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pipnina

Does this seem like a reasonable observing plan?

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Tonight might be my first proper DSO observing session: Up til now either the moon has been out, I've been (still) too close to the LP of Plymouth or clouds...

Because I'd have to travel 40+ minutes to get to my planned destination to avoid LP, I decided a list of objects I'd like to see would be necessary.

Not sure if RA/Dec is the best way of finding objects, but I made sure a bright, easy to spot star is at the top of my list so I can adjust my setting circles properly after polar alignment.

Here's my list (At least so far): https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/264557087/observing%20plan%2018-3-15.txt

My geo co-ordinates are 52~ degrees north, 5~ west. Observing session could be anywhere from 9 til 12 (possibly stretching beyond but it depends how long I can keep my dad in the cold :p)

Help/Advice/Additional suggestions appreciated!

Clear skies!

       ~pipnina

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Some of those objects will be very tough in your 130 at the moment I think.

North American Nebula is real toughy and I think is best viewed at the end of summer when the nights get darker again and it's high overhead.

M33 (Trangulum Galaxy) is no longer well placed at your observing time of 9pm to 12am). It will be very low to the West / NW. That will make it more difficult to see due to haze and / or atmospheric scattering of light.

A good plan is to select objects close to the Zenith. Preferably some high surface brightness objects to get you started :-

M81 / M82 (Ursa Major) will be almost directly overhead and are very bright galaxies with a nice contrast in shape.

M35 / NGC 2158 (Gemini) - Nice open cluster and NGC2158 makes a nice challenge in the 130 as a much fainter companion to M35.

Eskimo Nebula (Gemini) - bright planetary nebula that can take high powers well.

M65 / M66 (Leo) - Nice galaxy pair. Quite bright. You might also spot the edge on NGC galaxy near by.

Double Cluster (Perseus) - Looks great in any scope at low power.

M36 / 37 /38 - A trio of open clusters in Auriga. Look great in most scopes.

M3 (Coma Ber) - This will be rising up in the east and is one of the best globular cluster in the Northern Hemisphere. Worth a look at between 60x and 100x in your 130.

By all means try the others in your list, but the above will be well positioned and give you a good bang for your buck.

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Some of those objects will be very tough in your 130 at the moment I think.

North American Nebula is real toughy and I think is best viewed at the end of summer when the nights get darker again and it's high overhead.

M33 (Trangulum Galaxy) is no longer well placed at your observing time of 9pm to 12am). It will be very low to the West / NW. That will make it more difficult to see due to haze and / or atmospheric scattering of light.

A good plan is to select objects close to the Zenith. Preferably some high surface brightness objects to get you started :-

M81 / M82 (Ursa Major) will be almost directly overhead and are very bright galaxies with a nice contrast in shape.

M35 / NGC 2158 (Gemini) - Nice open cluster and NGC2158 makes a nice challenge in the 130 as a much fainter companion to M35.

Eskimo Nebula (Gemini) - bright planetary nebula that can take high powers well.

M65 / M66 (Leo) - Nice galaxy pair. Quite bright. You might also spot the edge on NGC galaxy near by.

Double Cluster (Perseus) - Looks great in any scope at low power.

M36 / 37 /38 - A trio of open clusters in Auriga. Look great in most scopes.

M3 (Coma Ber) - This will be rising up in the east and is one of the best globular cluster in the Northern Hemisphere. Worth a look at between 60x and 100x in your 130.

By all means try the others in your list, but the above will be well positioned and give you a good bang for your buck.

It is meant to be less than perfect observing conditions tonight. So maybe I'll scratch those two off my list.

But hey, I'll be sure to look for your suggestions! That probably doubles the size of my list!

Now... back to notepad.

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Hi Pipnina.

You will struggle with those for a variety of reasons, some are faint and hard to see, others are below the horizon at the times you are talking about.

If you haven't tried them before I would go for the easy/bright ones to get you going.

M42 in Orion, one to get earlier on, easy to find

The Double Cluster in Perseus

The Auriga clusters M36, 37 and 38

The Pleiades (M45)

Comet Lovejoy in Cassiopeia

M81 and M82 in Ursa Major

Possibly try M65 and 66 in Leo

Get yourself well dark adapted, and your Finderscope aligned well and have fun!

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I've added the targets you guys suggested to my list! Going to keep the ones I almost definately can't see in there anyway since there's no harm in trying!

Going to check my viewfinder, try and find out how the setting circles on my mount work (this would fail miserably If I can't use them aha) and wait.

Clear skies!

    ~pipnina

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Blimey you do like to set yourself some difficult targets don't you. 

I would suggest that you try some off the lists above before trying  yours. 

Just a clue most objects beginning with the designation IC = very tough indeed. Not all I might add but most.

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I use this very nice little piece of software (french and english availlable) to plan my sessions.

It gives you all the targets according to your rig and criteria (type, time, easy or hard, etc) and present them with all the relevant details in a nice pdf file with cover.

Neat and easy to use. You can archive the pdf for futur reference.

This software plus Stellarium are nice tools to plan your sessions.

Clear skies

Edited by Vox45

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...depends how long I can keep my dad in the cold :p

I won't add anything to the already excellent advice above, but I did think that if your dad were a seasoned observer, he'll be able to offer you a helping hand. But if he were not and he's coming along by way of invitation, it might be more thoughtfull to show him some of the more spectacular objects easily visible at this time of year, at the hour you're observing.

Three hours may sound a lot, but a good session like that won't get too many objects in - especially if you want to spend some time observing them. If you're out with your dad and you're having to hunt down faint fuzzies that you've never seen before, the night might get a little more complicated than expected.

If I were taking out someone, I'd try to cover all my bases. Make sure before hand that your dad will be warm and comfortable and show him a little of everything. Clusters, globulars (if possible), nebulae, planetaries, galaxies, Jupiter and so on.

Just a thought :grin:

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 I like to "warm up" on star clusters when I DSO obs + I love them :grin: . The Beehive M44 is always a target now and also the mentioned Auriga clusters. Easy to find too right near Jupiter.

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I won't add anything to the already excellent advice above, but I did think that if your dad were a seasoned observer, he'll be able to offer you a helping hand. But if he were not and he's coming along by way of invitation, it might be more thoughtfull to show him some of the more spectacular objects easily visible at this time of year, at the hour you're observing.

Three hours may sound a lot, but a good session like that won't get too many objects in - especially if you want to spend some time observing them. If you're out with your dad and you're having to hunt down faint fuzzies that you've never seen before, the night might get a little more complicated than expected.

If I were taking out someone, I'd try to cover all my bases. Make sure before hand that your dad will be warm and comfortable and show him a little of everything. Clusters, globulars (if possible), nebulae, planetaries, galaxies, Jupiter and so on.

Just a thought :grin:

Turns out I might not be able to go tonight anyway. The two nearest places with (mostly) dark skies are 40-50 minute drives away and my dad won't like being out past 11PM. Gonna see what I can do though.

And the nights are getting shorter now.

Why, oh why do these clear nights have to be so rare!?

I can only hope nobody buys some new equipment for the next few weekends.

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great thread folks - thanks for all the ideas

Lovejoy is worth a hunt, though not obvious in polluted skies - I found it by accident (my planning isnt a thorough as yours and often involves exploring constellations one at a time, and I happened to be in Cassiopeia) and am still gob smacked to have seen a real comet with my own eyes

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 I like to "warm up" on star clusters when I DSO obs + I love them :grin: . The Beehive M44 is always a target now and also the mentioned Auriga clusters. Easy to find too right near Jupiter.

If you've not seen M44 (and even if you have) this is a stand out open cluster. Spend time looking at it and you will see loads of little patterns of three/four stars, lovely.

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52, -5 is the Pembroke Coast National Park.

That is a long way from Plymouth, but should be dark.

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Well, I didn't see much due to various factors.

1: It was a little too misty- viewing conditions were quite poor. Perhaps I was a bit excited at the last of cloud.

2: I still didn't escape the LP. I didn't quite get to where I intended (lost aha).

3: Cheap EQ mount meant the scope collided with the tripod, the R.A setting circle kept moving with the scope and i couldn't point at anything with it.

TBH, I don't know how I'm going to plan my observing sessions now. I could just state "below x star of y constellation and then to the left near z darker star" but i'd have to actually learn the constellations then XD And thinking about it... It still won't be able to see objects at the zenith...

Maybe I'm using the mount incorrectly... But I still think it's terrible (I may have to invest in a decent mount, I guess I have some money right now).

Well, good night! Clear skies!

    ~pipnina

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Sorry the session didn't work out. I can't make any helpful suggestions about the mount, but in terms of finding targets:


1.  Stellarium, if you haven't already discovered it, is a superb piece of free software. It will show you which targets/constellations are suitably placed for your time, date and location (and much, much more). 


2.  Invest in a decent star atlas. I have the Cambridge Star Atlas which is about 25 quid. Mark this up at home and take it into the field with you. 


3.  By all means use the setting circles to get into the right part of the sky, or for large can't-miss-it objects (Andromeda galaxy, large open clusters), but I think it's easier to match what you can see in the sky naked-eye to a star chart. 


4.  As a by-product of doing this, you'll find yourself learning the constellations without even trying! 


Most important - have fun. If your mount is getting in the way of having fun, leave it at home and just take your binoculars out a few times. I would swap my entire equipment collection for a pair of 10x50s and a dark sky any day. 

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One of the best mounts a beginner can use is a dobsonian mount. Nothing beats it for quick star hopping and super stable viewing. It will teach you the sky like no other scope. No worrying about polar aligning, strange scope angles with EQ mount, etc. Just point, hop, and shoot :-)

An alternative is a Skywatcher AZ4 alt-az mount that would give similar easy pointing capability.

Probably the best value for money starter scope is the Skywatcher Skyliner 200p dobsonian. You get 8" of aperture which is good for DSO's and a simple, stable mount. All for less than £300 (£200 or less second hand and they are always for sale).

Last night was misty here too. Scope stayed in shed!

