This article was published in Cosmo Astronomy Magazine and has been translated from Italian


Observation of SKY

This month we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the placement in orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope, which has given us, as well as an impressive array of scientific discoveries, even spectacular pictures of celestial objects that still amaze us today. But let the story of Hubble Article by Leopoldo Benacchio page. 36

Also, because we remember that Hubble is only the most famous of a series of space telescopes that observe the sky, using not only the availability of almost the whole sky at any time, but no atmospheric absorption of radiation that are invisible for instruments placed on the Earth’s surface. Only for observations in visible light, space telescopes are a dozen; remember among them the astrometric satellite Gaia, who has cataloged more than a billion stars in our galaxy, and Kepler (decommissioned in 2018), who discovered thousands of exoplanets. Other space telescopes (in total there are dozens!) Are dedicated to other bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as Swift (operating in gamma rays), Chandra (X-rays), Spitzer (infrared, decommissioned in January this year) and Planck (microwave ).

Thanks to their unique characteristics, space telescopes have led to a real evolutionary leap in observation of the sky.


Few people know that, since the beginning of the space age, are designed for amateur satellites to be sent into orbit. The first was Oscar (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), produced by the American Amateur Radio Amsat and launched in 1961. Oscar, who had successors, only had radio communication purposes, but demonstrated the ability to manage the launch of a satellite , its in-orbit control and communications with it, disposing of equipment and amateur class budget. Twenty years later, in the 80s, it was developed the design of an optical telescope, which had to be placed in orbit at an altitude of 500 km from a shuttle mission. The project Ast (Amateur Space Telescope), amateur equivalent of the Hubble telescope, which is also in the planning stages at the time, was encouraged by NASA as part of its educational projects.

Ast was a satellite to 80 kg, with a Ritchey-Chretien telescope by 45 cm and a set of tools images acquisition and control system, managed by a microprocessor Rca 1802, all powered by a solar panel 60 W. The use electronic sensors for recording images would be new to amateur astronomers of the time, still struggling with chemical film, and promised to capture objects of 23 in magnitude and perform planetary survey to alert professional telescopes in case of observation of interesting events.

Images and data would be sent to earth with a radio transmitter to be 0.5 W, can communicate directly with amateur radio systems. Unfortunately, the tragic space shuttle Challenger accident in 1986 stopped this project, as other educational and recreational sector. A more recent project of the early 2000s, planned to install an amateur telescope on the international space station and control it remotely from the ground, but this project has not been completed.

L ‘Iss-At (ISS Amateur Telescope) was a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope 12 “, equipped with two digital cameras, designed by the American Astronomical League. Checked by Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, the ISS-At would have produced images and data via the Internet, they wanted to make available to teachers and students around the world, thanks to the support of a group of companies and NASA, through Telescopes in Education program.


The project of an amateur space telescope returns today with BFC Infinity, which we have already discussed in previous issues of Cosmo and follow you step by step on these pages in the following numbers, analyzing each time an aspect.

BFC Infinity is the result of the steps recently taken giant in the IT and space industry if still at the beginning of the 2000s the amateur space telescopes projects could seem like science fiction today may finally move from fantasy to practical realization.

The project is in the hands of a team of specialists, who are developing each “segment.” The preliminary phase was entrusted to the University of Bologna and in particular to its Interdepartmental Center for Industrial Research Aerospace (Ciri-Aero), located in the Technopole Aerospace Forli; the subsequent phases will deal with the detailed design

the space segment and the ground segment. The satellite will orbit at an altitude of 800 kilometers above the Earth and will carry a telescope of high performance, with a focal ratio suitable for the observation of both the “deep sky”, both of the Solar System objects. The download of the images captured by the telescope will be performed several times during the day on three receiving stations planned to Earth.

It is targeted to amateur astronomers (and not only) and will offer them the opportunity to observe and film celestial bodies in the sky near and deep thanks to a special reservation software and image accessible via web management.

At a modest amount, estimated at $ 300 per half-hour viewing, you can take pictures of the sky from the privileged position of the space telescope.

It is expected that BFC Infinity, completed the design phase later this year, it will be launched in 2021 and become operational in 2022. Stay connected.