Sunday, October 2, 2011

Astro Photography and Slooh

Today, I would like to take a detour from my usual Route 66 topic and venture into the field of amateur astronomy.

In the past year or so, I had spent considerable time clinging onto slooh.com’s robotic telescopes. During this time, I had snapped hundreds of pictures, on occasion revisiting the same celestial object time after time waiting for the perfect conditions to produce the clearest pictures. At the bottom of this post, you can find a gallery of some of these images. Before getting to them, however, I would like to talk a little about Slooh, more precisely, about the discontinuation of their “Free Tier” service and how I think this might impact users.

If you are not familiar with it, Slooh is an amateur astronomy service where anyone can partake in sky watching events using the site’s robotic telescopes scattered around the world. In the past, the Free Tier program provided an opportunity for non-paying Slooh visitors to experience some of the services available only to full members. In it, users could observe a limited selection of celestial objects on a limited number of telescopes. While the Free Tier was certainly sub par to the full, paid membership, it provided a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what Slooh is all about and, more importantly, about service conditions. See, while using robotic telescopes, want-to-be astronomers not only have to deal with adverse weather conditions but also technical issues, of which—unfortunately—Slooh used to a have a lot. Therefore, for many, the Free Tier was both a service to attract future paid customers as well as a way to monitor the status of Slooh and know when to subscribe. Unfortunately, the Free Tier is gone for a few months now and, aside from a few public events, slooh.com only offers paid subscriptions, which I believe is a mistake.

To be fair, Slooh’s side of the story is that many people used the Free Tier exclusively and never actually ended up paying for the service, which was understandably bad for the company. But instead of further limiting the Free Tier and, therefore, forcing those non-paying customers to move up to the far better paid subscription, the people at Slooh decided to close the free program all together.

As I mentioned before, Slooh used to have a lot of technical difficulties. In fact, the last time I was able to use their service, it was so bad that it was actually impractical for me to pay for it. So, from time to time, I used their Free Tier to check back on their service and see if it improved, and whether it was finally time for me to subscribe. But with the free program gone, I have no way of knowing their current circumstances now, actually preventing me from paying for a service that I do not know works properly. So, instead of gaining a paying customer they actually lost one, which is unfortunate because their service might work perfectly; I just do not know about it.

Well, that is just my two cents on the topic, after which let's move on to the pictures:


Orion Nebula (M 42)


Lagoon Nebula (M 8)


Saturn


Cigar Galaxy (M 82)


Flame Nebula (NGC 2024)


Moon during the total lunar eclipse of 2010



Swan Nebula (M 17)



Jupiter



Half Moon



Veil Nebula (NGC 696)

3 comments:

  1. Lovely pictures and awesome photography.

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  2. Thanks; although it is much of a photography skill as much as waiting for the right time to push the button (and a little Photoshop to clean it up afterwards). ;)

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