News Feature

Control your OWN Robotic Telescope for White House Astronomy Night

Share your image with the world! Compare with images taken by NASA's space telescopes

Dear Astronomy Educators and Enthusiasts,

On October 19, the White House is hosting White House Astronomy Night, and YOU can join the celebration. Not in DC? No telescope? Cloudy skies? Don't worry, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in collaboration with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, invite you to become an astrophotographer. Use the online MicroObservatory Network to capture your very own images of space with real telescopes that you control over the internet! Once you download your image, use free image-processing software to enhance and colorize it, just like professional astronomers do. Then, find an image of the same space object taken by one of NASA's space telescopes. Share your image compared with your NASA image on your favorite social network!

Detailed Instructions for MicroObservatory Astrophotography

Eagle Nebula — MicroObservatory

Eagle Nebula — Hubble Space Telescope

STEP 1: Control a Telescope

MicroObservatory is an online network of robotic telescopes that you can control over the Internet from your own computer.

1. Visit the Observing With NASA telescope portal and click on Control Telescope

2. Choose your target(s) and click "OBSERVE" to take an image of that object. Among your choices are the Eagle Nebula, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in celebration of Hubble's 25th anniversary, and the irregular galaxy M82 observed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

3. Choose your field of view, exposure time, and filters; then click "CONTINUE".

4. Enter your (confidential) information and "SUBMIT" your request to the telescopes.

5. Look for an email the next day containing a link to download your requested image(s).

Irregular Galaxy M82 — MicroObservatory

Irregular Galaxy M82 — Chandra X-Ray Observatory

STEP 2: Enhance & Colorize Your Images

MicroObservatoryImage is a free easy-to-use software program that helps you turn your telescope images into cool astrophotographs.

1. Download the image processing software to your computer. [Special note for Mac OS X users: you'll need to go to your Security & Privacy System Preferences and check "Allow apps downloaded from: Anywhere"]

2. Check out our Tools & Training page to view short video tutorials on how to download and process the special astronomical FITS image files that come from the telescope.

3. Use the MicroObservatory software processing tools to bring out detail and colorize your image(s), and then save each image as a GIF file.

OR –

Load the GIF format MicroObservatory image into your favorite online image editing software.

STEP 3: Share Your Images

1. Find a NASA or professional astronomical image to compare with your astrophotography, we recommend looking at the Great Observtories Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer websites, as well as the WISE website.

2. Share your image compared with your NASA image on your favorite social network, using the hashtag #AstronomyNight @MicroObs @saoastro

SPECIAL TIP FOR EDUCATORS: Host your own Astrophotography Contest! Hold a workshop a few days before or after the White House event on October 19th to show your participants how to use the MicroObservatory telescopes and image processing software, and then give prizes for best "Astrocreative Image" or "Best RGB Filter" image. Tell the White House about your workshop!

News & Views

October 2011

International Observe the Moon Night

moon image

International Observe the Moon Night on October 8, 2011 was an opportunity for observers of all ages to focus on the brightest object in the night sky. Across the world, astronomy enthusiasts learned about the history, geography, climate, and orbit of the moon. MicroObservatory users took their own images of the moon.

Summer 2011

Astrophotography Contest Winners

sun from Astrophotography contest

Congratulations to the winners of the first MicroObservatory Astrophotography Contest! Over 90 images were submitted from astrophotographers all over the world. Kevin Manning won the Astrocreative category for his various interpretations of the Orion Nebula. Emma Ramsdell won the youth category for her Astrocreative image of the Sun. Steven N. Maliarakis won the RGB image category for a vibrant image of the Orion Nebula. Marisol Melendez won the youth category for her RGB image of the Whirlpool Galaxy. Thank you to all who submitted images.

April 2011

Astrophotography Contest

GAM logo 2011

In honor of Global Astronomy Month 2011, MicroObservatory held an Astrophotography Contest. Participants used the Observing With NASA portal and MicroObservatoryImage software to create RGB Composite images and Astrocreative images.

Winter 2010-2011

WISE Eyes the Skies

WISE satellite

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer observes the "nearby" Pleiades cluster and Andromeda Galaxy. Infrared light is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum just below the low-energy red light our eyes can observe, so the WISE images that we see are "representational color." Can you use the color tables in the image-processing software to make your OWN false color images?

Summer 2010

First Light for SDO

Sun Flare

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is helping astronomers understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere across many wavelengths, or energies, of the electromagnetic spectrum. SDO is part of NASA's Living with a Star program.

Spring 2010

Global Astronomy Month

GAM logo

During April 2010, MicroObservatory joined Astronomers Without Borders in celebrating Global Astronomy Month, the biggest effort ever to spread remote astronomy around the world. The goal of GAM2010 has been to help people to connect across borders and to feel—even if they are on opposite sides of the world—that they are all sharing the same sky.

Fall 2009

Capture the Colorful Cosmos

Capture the Colorful Cosmos - teacher with student

During the International Year of Astronomy, visitors to museums, science centers, planetariums, schools, libraries, and nature centers across the country have been Observing With NASA. The "Capture the Colorful Cosmos" astrophotography project has inspired these visitors to create a stunning array of exhibits inspired by their MicroObservatory images.

November 10-30, 2009

New Multi-wavelength View of Milky Way

Milky Way Center

In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, NASA's Great Observatories—the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-Ray Observatory—collaborated to produce a spectacular multi-wavelength view of the turbulent center of our Milky Way galaxy.

October 2009

LCROSS Impact on Moon


NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, created twin impacts on the moon's surface on October 9, 2009 in a search for water ice. Scientists are now analyzing the data from the spacecraft's instruments to assess whether water ice is present. Read more about LCROSS at the following websites:

January-December 2009

International Year of Astronomy 2009

IYA logo

This year, the entire world is celebrating the International Year of Astronomy as it commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies, and Kepler's publication of Astronomia Nova. 2009 is also the anniversary of many other historic events in science, including Huygen's 1659 publication of Systema Saturnium. This is modern astronomy's quadricentennial, and the 2009 Year of Astronomy celebrates numerous astronomical and scientific milestones. Events are happening every month. To find out more, visit any of these IYA 2009 websites:

Spread the word: the Universe is yours to discover. Come celebrate in 2009.

May 5, 2009

Smithsonian Photography Initiative celebrates IYA2009

AJ Cannon
Harvard Astronomer Annie Jump Cannon (1863 - 1941), after whom one of the MicroObservatory telescopes is named. Image from the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

During May and June, the Smithsonian Photography Initiative offers three ways to celebrate both the International Year of Astronomy and the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observation with a telescope by Galileo Galilei.

Call for Entries

The Smithsonian Photography Initiative invites the public to contribute images and stories to "click! photography changes everything" (, an online exhibit that explores how photography influences every aspect of people's lives. This month's focus is "Seeing Other Worlds":

  • Entries selected for the "click!" Web site will be eligible to receive a copy of the book "At First Sight: Photography and the Smithsonian," an intriguing glimpse into the Smithsonian's more than 700 photographic collections.

Learn more here [pdf]

April 9, 2009

Congratulations to 100 Hours of Astronomy!

100 Hours of Astronomy

Between April 2 and April 4 nearly 1,000,000 people participated in 1500 events in 130 different nations around the globe. These individuals participated in science, making 2.6 million classifications of galaxies at Galaxy Zoo, they followed webcasts through Around the World in 80 Telescopes, and they got involved in remote observing and face to face observing at star parties, real and virtual. Over 1000 guest observers used the MicroObservatory telescopes during 100 Hours of Astronomy!

To all of you who participated: Thanks for joining us in a truly historical event.