Contact information

Astronomical association Ursa
Kopernikuksentie 1
00130 Helsinki

Astronomical association Ursa

Frequently asked questions about making observations

Who can contribute, and in which languages?
Everyone is welcome to submit observations. Contributing does not require Finnish citizenship or membership in any of the astronomical associations in Finland. Observations may be written in Finnish, Swedish or English.

May I submit observations from locations outside of Finland?
We collect observations mainly from Finland and the Nordic countries. We do accept an observer’s sporadic observations from other countries. Observations done outside of Finland are especially welcome of significant events which are not visible in Finland.   

Who owns the copyrights?
The copyrights to all images and texts in the observations remain with their creators. The creator grants only the permission to publish the material in Taivaanvahti. The observers (users of Taivaanvahti) are expected to submit to the system only such material they themself hold the copyright to.

Of which phenomena are observations collected?
Almost all astronomical and atmospheric phenomena belong to Taivaanvahti’s scope, as browsing the section Pictures and stories attests. We wish to receive observation submissions of the following phenomena:

1.) Deep-sky objects (only submissions containing images)

2.) The Sun and the Moon (only submissions containing images)

3.) Several objects in the solar system, such as planets and asteroids (only submissions containing images) 

4.) Comets (if the observation submission does not contain images, please describe the target or provide other information, such as an estimation of its brightness on the Visual Magnitude Scale)

5.) Satellites 

6.) Solar- and Lunar Eclipses

7.) Bolides

8.) Meteor showers

9.) Auroras (Northern lights)

10.) Rare cloud types

11.) Storm phenomena

12.) Halos

13.) Other optical phenomena, such as rainbows, coronae, mirages and Polar Stratospheric Clouds.

When must an observation include an image?
We are grateful for an observer’s reports of observations (sightings) of atmospheric optical phenomena, such as northern lights, run-of-the-mill halos and bolides, even if your submitted observation does not contain images of the target. If the phenomenon is very rare, including a photograph in your observation submission may be important. An image (photograph or drawn illustration) is required for observation submissions of most Solar System targets and all Deep Sky objects (see the list above for further information). Observations of comets may be submitted without photographs of the target, if the observation has other information, such as a description of the target, or an estimation of its visual brightness.

What kind of photos are allowed?
All photos in Taivaanvahti must be of a documenting nature, their aim is to document observations of a scientific nature. Especially the main photo of an observation must portray the title of observation and type of target. Photos should not be retouched, nor are artificial additions allowed. However, it is permitted to process the image data to enhance the informational content to illustrate findings.

What is the maximum time an observation may take?
An observation should take no longer than the time period of one day (The Sun above the horizon) or the period of one night (The Sun below the horizon). When the Sun stays below the horizon for extended periods of time, such as during the polar night in Lapland, an observation night is the period between two consecutive noons. The permitted exemptions to this are publishing light curves and Deep Sky objects requiring long exposures. Photos from different observation days or -nights should not be included to the same observation (unless it is for one photo of a Deep Sky object, that required exposures lasting over several nights, which is why this is the exception to the rule).

What date should I record on photographs of Deep Sky objects?    
We understand that Deep sky objects may require multiple exposures over several nights of to gather enough light for good photographs. We accept and allow this, these nights may even be in different years. Use the date of the last exposure as the observation date for the photograph.

How many observations may I submit from observing a single phenomenon taking its full course?    
Preferably only one; the assumption is that one observer on a single location observing one phenomenon, will submit a single observation of the course of that occurrence. However, should the observer during the course of the phenomenon travel a distance of say 50-100km, to another location, they may submit a second observation from that location.  

Of what phenomena are observations not collected?

1.) Unidentified sources of light that last more than 20s or have complicated patterns of movement.
These unidentified light sources that last a long time or have a complicated pattern of moment tend to be airplanes, helicopters, or torches of Air Force fighter-planes. They are not in the scope of the observation programmes.

2.) Airplanes’ condensation trails.
The condensation trails left by airplanes are not in the scope of the observation collection programme. They can be very brightly illuminated by the low-lying Sun, especially on winter mornings and -evenings, when they may look like a bolide. However, bolides tend to last only a few seconds. .

