Edinburgh HOYS data… from Spain – part 1
A HOYS participant perspective

A little while ago, I wrote an article for this site about how I tried to automate as much of my HOYS processing as possible. Well things have moved on since then and I, along with other members of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh (ASE), are now capturing HOYS data – not from Edinburgh – but from Spain!

Of course, the use of remote robotic scopes is “old hat” now (see Josch Hambsch’s story) and even hosting your own telescope somewhere else in the world is also well-known. As an amateur society, we had planned on building our own observatory again – we used to operate the grand old City Observatory on Calton Hill in Edinburgh between 1938 and 2008, but had to leave due to the poor state of repair of the buildings. Since then we have effectively been homeless and wondering where we should build our own facility. In the end, after much soul-searching, we decided Edinburgh or Scotland weren’t right due to light pollution and poor weather. It always amused me that the Royal Observatory Edinburgh moved from its original location in the city-centre on Calton Hill, 3.5km away to the current location on Blackford Hill, also now swamped by the expanding city, because of smog and light pollution at the end of the 19th century. The next step was quite a bit further away… thanks to 2nd Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth, who discovered that mountain-tops were a pretty good place to put telescopes! We also had enough experience running Calton Hill to know that operating your own site and historic buildings can be horrendously expensive and time-consuming.

So we found Trevinca Skies in Galicia, Spain. Trevinca have a really useful and relatively inexpensive offer: you can ship or deliver your own kit there, install and set it up yourself; or you can get them to buy the kit and install the hardware and software for you. This is what we did. It removed all the hassle of shipping, customs, travel etc. and these guys really know what they’re doing. We specified the kit with their help, trying to make sure we could cover as many sorts of projects that our members might like to do as well as the requirements of a remotely controlled setup. But being a HOYS participant myself, I made sure that we could gather HOYS data effectively too.

They already had 4 fully-automated roll-off roof observatories, each containing 9 telescopes, with more buildings under construction. We reserved one of the few remaining spots in the existing buildings and gave them the go-ahead to start ordering up our kit.

As I write this, we are partially up and running, but without the main telescope due to the usual manufacturing and delivery delays. We hope to have everything installed and working within the next 2 weeks though. But even now, with our smaller, wide-field refractor and colour camera setup running, we are wowed by what it can achieve under the clear, steady, dark skies of Galicia at an altitude of 1250m.

Oh yes – we call our new observatory ASERO (ASE Remote Observatory) – and we even have a logo. Click on the logo to see our ASERO-specific Flickr group, where various members have processed the same data using their own techniques. Everyone’s learning together and it’s great fun!

We have already been capturing HOYS data and have setup a specific ASERO-HOYS user account, so that anyone in our Society, with suitable training, can process the captured HOYS data, meaning that more people can get involved and no one person has to carry all the load. But while we are in the early testing phases, we decided it would be useful and interesting to image all the summer HOYS targets and see what they actually look like. Pat Devine, also a HOYS participant, ASE member and sponsor of the HOYS website, did a basic – but very nice – process of these images which you can see below, all taken using our 94mm f4.4 7-element APO refractor and colour IMX571 camera. We like making pretty pictures of the night sky in our Society!

When you see the number of stars in these images you realise why it takes so long to process your data! One of the items that hasn’t yet arrived is the rotator, which is why the orientation of the images is a little different.

In Part 2, I’ll say more about our kit, how our remote hosting works and how we automate the capture and processing of HOYS data.

Mark Phillips
As well as being a HOYS participant, webmaster and advisory team member, Mark is also President and webmaster of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh.