Imaging comets is a multi-part process that results in multiple ways to image it.  In both cases, you first need the MPC 1-line code, which you get by following this:

Link to MPC Comets List.

Search for the object you want to target in the large topmost box, input the observatory MPC code from the iTelescope Info page (eg, H06 Q62 I89 etc) and use the MPC 1-line Elements option. Click the big 'Get Ephemeris/HTML' button and paste the resulting data in the text file you download.



From here, you have two possible options.  You can take the image in real time using the Acquire Comet/NEO option, or create an Scripted Plan to be used in the Reservation System.


Either way, once you have completed the MPC process above you should get something like this:


CK10X010  2011 09 10.7243  0.482463  1.000023  343.8091  323.2236  1.8391  20110827  10.0  4.0  C/2010 X1 (Elenin)

For the real time option, once you have this information, log in to your chosen telescope and select "Acquire Comet/NEO" from the left hand menu.  It will show the following screen once you have selected it:

You can then set up an image sequence to image the target.

If the target you have chosen is not visible due to time or position in the sky you will see an error message.

The other possibility is creating a Scripted Plan to select via the Reservation System.

Keep in mind, this is an advanced option.  Before writing your own script, we suggest checking out our FAQ on writing your own script.

First you need a comet that is 30 degrees above the horizon at minimum in the time you have planned, you also need to book a scope that will be appropriate to the brightness (or lack thereof) of the comet.

You will need a decent planetarium program (Cartes du Ciel, SkyMap, Starry Night etc) with an up dated list of comets to see what is visible from each of the scopes to plan which comet to chase (the sky alerts page at iTelescope gives a list of bright comets that are observable now). Then you will need the MPC 1 - line elements described above.  Keep in mind that you can have no more than one "space" in between each number entry.  The MPC 1 - line can sometimes return with extra spaces like this:

    CK14Q020 2015 01 30.0697 1.290356 0.997781 12.3953 94.9755 80.3029 20141209 4.0 8.4   C/2014     Q2 (Lovejoy)

When this happens - if writing your own plan, remove the first set of spaces highlighted in yellow.  If you are using the Acquire Comet/NEO leave the space in.

The date and time is set by your reservation booking. When your reservation starts up, depending on how you have set it up, either it automatically starts the plan, then the software calculates where to look from the time of the reservation using your elements in the plan, or you manually start the plan yourself, in which case the software calculates where to look based on the elements and when you started the plan (slightly more complicated but you get the idea).

Here's an example of a plan script (hand written as the automatic plan generator doesn't handle comets and asteroids):

#count 5 

#interval 180 

#binning 1 

#filter Luminance 

CK14Q020 2015 01 30.0697 1.290356 0.997781 12.3953 94.9755 80.3029 20141209 4.0 8.4 C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) 



For a list of all currently available comets, check here.  If you do choose to use this method to gather your MPC 1-line code, you must be sure to only copy the last line ending with ")" after the comet's name.  You do not need the spaces leading up to, or the text that says "MPC xxxxx"