3.) Very common light phenomena of no interest for scientific investigation
Taivaanvahti does not collect observations of normal colours of the sky at any time, including at sunrise or sunset, sun rays (crepuscular rays), heiligenscheins on grass, or asphalt mirages, as these are very common phenomena. Nor are observations of rainbows due to irrigation or mist/sun rays due to artificial lights collected.

4.) Common cloud types
Normal low-, mid- or high-level clouds are too common to be included in the scope of the observation programme. On the other hand, rare cloud types which are listed on the observation form’s additional information, can be submitted. These cloud types do not include the common types of thundercloud bases with pannus (scud clouds).

5.) A single observation of the luminosity of a variable star.
These single observations are better suited to You may submit observations of the behaviour of a target’s luminosity as light curve collected over a longer period of time.      

6.) Reporting that a common celestial body is visible
An observation that only mentions that the Moon, the Sun, a planet, or a Deep Sky object is visible, is not an adequate observation for submission. On the other hand, observations including photographs or drawn illustrations of these same targets are welcome.

7.) Wide-angled scenery photographs with the Sun or the Moon
A photo of the Sun or the Moon is deemed astronomically interesting, if the target is big enough (usually shot with a telephoto lens) that details, such as sunspots or craters, are discernible.

I have submitted an observation/comment, why is it not immediately published on the site?
Submitted observations and comments may not be immediately available on the system, as all submitted material is moderated before it is published on the site. Moderators also help with the identification of phenomena, among other things. Though there are about twenty volunteers as moderators, sometimes there may be delays in publishing an observation or a comment.

Can I make changes to my submitted observation?
Yes you can. You receive an email with a link after submitting an observation, this link gives you access to make changes to your that particular observation. Please save these emails in their own, separate email folder.

How do I comment observations?
When commenting on someone else’s observations or photos, please observe proper netiquette and good manners; no insulting of fellow enthusiasts or personal attacks. Critique should be given in a friendly, constructive manner.  

What do I do if I spot an observation or a photo that I do not think should be in Taivaanvahti?

Notify the moderators by email. They take care of incidents, where an observation is archived or a photo is removed. A public comment can be demotivating and uncomfortable for the observer. In these cases the best course of action is to contact the moderators at taivaanvahti(at) If the observation or photograph is clearly against the rules of Taivaanvahti, it will be removed. Usually the reason for these cases is simply a misunderstanding, so taking public action is not necessary.

You may also contact the moderators when you feel a phenomenon in an observation has been misidentified. There are over ten thousand submissions annually to Taivaanvahti. In practice, it is impossible to handle each and every observation with equal thoroughness.

Why was my comment or observation not published?

1.) The wrong subject matter  
The observed phenomenon does not belong to the scope of the observation programme. See the question “Of what phenomena are observations not collected?” earlier.

2.) The wrong name, or incomplete name 
An observer must use their full, real(legal) name. If an observer does not want their name to be on the internet in conjunction with their observations, they should remove the checkmark on “My name can be displayed in conjunction with my observation/Nimeni voi näkyä havaintoni yhteydessä”. Even then the full, real name must be filled in the name field of the form. When commenting on an observation, the commenter’s name must be shown on the internet.

3.) An invalid email address 
When submitting a comment or an observation, the user must state their email address. The comment or observation may be rejected, if the address is invalid.

4.) No rights to an image 
If the moderators have good reasons to believe, that the observer does not have the legal rights nor the permission to use an image, the observation may be rejected.

5.) The observation or a photo/image is incorrect
An observation may be rejected, if there is good reason to assume the observation or photo/image is incorrect. An example would be a solar eclipse when one did not occur, or a photo which has artificial elements added to it.  

6.) Inappropriate content  
If the text or images are inappropriate, that is contain material that is against netiquette and/or contrary to accepted principles of morality. Inappropriate content includes humbug and pseudoscience.

7.) Commercial content  
The Taivaanvahti system is not intended for marketing services or products.

8.) A duplicate observation  
You have submitted an observation that is in essence a duplicate of one of your earlier submissions: The phenomenon, of the same course of the phenomenon, from the same location, twice within a short time period. 

How might observations be processed?
The Taivaanvahti experts have the right to make corrections to the identification of phenomena in observation submissions, if they are blatantly incorrect. More information on processing of observations can be found in Taivaanvahti’s privacy policy (register description).