Spring ‘17



For some laboratory exercises, you will be asked to use the Sierra College Robotic Observatory to acquire images of certain celestial objects. The observatory is located near the Child Development Center on the Nevada County Campus. You are welcome to visit the observatory, but it is not necessary for the acquisition of images, which is done through the Internet and a web browser.

Each laboratory exercise will instruct you on how to choose celestial objects for image acquisition. This document is meant to give you the policies and procedures for conducting your acquisition.


To help you pick your deep sky objects and to get an idea of what your pictures will look like take a look at the "NCC Robotic Observatory Gallery of Deep Sky Messier Objects" at 




All students are expected to know and understand the following policies:

1.    While a given lab begins at 11:59 pm on a Sunday and ends at 11:59 pm on the following Thursday, the corresponding robotic observation period begins at 9:00 pm on the Monday after the starting Sunday and ends at 1:00 am on the following Saturday (the observatory is closed on some nights).

2.    On any given night during a robotic observation period, the robotic observatory is available for student use from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am.

a.    This time period is broken into 30-minute intervals beginning at 9:00 pm and the last one starting at 12:30 am.

b.    The 30-minute observation periods are referred to as observation sessions.

c.    Generally, when a robotic observation period is designated for a given lab, a student will be required to complete one observation session pending circumstances beyond the student’s control (e.g., weather, mechanical problems with the observatory, Internet failure, etc.)

3.    Students not participating in a robotic observation session assigned for a given lab will have 5 points deducted from their lab score. The exception to this policy is if conditions beyond a student’s control prevent that student from participating in a session during a robotic observation period.



All students are expected to know and understand the following procedures for completing a robotic observation session:

1.    Once a laboratory exercise period begins, you may request a 30-minute time slot to conduct your observations by sending your request via email to the following address:

a.    The subject heading of your email must be in the same format as when you email your assignments:

Your Astro 11 ID #, Your Name, Exercise #, Instructor’s Name

b.    In the body of your email, list three choices of time/day in order of preference that you would like to conduct a robotic observation session. [Remember that times start on the half-hour from 9:00 pm to 12:30 am on selected nights.]

c.    In the body of your email also list the object or objects you wish to observe during your robotic observation session.

d.    Robotic observation sessions are assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis.

2.    Periodically check the Robotic Schedule for your scheduled robotic observation session.

a.    The web address for the Robotic Schedule is and can be found in the “Course Documents” page of Canvas.

b.    Since the schedule only updates every day or so, do not wait to the last minute to send your email request for a robotic observation session.

3.    Just before the start time of your scheduled robotic observation session be sure you are at a computer with internet access and you have a telephone handy. Using your web browser, go to the following site:


b.    You will be asked for a user name and a password. Do not do anything at this point and go on to the next step.

4.    At the start time, call the NCC Robotic Observatory and a technician will guide you through the steps for acquiring your images.

a.    You may use any of the following telephone numbers:

                                                  i.    916-624-3333, and then listen for the directions to dial extension 6114.

                                                ii.    530-274-5300, and then listen for the directions to dial extension 6114.

                                               iii.    800-242-4004, and then listen for the directions to dial extension 6114. This 800-number only works in Northern California.

b.    If you are dialing from outside the area codes and do not wish to incur the telephone costs, call one of the numbers and ask the technician to switch to chat mode via a computer link. The technician will instruct you on how to do this.

5.    The technician will then guide you through the process of taking an image with the robotic telescope.

a.    Be sure to take notes so that the next time you have a session, it will go quicker.

b.    Be sure to ask questions if you are not clear as to what is being asked of you.


6.    If your session is cancelled due to weather, equipment issues etc. YOU must re-schedule the observing session as described above.




To select objects to image check out the Astronomy Department Messier image catalogue at:


Enjoy !