Instructions for using search fields

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Instructions for using search fields

I have been looking for information on how to use the search fields.  In particular, the name field returns strange results.  For instance you can search for M16 and it comes back with 100 M66 observations.  The field does not seem to accept wildcard characters.  So at this point I do not even know if M16 has ever been imaged.  Is there a help or guide that I can read/refer to on using the query fields.




Sorry for any confusion with this. We do not currently offer M16 to observe simply because it is too big for the field-of-view of the camera, so there are no observations in the archive.

The odd-seeming results come about as a by-product of an attempt to second-guess what people are actually searching for - we did some analysis of search requests and downloads when planning the current search system and a lot of people were clearly mistyping their searches quite noticeably, so if it cannot find an exact match, it tries to find things that might be what was wanted. Of course, that risks confusing people who do type their search correctly when there is nothing to match. We're going to look into refining the search system to reduce this confusion, so hopefully it will less annoying in future - my apologies in the meantime.

I hope that helps?

All the best,
Andy (NSO Director)

PS If you want to explore all the options for the archive search and image downloading, there is a video that covers the details here:

Many thanks.  As a very long

Many thanks.  As a very long time IT professional I am used to some standard search notation so your reply is quite helpful for my searches. While you ponder changes might I suggest some standard operators such as * for wild cards, "..." for exact, etc.  As a final query, have you done any mosaics with the telescope so that you provide images that can be stitched?  I realize that you are providing opportunities outside of your research activities and it is much appreciated by this senior citizen from across the pond.  I will be viewing the youtube link provided.

Perhaps try the main telescope archive


We have thought about using wildcards etc, but we have to make sure that the search page is suitable even for our youngest and most inexperienced users, and these do tend to cause a bit of confusion.

We do not have any mosaics in the NSO archive, but there are a number of observations taken outside the NSO by the telescope which you can find in the the main LT archive: . This has all observations taken by the telescope, not just those taken by NSO users, and has lots more options. It is quite a lot more complicated though, as it is aimed at professional users, and there are no videos for it I'm afraid. (One tip - limit your searches to the "IO:O" instrument as that is the main imaging camera - the others are things like spectrographs).

As an example for M16:

  • Put the coordinates of M16 in the Right Ascension (18 18 50) and Declination (-13 49 19) boxes.
  • Change the "Radial search mode" to "Square box" and "00 30 00", which searches for half-a-degree (30 arcminutes) around the centre of M16 for mosaic tiles.
  • Select just "IO:O" from the Instrument selection in the Observational Criteria box.
  • Scroll to the bottom and click on "Select only public data" in the Administrative Criteria box.
  • Select "Display thumbnail image" in Output Formatting.
  • Click on the "Submit your search" button.

After a few seconds (maybe longer for a big search) a list of all available images will appear with miniature thumbnails for you to look through and download any you like the look of. With a bit of practice, you can also use the search form to just choose observations taken with a particular filter etc.

I hope that helps,

All the best



Thanks so much.  I will be going to the main data archive (I've used MAST and other archives in the past).  Now to stack some of the images I have downloaded and then stretch and move into Photoshop.

Kindest regards