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Questions and Answers

Starting And Stopping Subscriptions

+How long is a subscription for?

The subscription term is one month. After subscribing and paying, your account will be active for one month, at which point PayPal will send another payment, activating another month. This will occur each month until you (or we) cancel it.

+How much does it cost?

It is £3 per month for a standard account (with a telescope job queue length of 10) and it is £10 per month for a professional account (with a telescope job queue length of 40).

+When can I cancel my subscription?

You can cancel your subscription at any time. Your current month will continue as normal with normal access to your account. At the end of your current month, and when no payment is received from PayPal, your account will change to “unsubscribed”. When your account changes to “unsubscribed”, any active telescope requests you have will be cancelled.

+How can I cancel my subscription?

Once subscribed, there is a button in the “My Account” section of the Telescope website which takes you to the correct page at PayPal to unsubscribe.

It is even possible to unsubscribe just by using the PayPal website. The subscription payments are done using PayPal's “Recurring Payment” scheme. After logging into your PayPal account you can find your recurring payments: Click the “Profile” gear icon at the top right to access your PayPal profile. On the next page there should be a box at the bottom right titled “Payment Settings”. In this box, click on “Pre-approved payments”. You will now see a list of your recurring payment instructions. Click on the one for “Exscitec Ltd”. On the next page there is a link to cancel the recurring payment instruction.

+Can I re-subscribe after cancelling?

Yes – if your account is in “unsubscribed” state with no current active subscription, you can resubscribe. Any images you had in your account from your previous subscription will be available to you again.

If you have cancelled, but your subscription still needs to run to the end of the current month, you will not be able to resubscribe until your current subscription has ended. When you subscription ends, the website will again offer you the subscription options.

+Can I pause my subscription?

Yes. Cancel your subscription as described above, and at some future time, resubscribe as described above. Your account will wait for you for as long as you like.

+What payment methods are available?

At this time only PayPal is supported. As we use recurring payments, you will need some form of payment method added to your PayPal account, such as a credit / debit card or bank account. We are looking at adding more payment methods in the future.

+What is a subscription for?

A subscription allows you access to the restricted parts of the web site. The list of these areas includes (but is not limited to):

  • The database of jobs the telescope has done with all available images
  • The historical database of weather sensor data collected
  • The live real-time data from the telescope system
  • Webcam time-lapse videos
  • Your own telescope observations
  • The ability to submit requests to the telescope

Please note that due to the way the telescope works, and factors beyond our control such as weather or hardware breakages, direct access to the telescope is not a guaranteed part of a subscription.

Telescope Availability

+What kind of telescope is it?

The telescope is a Schmidt-Cassegrain Celestron C14 reflector. We also have two wide field astronomy cameras on the mount. See our Telescope Information page for more details.

+What access to the telescope do I get with a subscription?

With a subscription you get a telescope job queue with a number of slots in it, for example, 10. At any one time you can have up to 10 telescope job requests queued at the telescope.

+Does this mean I get 10 images per month?

No! The limit is the number of requests you can have in the system at any one time. As soon as one of your requests is observed one of your queue slots becomes free and you may enter another request. There is no explicit limit on the number of images you can receive in a month.

+What is a telescope job / request?

To have the telescope take an image for you, you specify what you want an image of, the filter(s) you would like applied, the exposure time of the image and other details. (This is made easy for you with help along the way). Your request is transmitted to the telescope which will take your image when it can.

+Can I control the telescope myself?

No. Our telescope operation is totally autonomous. From reading the request to sending back the image, it is all done without human input.

+Can I book a time slot on the telescope?

No. The telescope operates entirely without human direction, including deciding when telescope requests are observed.

+Does the telescope operate every night?

We aim to have the telescope operate every night – this is how it is designed to run. However, it is a very complicated system in an inhospitable environment. There are many reasons why the telescope may not be operating:

  • Bad weather – If the weather station at the observatory deems the weather conditions unsuitable, the telescope does not operate.
  • Power supply failure – The observatory is in a remote and inhospitable location and while quite rare, power supply cuts do happen.
  • Telescope hardware failure – There are many, many hardware components at the observatory that all have to work together to allow an autonomous telescope to operate. Some failures we can cope with (we have many backup systems and workaround possibilities). However, some failures will and do make it impossible for telescope operation to continue. This is when humans are required, and sometimes the telescope has to wait for a human to go and fix something.
  • Maintenance / servicing – Usually following a component failure described above, we visit the observatory to fix what has gone wrong and generally service everything else. Whilst various sections of the observatory are in pieces on a table, the telescope cannot operate. Also, servicing visits usually involve a realignment (calibration) of the telescope – this requires the telescope to be unavailable for normal use for 1-3 nights.

For all these reasons we simply cannot guarantee the telescope will operate every night. We ask that you consider this when thinking about what you are paying for. When a critical failure occurs we work as hard as possible to bring the telescope online again.


+When will my images be taken?

All telescope requests from all users are pooled and done in an order determined by the scheduling software. The scheduler takes many factors into account such as request age and where the Moon is, but the largest factor is where in the sky your observation target is. If your target reaches high in the sky for long periods of time then you have more chance of your jobs being done. For a target such as this we usually estimate that a week is a normal waiting time. However, it is very possible to receive completed jobs the following day.

+Are images checked before being returned to users?

No. The whole telescope operation is autonomous, up to and including emailing you about a completed observation. Within minutes of an image being taken for you at the telescope, it will be available for you to view in your account on the web site.

+Why aren't all images perfect?

The telescope operates totally autonomously, and while we have software in place to detect poor telescope alignment / tracking and dome problems, some poor quality images will get through, for a variety of reasons. This is just a consequence of totally autonomous operation. There is nothing to prevent you from simply requesting the same observation again. On a different night with different conditions, the image may turn out much better.

+What settings can I choose for my telescope requests?

  • Target: You may select from: The Moon, 7 planets, A list of 88 constellations, the Messier catalogue, the SAO catalogue, the IC catalogue, the NGC catalogue, a small list of minor planets (more added on request), a small list of comets (more added on request) or you may enter RA and DEC coordinates.
  • Camera: You may select one of our three cameras: the very wide field “constellation” camera, the medium field “cluster” camera, or the main telescope “galaxy” camera.
  • Exposure time: You may select an exposure time in milliseconds between 20 and 180000 (three minutes).
  • Dark frames: You may choose to have a dark frame taken with your image or not.
  • Filter selection: You may select an optical filter to be applied to your observation; details of the available filters on each camera are here.

Other options may be available.

+My image has vertical lines through the stars

This occurs when the image has been exposed for too long. The light captured from the star has overflowed what the camera can handle and has flowed into vertically adjacent cells on the camera chip. This effect is called “blooming”. Try your observation again with a lower exposure time.

+Can I use observation images from the ART for ….....?

The copyright for all images produced by the ART remains with The Open University. However, use on/in web sites, magazines or similar publications is acceptable as long as the Autonomous Robotic Telescope is credited on or near the image.


+I have a question not listed here

You may find your question has been answered on the forum. You can email us and somebody will do their best to answer you. The address is on our contact-us page.

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