Edited by greglloyd

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Sorry the session didn't work out. I can't make any helpful suggestions about the mount, but in terms of finding targets:
1.  Stellarium, if you haven't already discovered it, is a superb piece of free software. It will show you which targets/constellations are suitably placed for your time, date and location (and much, much more). 
2.  Invest in a decent star atlas. I have the Cambridge Star Atlas which is about 25 quid. Mark this up at home and take it into the field with you. 
3.  By all means use the setting circles to get into the right part of the sky, or for large can't-miss-it objects (Andromeda galaxy, large open clusters), but I think it's easier to match what you can see in the sky naked-eye to a star chart. 
4.  As a by-product of doing this, you'll find yourself learning the constellations without even trying! 
Most important - have fun. If your mount is getting in the way of having fun, leave it at home and just take your binoculars out a few times. I would swap my entire equipment collection for a pair of 10x50s and a dark sky any day. 

I'll have a look at star atlases, I presume they're like road maps and show things like DSOs in relation to bright stars?

I will admit I got better views of the pleiades through the 10x50s than my telescope (purely I think because the telescope made them upside-down) But neither could see any of the nebulosity to them (probably due to the mist or maybe just the light pollution... It's so hard to avoid. (Even worse when, on the way there, I saw this person's outside light lighting up more sky than ground.)

The setting circles are inoperable on the EQ2, I've found. If you turn the scope on the mount, there's a chance it'l move and set you off by many degrees. If you lock the circle.... Well it moves with the telescope exactly then >:(

Combine that with the telescope colliding with the mount when looking at the zenith and the slow motion controls colliding with each other when looking low down in the north... these EQ mounts are definately a pain aha.

Maybe bins and a star chart are the way to go until I can afford something that won't make me pull my hair out.

    ~pipnina

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One of the best mounts a beginner can use is a dobsonian mount. Nothing beats it for quick star hopping and super stable viewing. It will teach you the sky like no other scope. No worrying about polar aligning, strange scope angles with EQ mount, etc. Just point, hop, and shoot :-)

An alternative is a Skywatcher AZ4 alt-az mount that would give similar easy pointing capability.

Probably the best value for money starter scope is the Skywatcher Skyliner 200p dobsonian. You get 8" of aperture which is good for DSO's and a simple, stable mount. All for less than £300 (£200 or less second hand and they are always for sale).

Last night was misty here too. Scope stayed in shed!

Indeed, over the time I've had this EQ mounted scope I've realised how much of a pain it is. I do wish I'd gotten a dob, especially since I don't intend to do any imaging in the forseeable future.

Maybe I could consider finding a 2nd hand dob from somewhere. Something to consider.

Until then- My bins will be my main :)

    ~pipnina

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this can be a frustrating hobby, with so much to learn - more than I expected certainly. It also seems to be that you have to use and live with kit & approaches before you find the things that work for you - I have a dob mount and have been wondering about "upgrading" to an EQ, your experience is pushing me away form that now

as a novice I have found a Cambridge Star Atlas (£7 from Astroboot) and Guide to Astronomical Wonders (£12 Amazon marketplace) to be money well spent for  may approach to planning, which mostly involves "working a constellation". I have laminated up the star charts from the atlas to scribble on them but not yet found I need to so

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this can be a frustrating hobby, with so much to learn - more than I expected certainly. It also seems to be that you have to use and live with kit & approaches before you find the things that work for you - I have a dob mount and have been wondering about "upgrading" to an EQ, your experience is pushing me away form that now

as a novice I have found a Cambridge Star Atlas (£7 from Astroboot) and Guide to Astronomical Wonders (£12 Amazon marketplace) to be money well spent for  may approach to planning, which mostly involves "working a constellation". I have laminated up the star charts from the atlas to scribble on them but not yet found I need to so

I'm sure a good EQ mount would provide a much better experiance. But because mine came with a telescope costing £130 total i think we know where most of my issues come from.

I personally think that, unless you're going to be doing AP, Dobs or at least Alt-Az are going to be more comfortable.

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Dob (and Alt Az) are the simplest and fastest mounts to use for pure star hopping visual use. Combine one with a Telrad zero power finder and a good 9x50mm finder scope and you have the perfect setup for finding those DSO's (manually that is).

A great starter book is "Turn Left at Orion". This gives you 100 of the easiest objects to find in the sky.

A more advanced book would then be "Atlas of the Messier Objects". If you decide to try a view the whole Messier catalogue. This goes into more depth for each object. For example it details individual NGC objects within the galaxy M33 for you to try and observe (this would be very challenging in a 5" scope).

Another good book is "Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders". This book contains object from various catalogues plus some good advice on eyepiece selection and general telescope / observing guidelines.

Good software includes Stellarium (free) and Sky Safari 4 (Plus version is good value). These are available in desktop and mobile / tablet versions.

A good resource for checking what you should expect to see in your scope is to google for an observing report of an object. For example "m33 observing report".

In the list of results returned, look for the link with a title like "IAAC Observing Reports for M33" (for example).

You will then go to a page where you can read descriptions people have made in scopes of similar or larger size than yours. This helps you to know what to expect in your scope / or perhaps see that you get better views than most others!

Edited by greglloyd

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