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How do you 'observe'?


Joe12345
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I have spent hours looking at one object, like the Horse Head recently, not that I saw it. I do take a short rest about every 15-20 minutes though to relax the eye a bit. A couple of years back I spent about 4 hours on only the star at the centre of M57 and it was another solid 24 hours over about a month before I glimpsed it.

Alan

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I think this is a really interesting topic, and touches on the diverse nature of the 'hobby'. There's something about the 'OCD list ticker' about me, which can mean just 5-10 minutes or so on an object before moving on to the next thing on the list. In the UK we don't have the benefit of countless/predictable clear dark nights to take our time with ...

As other posts mention, how long one spends on an object can depend on how hard it was to find, and I too like to swap eyepieces, and perhaps even try a filter now and then, and this slows me down a bit.

I've recently made it easier for myself to stay with a particular object by keeping my binoculars with me, and pausing to scan around the sky for a few moments, before returning to the object in question. It's true that the longer you stay with something the more you see. 

Seeing conditions also affect how long I stay on something. I make a rough calculation as to whether it's worth staying or whether I should move on to something else on my list, something that might not be so affected by the night's seeing conditions ... If I find that something's particularly clear, I'll often find myself wondering what 'x' or 'y' looks like tonight, especially if I've made a mental note to return to them when the seeing was better ... I can end up 'hopping' around a bit if I'm in this mindset.

I've discovered the massive benefit of wide field of view EPs. I recently spent ages on M82, watching it slowly drift across the FOV of an 8.8mm, 82-degree EP, amazed at how much more detail I could tease out with the extra observing time. I was happy spending much more time on it that I'd ever done before, even at similar mag but with a plossl ...

As we all know, there's no right or wrong. Everyone is different, and gets something different from the hobby, every night/month/season is different, and anyway, as long as you're out under clear dark skies it makes no difference whether you're chilling and taking your time, or dashing from one thing to another.

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I dont make lists, i dont follow lists on my Go-To scope. I'm "old school" and am very happy just to wander around the universe for hours on end looking for things of interest. Not always. I do have a few things i quickly hunt down.....but its always manually. I have seen quite a few spectacular objects over the yrs simply by stumbling across them. That to me is the fun and excitement of astronomy.

There is no right or wrong.................just enjoy.

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11 hours ago, woodblock said:

I'm new too. One thing I'm learning quickly is that you have to be comfortable while observing. I have a dobsonian so the eyepiece is at the top end. A lot of the time I have to stoop to get to the eyepiece it gets uncomfortable after a while. I haven't solved this yet. I did see on this website someone recommended a seat (from FLO) where you can adjust the height but it's quite expensive. I thought about trying to adapt an old office chair.

Steve

 

I got lucky with this. The garden chairs I have have quite high armrests. I can sit on one of these and its at a good height for the eyepiece. Not the most comfy but it does the job.

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1 hour ago, LukeSkywatcher said:

....There is no right or wrong.................just enjoy.

I agree with this in general Paul and folks are completely free to adopt whatever approach maximises their enjoyment of the hobby of course.

There are a few tips and techniques that can help to bring out more detail in objects in this thread though, for those that wish to try them or are wondering why they see reports of more detail being seen by other observers using similar equipment to their own under similar conditions.

 

 

 

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On 29/01/2016 at 20:58, Linda said:

I am still very new to the hobby. Jupiter is something I can spend 15 minutes watching when I see it well. Some deep sky objects I also watch quite long, just to see more detail and to check if there really isn't more to see. Long is then 10 minutes or so. But the tiny grey dots that don't become interesting in more magnification are skipped after a short time. I do enjoy looking pretty clusters, but also for maybe some 10 minutes.

i try to watch the moon longer, but don't find it super interesting. After 20 minutes, I have seen it and tried out all magnifications.

I guess that when you know a little better which details to look for, you might look for a longer time.

Hi Linda.

I used to feel the same way about the moon. I think the problem for me was that I had no real purpose to my observations. Once Id decided to concentrate my attention on a couple of regions that interested me, I would study these throughout each lunation, sometimes making brief sketches showing the subtle detail as it changed over time. This made my lunar observing so much more interesting than just sight seeing.

The Alpine Valley, Aristarchus, Plato and Archimedes were among the subjects of my studies. Within a very short time I had recorded details that were not recorded on the standard lunar atlases I had. I only use a small aperture scope but it would take several lifetimes to observe properly all there is to see on the moon. All you need to do is choose a simple target and observe it over two or three nights and the moon will take on a more fascinating role in your list of targets.

