Access the same databases that the telescope uses to do its work using the links below:

Observer News

June 15, 2023

BGO is excited to announce support for Mastodon! Users of the social media platform Mastodon can interact with the BGO on its account at Support for Mastodon comes as the future the Twitter interface is uncertain. Mastodon is open-source and free of corporate control and without advertising! Observers can request authorization from Mastodon accounts. If an observer would like to switch their main interface to Mastodon, use the #human command or contact the BGO by email

March 5, 2023

Student projects again will dominate observations until the end of the month. Courses ASTR1001, ASTR1100, and ASTR2400 are making use of the robotic observatory.

February 10, 2022

Student projects are dominating the observatory's use this term and are given high-priority. Courses ASTR4200, ASTR1100, ASTR2400 and ASTR1001 are making use of the robotic observatory. The observatory should be running every clear night this term.

December 31, 2021

The observatory has a new mount! The Planewave L600 was installed in December. 

The new mount will significantly improve the overall performance of the observatory. This is because:

  • its slew speed is about 40 times faster than the old mount
  • its sky pointing accuracy is much better, and
  • it tracks the sky much better allowing for longer exposures and better quality images

June 2, 2021

A new Observatory Statistics page has been added that provides tables and charts of various statistics by month, year, or all time, extracted from the observatory's databases.

January 29, 2021

Improvements to the INTERVAL=option of the #request command have been made. You can now control the time separation of observations on the same night - see the updated documentation. The Status column of the Requested Observations page now shows "In Process" for the observation currently being observed. When an observation of a variable star is requested, unless otherwise specified with the FILTER= option, the filter now defaults to the V filter.

April 17, 2020

A new website was added for a new developmental Mini-Robotic Observatory.

The Communicator App has been updated for all platforms. This version adds support for the Mini-Robotic Observatory and some bug fixes.

March 16, 2020

Despite the suspension of classes and most other activities at Saint Mary's University due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that the Robotic Telescope will continue to operate as long as its #human remains healthy! 

March 1, 2020

The Communicator App has been updated for all platforms. The Android and iOS platforms have a new Social Share feature! 

When a command returns an image (eg. #send, #weather) OR a message in the public/private message feeds have an associated image, you can now share this image to Twitter, Facebook, etc. When this feature can be used a "share" icon appears.

January 10, 2020

The main CCD camera (the Apogee CG16M) is back from the manufacturer and reinstalled on the telescope. All filters are now back in service.

December 16, 2019

An iOS version (iPhone and iPad) of the Communicator App is presently in Beta Test - contact us and ask to be sent an invitation to join the beta test team.

December 15, 2019

A new command has been added: #forecast

It sends a current weather forecast (Shearwater) from Environment Canada. The length of the forecast reply depends on the communication method used. Twitter and SMS Text replies are shorter. Communicator App, Facebook Messenger, and Email replies are longer.

The longer forecasts include both current and next time period, usually today and tonight, or tonight and tomorrow day. The shortened ones default to the next "night" forecast. So, if asked for in the morning, will skip today and only give you tonight. With the Android app, you can ask for a forecast with voice for example: "gimme a weather forecast".

December 12, 2019

The Android Communicator App has been updated on the Play Store. It now includes both 32 and 64 bit versions. A few weeks go, the macOS verison was also updated to 64-bit.

December 9, 2019

The Privacy Policy has been updated.

October 22, 2019

A new command has been added: #whoami. It responds with your identity and a web link to your observer account page.

October 4, 2019

The main CCD camera (the Apogee CG16M) is being sent off to the manufacturer for repair. The chamber, which houses the CCD sensor, has lost its seal and water vapour has entered it. This means than when the camera is cooled, water vapour freezes on the sensor and chamber window. For the present time camera 2 (the SBIG STXL-11002) is configured with filters: CLR,LUM2,RED2,GRN2,BLU2,B,V,I. All other filters are not available until the camera is repaired which is estimated to be a month or two.

September 26, 2019

The main CCD camera appears to be failing (new and unpredictable hot pixels appearing). As such, until further notice, requests involving the associated filters (LUM,RED,GRN,BLU,B,V,R,I,SI,SG) are disabled or edited and new requests will not be accepted. The available filters, connected to the secondary camera are: CLR,LUM2,RED2,GRN2,BLU2,OIII,HA,SII. The problem will be investigated shortly. Also, notice is given that if the camera is "toast" that the narrowband filters (OIII,HA,SII) will be removed and replaced with photometric filters (B,V,I) early next week.

