DarkSky is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We believe our contributions to Science and Technology are best described by the people we strive to inspire and who in turn, inspire us.
Our priorities are:
Science Education through Astronomical Observation
Educators and Educational Institutions will never pay for our services
Encouraging Women and Girls to Engage in STEM and begin a life of Discovery and Exploration
Providing access to Observational Resources for anyone who wishes to Explore and Discover
Offer a platform of learning and growth for Citizen Scientists where access to resources like ours are limited or under-served
We will always expose every aspect of our systems and services for educational purposes as a priority. We provide equal access to our equipment and services, and open access to our designs and processes.
Mobile Planetary and Deep Space Imaging
DarkSky OnDemand is a mobile observatory platform that runs scheduled requests for astronomical observations. Educators can register, get telescope time to request observation of any object or coordinates above the horizon at the requested schedule time, and students can request observations at the direction of, or under a lesson plan created by their teacher or professor. All schedules are first-come, first-served with priority given to educators and educational institutions.
DarkSky is tailored for educators and educational institutions and we give educators the tools to integrate real planetary and deep-space observations into their curriculum.
While we've built our service mainly for educators, everyone from professional astronomers to every-day enthusiasts are welcome to use our platform for research or general interest. All users receive the same quality images, video and data.
DarkSky deploys Ritchey-Chretien (RC) Telescopes on our Mobile Observatory Platform. Ritchey-Chretien telescopes do not use any lenses in their design. Instead, they consist of a hyperbolic primary and secondary mirror. This design provides superb image correction across the entire field as well as very sharp images on-axis, and minimizes off-axis comatic aberration (coma).
Our RC OTA is mounted on top of an observatory-class Equatorial Mount. This high-quality mount provides the ability to stay on target within 1 to 3 arc-seconds of accuracy throughout observations. The mount we use is of the highest commercially available quality needed for our platform to provide exquisite imaging.
High Quality Imaging
Our primary imaging camera is the ZWO ASI071MC. The ZWO ASI071MC uses the very popular Sony IMX071 APS-C sized color CMOS sensor, for true 14-bit dynamic range, low read noise of 2.3 - 3.3e, and a full well capacity of 46ke! This Sony 16.2 MP sensor has been used in several popular DSLR cameras, and will produce amazing results, whether you are using it to capture deep sky or planetary images. The Exmor sensor has an image array consisting of 4928 x 3264 pixels that are 4.8um in size, and features on-chip analog/digital signal conversion and two-step noise reduction in parallel on each column of the sensor. One really cool (no pun intended) feature of this camera is that it can achieve a ΔT of -41℉ below ambient temperature. Maybe not absolute Zero - but we think it's cool! Even though the ASI071 is our Primary camera we have many other cameras to choose from; both CCD and CMOS - each with their own visible spectrum ranges, quality and specific applications.
Derrick Pitts, Hon.D is the Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Dr. Pitts stopped by to help get our telescope in shape for the Souderton Community Night 2017 event. We really appreciated him getting us on track!
Here's a look at the DarkSky OnDemand Mobile Lab's equipment drawers - they are LED back-lit when opened and carry many of our lenses, cameras and other accessories when going out to the field.