Topic outline

  • Requesting Images from the Liverpool Telescope

    Liverpool TelescopeThe Liverpool Telescope (LT) is a professional, robotically controlled telescope for astronomical research and education.

    The moving structure of the LT is 8.5 metres tall, 6.5 metres wide and weighs around 24 metric tonnes. This is built around a 2 metre diameter mirror designed to collect and direct light towards a set of instruments. The telescope is protected from the elements by a shelter, or telescope dome, that works like a clam shell.

    Unlike most telescopes, the LT is capable of observing without any human intervention. After sunset, the telescope systems look at the weather conditions, and if suitable, the telescope will open up and start working its way efficiently through the list of observations sent to it during the daytime.

    The telescope is available for use by schools through a specially designed web interface that ensures you can't do any damage to the telescope but still allows you the right amount of options to get your own images whether you are trying to complete an activity from our website or observing astronomical objects for your GCSE Astronomy controlled assessment.

  • Using the Liverpool Telescope (Go Observing)

    Using NSO and the Liverpool Telescope for the first time can sound very daunting, however a lot of effort has gone on behind the scenes to create an intelligent user interface that we call Go Observing.

    Go Observing guides you through the task of requesting an observation, and can even help you decide what to observe if you are coming to it without any ideas.  You should have a go at requesting an observation yourself before using Go Observing in the classroom.  It's extremely easy to do and you can't do any damage to the telescope or its instruments. The interface is very intuitive and has proved popular for many years. The start screen is shown below.

    Go Observing Start

    As you can see, the interface is designed with observing options on the left, and information on the right.

    As part of this training we are going to ask you to request your own observations from the telescope. This is not difficult in the slightest, and we have prepared a video screencast (link below) so that you can learn how the interface works.

    View the Video Screencast Now

    If you are using a table device with a Flash Player, please use the link below.

    MP4 Video Screencast File


    1. Log in to your NSO account at (link will open in a new tab/window)

    2. Click on Go Observing (link will open in a new tab/window)

    3. Request an observation from the telescope just as described in the video screencast you watched above.

    You can choose any kind of astronomical object you like for the purpose of this training, but if you want to get your image soon try to choose something that shows a good chance of being observed over the next week or two.

    Once you have done this, please move on to the next section of the training.

  • Scheduling Observations for the Future

    There are many reasons why you might want to schedule an observation for a future date. Some of them are below:

    • the object is not visible now
    • you need a series of observations at different times
    • you are planning a GCSE Astronomy coursework now, and want to set up some observations now rather than come back to them at a different time

    The Go Observing interface provides a very easy way for you to find out when an object is visible, and to then change the date the telescope will start to try and get observations from. Below you can see a screenshot showing the availability of a selection of galaxies from 20th September 2010 for a month.

    Galaxiy Changes Before Date Change

    By clicking on the link at the bottom of the page that says "try a different time", we come to the next screen.

    Change Date

    When we click on OK, we will be taken back to the previous screen, but this time the chance of observing bars will show the dates for 1 week from 8th October 2010.

    Galaxiy Changes After Date Change

    We can now select one of the galaxies, and the telescope will try to complete the observation starting on 8th October 2010 and if it cannot be done immediately will keep trying for a week.

  • Downloading Your Observations

    You can check on the status of your observations at any time by logging in to your NSO account and clicking on My Observations.

    You will see a page that looks something like the one below.

    My Observations

    The Status column shows whether your observations are ready to download or not. Other possible status messages include:

    • Submitted
    • Sent to telescope
    • One or more observations taken
    • Sorry, it was not possible to complete the observations

    If you observations are Ready to Download click on the text (it's a link) and you will be taken to a page where you can download the files you need.

    Observation Download


    There are a number of links on this page that can give you a lot of information about your observation. Feel free to click on any of them to see what they do.

    For now, we will focus on downloading the observation data file.

    There are two ways to download your data and they are significantly different.

    The Download Image Data File link will allow you to download the file in a format called HFITS. This is a compressed data file that can only be used with our LTImage software.

    If you want your data in a format that can be used by any astronomical imaging and analysis program, then at the bottom of the page you will see a link called FITS File. You can also use these files in our LTImage.

    HFITS files are much smaller than FITS files, so unless you have limited storage space for your files, you are probably better off downloading the more standard FITS version of your data.

  • Viewing Images from the Liverpool Telescope

    Once you have downloaded your images files, you will need to be able to view them.

    Viewing, processing and analysing your images is covered in other sections of this website.

    Relevant Links: