAS target alert, this is awesome. Thats why GRAS is my favorite.
I became more experienced in using the remote control telescopes with my iPhone 3GS. I like the real-time support that GRAS can give you via Email or Skype. On a rare occasion I loged-in when I was at home and had a problem, I emaild support with my question. I went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and came back to my computer and notice that support has maild me back with a answer, they would always be there to make the necessary adjustments to the system and get me back on track.
I see GRAS not as a replacement of my own observatory but as an expansion to get the results I want because my interest has broadened to include asteroid and comet discovery, penetrate deeper into the cosmos and adding more real science. Thanks to GRAS I could made an color image of astroid Scheila-596 outburst, I combined the results of two great GRAS-scopes (G3-G11 (gras-gallery (Solar System))). There is also a 17 inch Planewave Near Infrared telescope available, Wow…,
Give me the tools and I make the results, thanks GRAS.