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cotterless45

Planning your sessions.

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cotterless45    8,292

These are a few considerations that I've found handy and might be useful with organising your observing .

Practical.

Red torch, check it's working and the batteries are ok

Check your finder is aligned with your scope. Half covering a Telrad will enable you to align on a distant chimney in the day.

Notebook or paper and a soft pencil, 4B or softer. This'll avoid ripping into paper as you note or draw in your fever of excitement.

A cardboard box on it's side will keep stuff out of the dew. Ensure your dew heater is on straight away , they take time to get results. Have a hairdryer handy in case.

Ensure that if you do leap of bed that you can lay your hands on,

Glasses.

Clothes.

Shoes.

Ensure the bloke in the living room mirror doesn't leap out at you.shocking.

Keys to the door.

White spray paint the edge of garden steps.ouch.

Ensure the washing line pole is out of the way.Ouch.

Planning.

Before starting , the session will be productive if you have a list of targets or you could end up looking at the same old familiar suspects.

Check out which constellations are favourably placed for you. Go one constellation at a time. You'll find one leads to another.Get the targets noted down , a photocopy of the relevant star chart with these marked out helps. Initially I use a clipboard.

A garden chair(s) or table is ideal for putting gear on within reach.

An A4 plastic sheeted file will keep these safe. One idea is to start off with the Telrad Messier charts. http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps_jsmall.htmlThese are quite plain and can easily be added to with the best of targets.

Your own charts will be personal to you, not packed with stars, but easy enough to star hop with.

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Remember that if you do take books and charts out, they are dew magnets particularly in autumn and spring. Best scanning them or making a rough reference.

Results !

A few notes of magnification used and noting which are the best targets is worth keeping,addition to a brief description, I grade clusters with asterisks, four being the best , with compact star clouds or simple spectacular such as NGC 2301 or NGC 7789.

Any additional notes such as dust lanes or core brightness of galaxy will be of interest when you do an observing report. Any reports however brief are really appreciated.

Simple drawings of planets will give you great pleasure and show you the changes in details .

There is so much of interest and a quick net search later will reveal the background of what you have found.

There is a certain excitement knowing how far away NGC 2419,"The InterGalactic Wanderer "is and observing the oldest globular clusters and the newest planetary nebulae.

There is no harm in adding a few faint targets , some of the galaxy magnitudes don't take account of bright cores. Being on the edge of town my lists go down to about +11, with some extras for dark skies!

post-6974-0-51206200-1416495891_thumb.jp

Forum observing reports are one source of targets, they are things that other observers actually see. You can also fill your individual constellation lists with monthly magazine suggestions and books. Apps and Stellarium are a rich source, just get them down on paper !

When I started , I borrowed library books and went through the constellations. This will give you a wide range to look at.

If you wish to spend a night just on planetary nebulae for instance, your constellation info will provide you with an observing list. Keep these lists, noting not only those seen ,but the ones you had trouble with. Other observers can help, just let them know !

If planets are up, ensure that you know where to look. Once you are used to the night sky, you'll soon spot any wanderers along the ecliptic.

Just as relaxing is sitting out there looking or using small bins. An evening with a simple Dob and the sky and you'll soon drift away.

It is wonderful out there under the stars, a bit of planning and you'll be looking forward to your next session under those elusive,

Clear skies !

Nick.post-6974-0-24943700-1416496132_thumb.jp

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baggywrinkle    1,605

Nice work Nick.

If I think I might be off in the car early morning then I pack the car the night before. Around my way this is OK as it is pretty safe and my grab and go kit can be hidden in the boot.

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webboid    143

Very good advice. I do most of what you list & it certainly helps with being productive on those ever rarer clear nights.

Should be a sticky.

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MattJenko    2,205

It is tricky in a group observing session to keep up with note taking. I try, but am not very diligent.

To be honest, my most enjoyable evenings are the solo ones where I have had a plan and work through a set of targets, as I can then write up after quite easily from memory as well.

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Qualia    4,826

Amazing work, Nick and thank you for putting this together :icon_salut: I'm sure it will help many folk and the advice and insights are  great :grin:

Should be a sticky.

Aye, + 1.

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wookie1965    1,210

This and changing what i was looking for has made my nights viewing more enjoyable and it is all down to Nick who told me this in person im ever so grateful, it has renewed my enthusiasm in this hobby.

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kev    409

I have to unattach the washing line too.i have nearly hung myself on it twice

Also its handy if its preplanned to fill the kettle beforehand, and put some coffee etc(n dried milk) in a cup. U don't want to a) wake the other half dropping a cup and B) get blinded by the fridge light coming on. Silly i know but it does save your eyesight whilst u warm up.

Sent from my iPhone so excuse the typos!

