I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Paddy Gilliland, Astro-photographer, cosmology student, ERP architect and now founder and owner of ITU aka “Image the Universe”, an innovative remote telescope imaging company with observatory facilities in the south of Spain, which has some of some of the darkest skies in Europe.
Some of you may be familiar with typical remote imaging, it allows anyone with an internet connection and a good amount of money to take control of a high quality imaging telescope in another part of the world. The locations are typically in very dry, desert like climates, that get little rain and have large number of clear, cloud free skies each year. These locations give the renters the most opportunities a year to Image the Universe.
ITU has created what they believe is a better alternative with an affordable subscription based offering. One of the things they believe will set them apart from the competition is there world class scopes and kept in top condition all the time, they are not cutting any corners.
Location Location Location
A typical “rent a scope” business model is a rent by the hour system. ITU has taken a unique approach, ensuring you get the maximum return on your investment. Rather than spend many hundreds of dollars/pounds on 1 data set from a typical rent-a-scope solution they offer you 100+ data sets (depending on your choice of scopes, it could even approach 200 images on some of the faster scopes) for a fixed rate. You get all the data acquired during your subscription period, be that 3, 6 or the their best value the 12 month deal.
You get to request targets and if your a 12 month subscriber and you get to sit on the target selection panel over the course of the year, the panel and owners ensure you get a fair selection of your requested targets. But even when someone else’s target is being shot you'll get that data also. It is a democracy run by the subscribers, the owners step in if a target is not suitable or you have not had your fair allotment of targets. Subscribers pay, subscribers chose and the subscribers benefit... is the approach ITU takes.
This unique model also allows them to pick what they believe are best in class options for the equipment. Their entry level 5” F/3.09 refractor is just £849 per year or $1300 U.S. per yr (at today's exchange rate). The Officina Stellare 8” RH 200 MKII at F/3.0 is just £999.00 per yr or $1300 per yr US (at today's exchange rate). This scope and the required set up provides you access to £55k/71k U.S. of set up for £999/$1300 U.S., even if you subscribed for the next 50 years you would still be in profit. We also have a range of scopes coming in the future. The first RH 350 used outside of the military will be operational in early 2018 a staggering 13.77” @ F/2.8!!! A long focal length scope and wide to ultra-wide field option will also be operational in early 2018.
They also welcome dual subscriptions with discounts available on all additional plans subscribed to and hybrid models with some time on each scope.
Inside the observatories
Professional, state of the art modern and purpose built observatories in one of Europe’s best dark sky locations.
state of the art facility
Sample images from first runs on the scopes from testing in Spain
These are just early test images and were run an 50-66% sub length only (they are rigorous with therectesting and everything follow a professional and tested approach slowly ramping duration up and testing automation at every stage) The aim is operate each scope every moment it is clear to maximize investment and return they also have suitable spares on site in the event of an issue or failure. From UK - testing prior to remote set up.
In next couple of weeks I will speak with Paddy again to get an update on how things are going and will create a pod cast of that conversation to share with you all. He promises to have a special promotion to share with us during that time, so look forward to that post.
ITU sent me a sample data set to process and here are my results, I got to say this is the best data I have ever seen or had the opportunity to process and just goes to show what true dark sky and great seeing can produce even in the hands of a novice like myself.