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Jazzmatazz

Planing a observing session - Tips, advice?

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Hi guys,

I read more than once that one should plan for the stargazing session. Is that something most of you do? And if so whats your process?

I started in August so for me i mostly start by relocating recently found objects, like for pratice memorizing the "way" to get there. 

Then i just wonder around usually trying yo go for some Galaxys, Globulars and Nebulae, those are my fav targets. Nowadays of course a little stop by Jupiter is mandatory! :))))

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Yo, have a look at the pinned thread in "Beginners- Getting started with observing ".

Starting out and keeping a list or notes of your session will give you a sense of achievement.

In addition you're likely to see much more, for instance , making a note of when the ISS passes ( ISS spotter free app )or the Jupiter transits ( JupiterMoons free app).

It's also very relaxing now and again to either sit out and just observe the sky either by eye, small binoculars or let your scope show you some of our gorgeous sights,

Nick.

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I suppose you have a couple of options:

You can make a list of say 10 thnigs/objects to go and find and observe. Sort of those Messier objects to cross off of the list.

Another is to pick a constellation and go through that. With this you can make a drawing or get a print of the constellation and mark up where things are.

The purpose is simply so that you do not go out tonight and look at M42, Jupiter, Albireo, M45. Then tomorrow night go out and do the exact same one, and again the night after.

The advantage of the second is that everything is in the same area, the disadvantage of the second is that everything is in the same area..

The other aspect is that a plan is intended to get somewhere, is making up a sort of random list serving any purpose.

There are many lists and catalogues you can select from: Messier Catalogue, Caldwell Catalogue try the Double Star list on Delaware AS site.

I tend to "mix" things. Work out a list of 5 clusters to get, another list of 5 doubles to get, I use small 6x4 constellation diagrams to work through (print off 2 and tick off bits in them).

Still useful to leave time to just point and look, but having some purpose is also good, you can actually record what you have managed to observe.

Remindds me I can update the constellation diagrams I have with any additional objects over the break.

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Organising a session means you'll probably be more productive than not doing so; that said, scanning around without too much of a plan is also great fun and should be done from time to time.

At the end of the day, it depends how you want to approach your evening. You could, say, decide to go for just globs, galaxies or open clusters, concentrate on solar system objects, tackle more of the Messier list, try your hand at spliting doubles, working methodically through just one constellation, a mix-max of all, and so on. I guess how one goes about their observing session is also indication of one's own peculiar personality, disposition, gear and observing site.

I've never bothered with lists - not even something like the Messier one - so typically, I'll head out onto the roof top, see the general conditions of the sky (transparency, scintillation of stars, brightness of Moon) and see what constellations I can observe. I'll then have a look at a star atlas and taking into account the sky conditions, see what there is to observe in that area. That's about as far as planning goes on a general night.

To this, I've also picked up a really handy tip from some of the observers here (Cotterless, Jetstream and Moonshane). You stick thin strips of posits onto the star atlas indicating areas or objects to observe if you happen to be on that page. This is great and saves time when out in the field.

Whenever possible, I also like to include a sketch in my sessions and this requires a little pre-planning. That is, if I'm doing an open cluster, for example, I know I ought to do this early on in the session when I'm fresh. If I'm doing a galaxy or two, it's the opposite approach. I ought to leave this until near the end of a session when my eye has become relatively dark adapted.

Other than that, I see no harm returning and returning again to the same object. While M42 is in a good position in the night sky, for example, I will observe it on every session. The same can be said for Jupiter.

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When I started out I got a list of easier Messier objects to find and worked through that, stopping a bit longer at things I was interested in and moving quickly on from ones that I wasn't. I found myself drawn to a few particular types of DSO and moved from my Messier "hit list" to concentrate more on these. I still get a chance to check out interesting phenomenon when it takes my fancy but I have focus on what I like now, so I work on that.

Keeping a log as Nick mentions is also a good idea. I don't and you wouldn't believe the amount I forget *there's something familiar about this emission nebula  :grin:  

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You can use this free software that help you plan your session in details and create a nice looking pdf that you can print and keep as a log book :)

(Website in French but freeware is availlable in English)

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I always attempt to optimise the viewing of any object:

- catch them before they start getting to low in the west

- wait for them to rise high in the east

- avoid the light polluted parts of the sky

- wait for circumpolar objects to be high in the north

- look at bright objects last (retaining dark adaption)

...enjoy the journey :)

Paul

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I always attempt to optimise the viewing of any object:

- catch them before they start getting to low in the west

- wait for them to rise high in the east

- avoid the light polluted parts of the sky

- wait for circumpolar objects to be high in the north

- look at bright objects last (retaining dark adaption)

...enjoy the journey :)

Paul

Good tips ! the last one I did not think about that... silly me :)

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All good "tips" above. Good habits will yield good experiences, as opposed to just "looking around" and visiting the same things over-and-over.

By using Stellarium as a basis, one can quickly see what's in a particular constellation... yadda, yadda. However, a good planisphere really helps with planning. How so? Most amateur astronomers have a limited time frame to observe because of job considerations, family situations, etc. A little planning ahead with a planisphere (Heck, you can do it sitting on your couch.) will show you exactly when your chosen constellation will be rising, etc.

Yes, you can run time forward with Stellarium. However, the planisphere will save you a lot of angst beforehand... then, run Stellarium forward to that particular date/time for more details.

You buy a planisphere for the latitude range that you live in. I'm at 36 deg North, so a 30-40 degree one is perfect for me. Here's the one I use (I've worn out two of them over the decades). It's made by David Chandler, and is marketed by several retailers... Sky & Telescope, etc.

Pardon the pic quality. I just took it with my computer's camera. :lol:

Clear, Dark Skies

post-38191-0-46655000-1419358020.jpg

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