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How does a novice plan their viewing ?


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Okay so I am still getting to grips with all this stuff - have got a few books, star maps, Apps etc.

But most clear evenings I get 30 minutes after the kids are in bed and sit in the garden gawping. No idea how to actually "plan" what to do - is there a process us novices need to learn?

My viewing area is good from due south to east to due north with no real view west, so Orion is now out of view - and now Orion is gone I am little lost for ideas

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best bet is get a start map and a planisphere. this will allow you to pick the objects in a certain constellation. stick with one constellation each time out and then you learn various techniques of finding, the general layout of the sky and see a wide variety of objects - including double stars, open and globular clusters, galaxies and nebulae.

when Jupiter, the moon and other planets are prominent I look at them for a fair bit each night and enjoy them a lot.

hope this helps in some way.

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Not really, just do what you like most :D

If there are moon or planets about, take a careful look at them, always worthwhile.

What is useful is to slowly build up knowledge of the sky. In dark night (no moon) it is a good idea to start with an easy constellation, and have a look at easy objects (Orion, M42; Taurus, M45; Hercules, M13; Cassiopeia and Perseus with the Double Cluster). From there, start scouting around neighbouring constellations, identifying stars and potential targets (binoculars can do this brilliantly, once found in binoculars, try to find the same objects with the scope). The trick is always to first find the easy targets, so you get to know the different kinds of objects you are looking for (galaxies, globular clusters, open clusters, planetaries, etc). Once you are familiar with the easier ones (brighter Messier and Caldwell objects) you can then move on to more and more challenging ones, if you like. However, take your time looking at the easier ones, and take your time getting to know each constellation in turn. I myself found it useful to start making notes and later tried to do a more systematic search for all objects in each of the catalogues, starting with the easiest (but still challenging): Messier, and then moving on to Caldwell, Herschel 400, etc. I now like to hunt fainter and fainter galaxies with my 8" scope, but I still revisit the old favourites.

Hope this helps

Oh and download stellarium, if you haven't yet done so (free on most platforms except android)

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The Messier list is great way to concentrate your observing. Start with some of the easier ones particularly open clusters and global clusters some of which are quite close together. Relax and plan for observing well one object per 30 minute session. Perhaps you may have time if some objects are close together to fit in more than one. However, more time at the eyepiece observing one object but doing it well will pay dividends.

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A lot will depend on what it is that you want to look at, then oddly sticking to it.

I will often just work through a constellation, something like the Monthly Sky Guide by Ridpath gives the constellation (prominent for that month) and the main Messiers and NGC objects in it.

The problem may be that if you drift off to look at something else you do not get the ones that were initially your target.

Using a target list is useful, the Messier Marathon being an obvious one, there is the correcponding Caldwell Catalogue.

Assorted sites have "lists", the Astro League in the US has several, one society in the US has a short list of about 20 contrasting coloured double stars.

Wil say that if you do not have a sort of target list in mind then many end up with M42, M45, M31, Jupiter, Saturn and maybe Mars, then boredom sets in. With Mars being small and M31 not really up to the impressive images we see that is it.

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I started on the Messier List and used to spend some evenings seeing how many I could bag in the time available and other nights doing longer observations depending on how the mood took me

I used to go out with my bino's, tripod, a small laptop with stellarium on it and a note book and lose myself in the stars. It really taught me how to get around the sky.

I kind of miss the simplicity of those days but I do love my kit now as well.

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There is some excellent advice so far in this thread.You are right,that you need to PLAN before you go out to observe,otherwise,you 'waste' time looking at the same old favourites.Working to a 'list' be it constellation by constellation,Messier's,Lunar 100,etc helps to concentrate the mind.And don't forget the Observing calendar here on SGL. Happy viewing1

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thanks folks - and thanks Micheal, interesting link. Who would have thought observing is harder than picking a first scope

my solution has been to get a copy of Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders and work each Constellation from that book. Plan is to do Gemini at the next clear night - unless it August before the next clear night here!

also had a look on the Astronomy League and we (my 9yo and myself) are planning to work through a couple of lists:

https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/consthunt/const.html

https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/messier/mess.html

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I've gone out for probably 20 hours or so in the last 2 weeks, so I'm a beginner still,

but what I do is I find a constellation with excellent viewing, whatever seems clearest or whatever sparks my interest that particular night,

and then I open the atlas and find everything I can in that particular constellation. Auriga for one will have you busy for hours and hours. 

This is how I prefer to do things. I'll look online and see if there's anything 'current' going on. For example last night I also looked at Comet Lovejoy which was really cool as it was my first comet.

I was having the same problem as yourself when I started but I found the 'constellation viewing' method to work quite well. I'll often do one-two constellations a night (I go out 2-3 hours usually) and find ~10 DSO's each time (I use binoculars). 

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a beginner myself I get super excited when the sky is actually clear, so once the boy is alseep I run outside like an excited child...

I always say I'm going to do this or that but then when the time comes it all goes out the window.

Maybe I do need a plan of attack at times.

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I would start with the Messier objects and go from there, being 110 on the list it could take a while to view them all?  After that there are other lists to view, currently i am going thru the Herschel 400 Observig List by Steve O'Mara.  I am now into year three for the list, due to weather and my free time some areas have been over looked, especially the Virgo area where there are many galaxies (faint fussy's or worst) to view.  Hope to have the list finished this year, assuming I can attack the Virgo and Teapot area this year?

Happy hunting.

Peter

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I'm slightly at a loss as to Orion being out of view, it is almost directly opposite my front door in the evening, 19.00 Yorkshire time, due South-ish.

Hi Rich

yep same here - due South (ish) when the kids are in bed - pretty much exactly where the street light opposite our house is . . .

So I have been exploring more northerly objects, the Guide to Astronomical Wonders and Cambridge Atlas has transformed things for me now - so I can plan ahead and "grab and go"

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I have found two things help my viewing/observing in different ways:

1. Settle on a very small number of things to look at and concentrate on those for a long(ish) time to "practice" viewing objects. For example, last night I spent nearly an hour just observing Jupiter with different eye pieces. Over time you begin to see more and more detail. Last night initially I could see the the planet and three or four moons, by the end of an hour the bands were clearly visible.

2. Just pick a patch of sky and practice identifying objects (using a sky map or something like Stellarium). This helps to build your knowledge of what is where and helps to find the objects you really want to look for.

I have only been observing for about a year and through doing the above I am beginning to recognise some constellations and other objects in the night sky. It also helps me plan viewing sessions as I know in advance how easy or difficult a session I should anticipate :)

Andrew

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Hello littleskink

I just started with jupiter and the Moon, just to get familiar with my scope. Then I used the iPad with sky guide app, this helped me find Andromeda.

This is exactly how started too. Didnt bother initially lining up with the pole star - I could see the Moon and Jupiter so why would I want to do that? I now take the time to do things properly and makes observing alot easier. Andromeda is going to be my next target too.

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