August 1, 2019

Today, another new feature is done - all Public Messages sent by the robot can now be seen in one convenient place, including any associated images! These messages echo the observatory's public Twitter Feed.

July 31, 2019

After a year's gap, the robot's Facebook Messenger interface is back in service again!

July 24, 2019

The observatory's operating programs were updated yesterday with a few new features and many under-the-hood changes. I also released new versions of the Communicator App for Windows and MacOS today and earlier this month for Android. The Android App is now "officially" on the Play Store! Some of the changes include:

  • The Communicator App can now show images sent with command replies and in public and private messages. If an image is included in a message, a "camera" button will appear - click the button to see the image.
  • Twitter Direct Message replies can now include images (allowing command such as #domecam, #weather, and #send to be send as Direct Messages).
  • The Twitter interface now remembers the last communication method that you used (public Tweet or Direct Message). This method is used for all subsequent messages sent to you (for example, the messages sent as your images are taken or when your processing operations are completed).
  • New observers requesting authorization can now immediately interact with the observatory including the submission of image requests. Those image requests are not actually taken by the telescope until the account is reviewed by a #human. This should make it easier for observers to get their first observations in the queue in their first session.

What 's Next:

  • I have been working on a web-app version of the Communicator App. Observers will be able to go to a special website, login with an observer ID and password and do the same things that you can do with the Communicator App. This web-app is nearly complete, however I have found two critical bugs in a technology partner's code and I am waiting until these bugs are fixed before making the web-app available.
  • The Facebook Messenger interface will, hopefully, be back online soon. It was taken offline by Facebook last summer - we were caught up in a forced review of all Facebook Apps that was not successful.
  • Perhaps, in mid August, after the Facebook app review request has been submitted, I will attempt to create an Apple iOS version of the Communicator App!

March 28, 2019

The observatory will not operate from April 2 to 20 due to the vacation of the Observatory Director (the observatory's caretaker).

March 19, 2019

A new image processing operation is now available, called "split". This splits special observations into individual image IDs so that they can be subsequently processed with other processing operations. See here. Additionally, the date and time (in UTC) that observations were taken is now written to jpeg images created during morning image processing and from processing operations.

March 15, 2019

A new Cell Phone Text Messaging interface has been released! This is yet another way to communicate with the telescope, in addition to Twitter, Email, and the Communicator App.

December 12, 2018

The Privacy Policy has been updated.

October 17, 2018

A new observation #request parameter "interval=" has been added. This optional feature sets the minimum number of days between observations of the same object taken by the same observer using the same exposure parameters (filter and exposure, or special parameter values). Valid integers from 1 to 30 days can be specified. If set to 0 or not specified, this feature is disabled. This is intended to spread out observations that don't need to be taken every clear night, for example, slowly vary variable stars or distant minor planets.

Improvements have also been made to the "epoch=" and "special=" parameters. The epoch reference can now be set in either geocentric or heliocentric Julian Date. Also, the length of a time series observation started by an epoch= parameter is now adjusted by how early or late an observation actually starts vs. when it ideally should have started.

I have also implemented an observer account login password mechanism. This will come into play with upcoming plans for a BGO app (android and windows, maybe IOS) and website login. Initially you can communicate with the telescope this way and eventually manage your observations. This is a priority as the social media interfaces are always at risk of their whims.

The Android app is working now for live voice control of both scopes, which is pretty cool! Operators can do things like "go to ring nebula now" to move the scope during in-person events, startup and shutdown the observatory, check weather and status, etc.

August 20, 2018

The BGO's interface to Facebook is off-line. Recent security changes imposed by Facebook mean that the Facebook App that the robot uses to communicate with Facebook users has become disabled. 

This is due to Facebook responding to security and privacy concerns that have been in the news over the past year. Part of their response is requiring all Facebook Apps to be reviewed and re-approved and this process for our app is stalled (what they approved previously, they are not approving now). There is nothing that we have done to cause this - we are caught up with hundreds of thousands of other App developers in the same frustrating process.

It is not known if/when Facebook access will be restored.

In the meantime, Facebook observers can switch their observer account to Twitter by making a new authorization from Twitter including your name and the switch request (also send a message on Facebook Messenger so we know that it is you requesting the switch).

June 26, 2018

Duplicate observations (same object, filter, exposure) by same observer are no longer checked.