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ccfcbob    11

Good article cheers.

Now I have stepped into the world of serious scopes any tips for someone recently upgraded to a Skywatcher 250px, what are the 'must see' 1st without getting to complicated just yet.

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Mark at Beaufort    2,353

Nick some good advice on observing. I use a white marker board to make notes rather than paper and pencil. When I prepare the nights programme I list the objects on the marker board. I have also bought some nice plastic boxes to hold star atlas etc. What I have also found convenient is a quality music stand to hold the atlas which has a Rolson flexible twin red light bought from Maplins to illuminate the atlas.

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Some great tips here-thanks to all who have contributed,especially you Nick. I have considered getting one of those cheap digital recorders to keep running notes as I observe-easier than bits of paper for written notes (but NOT sketches!).

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KevUU    279

Blimey I'm late to this party. Good summary Nicko, I'm glad it got pinned it should be very helpful to people. Anyone who's looked at your books at a star party can attest that no-one does planning and notes like you - plus some great sketches :)

Now I have stepped into the world of serious scopes any tips for someone recently upgraded to a Skywatcher 250px, what are the 'must see' 1st without getting to complicated just yet.

I know I'm late but I thought I'd answer anyway:

Globular clusters.

I mean really, anything and everything: familiar objects look totally different, things that used to be too faint will suddenly be attainable, so just make like a kid in a sweet shop. But the biggest step change for me when I went from my ST80 to Jeffery (8" dob) was globs - just WOW :D

That was on Nick's advice too, thinking about it!

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Paz    570

Great post - I've made a note of these tips for reference.

:)

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stu640    20

Fantastic, I now have a list of jobs to prepare for my first forays into the night sky! One of the most useful posts I've seen for a novice like me! I'm sure to have wasted a lot of time without this prep advice, thank you!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Joe12345    132

Normally I just hop from one side of the sky to the other, I have never tried concentrating on one constellation at a time. It usually goes:

Jupiter

Venus

Saturn if visible

A few clusters

Try m31 (usually fail)

Look at everything again

Go home

Also is there a good constellation to start with? I have an 8" dob and I can't even see M31!

Thanks

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ronin    3,612

For working through a constellation try The Monthly Sky Guide by Ridpath+Tirion. It is sort of geared to a prominent constellation and the objects in it.

Bet you can see M31 but don't realise it.

All you will see is about 1/4 of it in an 8".

Suspect you are expecting a galaxy, not a slightly brightish bit of slightly compact candy floss. :grin: :grin: :grin:

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Piero    2,511

This is a great thread and it will be certainly of help for many people. I enjoyed reading it a lot and appreciated your stimulating and encouraging writing. There is a lot of fun in this hobby and, to me, part of it is also about documenting, be this during the session (e.g. sketching or taking live notes) or afterwards. 

I started documenting my sessions not much time ago and found it really important. First of all I enjoy it a lot, secondly it helps keep track of how objects are seen and therefore improve observation skills, and thirdly it helps keep track of which objects have been observed, which otherwise can be forgotten. I admire a lot people sketching their targets and to me that is the best way. Keeping notes is a good approximation though. Eventually everyone finds his/her own way.

Your advises are very useful and can change a person's approach to this hobby in a positive way. At least people should give a try. 

Thanks for sharing, 

Piero

Edited by pdp10
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Try m31 (usually fail)

For something that's three times the size of the moon its suprisingly stealthy from our light polluted urban skies. Best I've ever seen visually from the backgarden is a small fuzzy blob in the very middle of the galaxy. On the same night my DSLR on the same scope could see massively more of M31, and a couple of other small galaxies in the same frame. That was with my 5.1" newtonian.

If you can get somewhere really dark, later in the year, on a moonless night, get properly dark adapted etc you wont even need a telescope to see M31 :)

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SpaceWalker    43

An A4 plastic sheeted file will keep these safe. One idea is to start off with the Telrad Messier charts. http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps_jsmall.htmlThese are quite plain and can easily be added to with the best of targets.

Very nice guide!

But the link to Messier Charts seems outdated.  Everybody can try this Messier Finder Charts with the TelRad circles.

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Messier 104    18

Like the advice!

Love the idea of spraying the gardens steps white, always tripping over the one at the bottom of the garden. Not good whilst carring the scope!

THANKS NICK!

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johnha    16

So far, planning the objects I'm looking for is restricted to what's easily available/identifiable whilst I work out the limits of my scope & ability, using a couple of books and the odd magazine.

I'm curious as to how do you record your observations? I'm just starting to and trying to find a format that works (A4 ring binder, bound notebook, page a day diary etc.). Do you make rough notes and write them afterwards, remember & record later or record the final version there & then?

 

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