Remote-controlled Telescope Observing Program

Description of Project:

The New Mexico Skies remote observatory

We are running an observing program with remote controlled telescopes at the New Mexico Skies Observatory (NMSO) during the 2008-09 school year. This program is for RBSE and TLRBSE teachers and their students. These telescopes are accessible over the internet and are available for use on most any clear night. Observers may propose any project of their own design within the criteria described below. Proposals may support classroom astronomy education, science fair projects, term research projects, or TLRBSE projects. Note that applications to this program are for time on the NM Skies remote controlled telescopes only, and do not include any telescope on Kitt Peak.

The NMSO Internet telescopes are 14" Celestrons, with an SBIG ST-8XE camera having with a chip size of 1530x1020 pixels. The telescopes are optimized for deep space objects such as faint galaxies, star clusters and nebulae. Objects brighter than about magnitude 5.5, such as the moon, the visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), and brighter stars (like Sirius, Vega, Deneb, Altair, Antares, etc.), are too bright for the system and will always be overexposed. Images can be made in color or in any of several available filters. This is an excellent opportunity to teach sky coordinates, CCD imagery, image processing, how to design and organize an observing program, and how to design and carry out an observational research project.

General information about NMSO can be found at:


Additional information, including how to log onto the telescopes, will be provided when a proposal has been accepted. The Tucson support person for this project is Dr. Katy Garmany (garmany at

Who Is Eligible?

The project is currently open to any teacher who has participated in the RBSE and TLRBSE summer observing programs and their students.

Observing Teams:

Observing teams can be a large as an entire class or as small as one student under the supervision of a teacher. Teachers are expected to approve and monitor all observational sessions and activities.

Application Procedure:

Initial Exploration: simply email Katy Garmany and request exploration time. You and your class will automatically be granted four (4) hours to get to know the NMSO system and do some initial observations. Upon receipt of your request, I will send you additional information to help get you started.

NOTE: NMSO is NOT a queue system in which you submit an observing request and get your data later. NMSO telescopes are controlled remotely in real time, so you and your students need to be at your computer when it is dark in New Mexico—not during school hours (unless you happen to live in Hawaii). NMSO is on Mountain Time.

You can download a calendar that shows sunset, end of twilight, sunrise and other useful observing quantities at the New Mexico Skies site for every day of 2008 and 2009.

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The Astronomy RBSE program is administered by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory with funds from the National Science Foundation.