BGO observer, Hal Heaton has been slowly building a gallery of BGO images on the Sky and Telescope website - Bravo!

May 31, 2018

The BGO Robot will not operate on the night's of June 4-17 due to the #human's vacation!

May 23, 2018

Two more observing constraints are available to the #request (and #edit) command: maxalt= and som=. 'maxalt' is maximum altitude which along with minalt, constrains the range of altitude an object is observed at. 'som' is the side of meridian that an object is observed at. This can stop some observations from being right side up and others upside down, as the telescope/camera flips on the east side of the sky.

April 24, 2018

A second new camera has been been added to the telescope. It is an SBIG STXL-11002 - it has a field of view a bit smaller than the main Apogee CG16M camera but the pixel size is the same. As a result, there have been some filter changes and additions. The narrow band filters (H-alpha and Oxygen III) have been moved to the new camera and the Sulphur II filter added. Also new are the Sloan g' and i' science filters. The new camera also has LRGB filters and a new clear (CLR) filter. Use of the two cameras is entirely automatic - just choose the desired filter by name and the correct camera is used. See the Technical Information page for the specs of both cameras and the complete list of filters.

Imaging of the Moon and planets have been moved to the new camera as it can take much shorter exposures than the main camera (0.001 seconds vs. 0.1 seconds). This makes the images more consistently sharp than previously.  

April 23, 2018

There have been many incremental improvements (and bug/reliability fixes) to the operating software over the last few months. The most obvious are:

  • The System Logs now include the queue processing logs. This allows observers to see which requests are observable and how the telescope decides, from those which are observable, which are run.
  • The Requested Observations page now includes a column that indicates if an observation has been Imaged or if an Error occurs during imaging. These are updated in real-time at night as the telescope operates.

January 30, 2018

Read about the BGO highlights of 2017.

August 31, 2017

The maximum exposure times for special exposures is now 1,800 seconds (30 minutes).

July 5, 2017

The #process command now supports the really-cool arcsinh stretch algorithm used by the observatory's programs when creating jpeg images.

June 13, 2017

The comprehensive system logs that the #human uses to monitor and manage the observatory have been made available to all observers.

June 9, 2017

The robotic telescope will not operate from June 12-22 as the human caretaker is out of town at a Robotic Telescope Conference in San Diego!

April 27, 2017

Some new management features have been completed:

  • Observer accounts can expire after a specified date and be renewed with a #renew command.
  • Observers are placed in an observer group and they are granted the priority and special permissions associated with that group. Groups also can have an expiry date in which case the associated accounts expire on that date (even if the observer's expiry date is later).

March 31, 2017

The robotic telescope will not run between April 5 and April 14 due to the #human caretaker's vacation. 

March 18, 2017

The #delete command can now be used to delete Completed Processing Requests and their associated images. Consider deleting intermediate steps or those that did not turn out the way you hoped.

March 16, 2017

A new FAQ has been added: What are all these filters and which ones should I use?

March 8, 2017

A major new feature is released today: social media-based image processing. See the documentation for how to use it and watch this video tutorial.

February 17, 2017

Due to the university winter break and associated vacation of the observatory's #human, the robotic telescope will be not running from February 19 to 26 inclusive.

January 9, 2017

Read about the BGO highlights of 2016.

January 4, 2017

The new Facebook interface goes into beta test mode today! Current observers who which to switch to the Facebook interface should request authorization using Facebook and include in the message your old Twitter handle or email address. Note that observatory policy does not allow observers to have accounts using multiple interfaces.

December 13, 2016

A new Privacy Policy has been put in place.

December 3, 2016

Five new robotic telescope features go live today!

First, images for non-special observations are now sent immediately after they are taken! The completed observation queue is still updated in the morning with the raw full-resolution FITS images and Jpeg images.

There are also three new commands (#domecam, #satellite, and #send) and an improvement to the #weather command.

October 17, 2016

Two new features go live today - the 'focus' and 'offset' parameters of the #request command.

The 'focus' parameter is intended to be used defocus the telescope when performing photometry of bright stars to reduce overexposure OR to increase photometric precision by blurring stars over more pixels - this can reduce errors caused by how light falls and is recorded by each pixel.

The 'offset' parameter offsets the telescope's position from its catalog position which could be used, for example, to:

  • build larger images using a mosaic of separate fields,
  • offset a comet's nucleus to a corner of the field so more of the tail can be recorded,
  • and place a variable star off-centre so that reference/check stars are in the field of view.