 

Mike :-) 

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If I'm out with some of our group I'll spend longer looking at objects, usually because 3 or 4 of us might have the same object in different scopes/ eyepiece combinations so we all jump around from scope to scope comparing views. Out on my own I tend to take less time and fly through a mental list of usually old favourite objects.

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On 1/30/2016 at 19:43, kev100 said:

I think this is a really interesting topic, and touches on the diverse nature of the 'hobby'. There's something about the 'OCD list ticker' about me, which can mean just 5-10 minutes or so on an object before moving on to the next thing on the list. In the UK we don't have the benefit of countless/predictable clear dark nights to take our time with ...

As other posts mention, how long one spends on an object can depend on how hard it was to find, and I too like to swap eyepieces, and perhaps even try a filter now and then, and this slows me down a bit.

I've recently made it easier for myself to stay with a particular object by keeping my binoculars with me, and pausing to scan around the sky for a few moments, before returning to the object in question. It's true that the longer you stay with something the more you see. 

Seeing conditions also affect how long I stay on something. I make a rough calculation as to whether it's worth staying or whether I should move on to something else on my list, something that might not be so affected by the night's seeing conditions ... If I find that something's particularly clear, I'll often find myself wondering what 'x' or 'y' looks like tonight, especially if I've made a mental note to return to them when the seeing was better ... I can end up 'hopping' around a bit if I'm in this mindset.

I've discovered the massive benefit of wide field of view EPs. I recently spent ages on M82, watching it slowly drift across the FOV of an 8.8mm, 82-degree EP, amazed at how much more detail I could tease out with the extra observing time. I was happy spending much more time on it that I'd ever done before, even at similar mag but with a plossl ...

As we all know, there's no right or wrong. Everyone is different, and gets something different from the hobby, every night/month/season is different, and anyway, as long as you're out under clear dark skies it makes no difference whether you're chilling and taking your time, or dashing from one thing to another.

Did I write this because it pretty much sums me up entirely in the bold sections. I would say the reason I do this is primarily lack of viewing time down to weather and personal time. So when I do get out I want to try to see as much as I can.

Of course reading this thread re-enforces the fact that this is false economy in terms perhaps only actually seeing 80% of what I am actually viewing due to not spending enough time on it and really drinking in the view. I am reminded of my first really good view of M33, it was under ink black skies and the Milky Way was a river of stars accross the sky. I spent about 10 minutes max on it but the view was spectacular with the spiral shape jumping out at me and really warrented much more but that night again was a time limited session.

I think going forwards I need to consider my sessions more and plan them better, with consideration being given to doing a little more concerted viewing on some of the "MORE" worthy objects, mixing it up a little as they say. I agree that some smudges are never going to be much more unless you are talking mega scope time.

(I really would like to see M33 in her fabulous glory again, it was truly an amazing sight that night)

Steve

Edited by bomberbaz
extrapolating a point
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I always plan a session if it's going to be clear to make the most of the time as normally I'll be out for at least 3 hours or if it happens to be the weekend then 6 or 7 hours (unless the clouds get in the way) )  I like to observe lots of objects in a session and spend a reasonable amount of time on each object (depending on what it is).  Nebulae I spend much more time on and galaxies especially the Messier galaxies and some of the brighter NGCs I spend a reasonable time on changing the eyepieces and with Nebulae adding filters to discern more detail when possible.   Some are just a case of a quick observation and move on...

To be out longer you need to be comfortable and at this time of year that mean lots of clothing.   I had a couple of sessions last winter where I had to jack it in early due to cold then invested in some decent boots, thermals and wearing fleece lined socks AND wool socks.  This helps immensely.  Thermals under normal clothing and a thick fleece and down jacket.  Two woolly hats, one with flaps to cover the ears.  It seems overkill, but otherwise if you're stood for a long time you WILL get cold and if you're out at some dark site with no quick option to warm up then it's essential to stay warm.   Even then a decent size thermos flask filled with hot chocolate or tea is necessary and a sandwich and biscuits to keep me going and also warms you up.  I also take 5 minute or so break every hour just to move about a bit around a bit take in the sky.   The only issue are the hands which for dexterity it's difficult to wear much.  So I have some thin running style gloves which I can do the majority of work and then some thick gloves which I can just take off easily when necessary.

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I always start with objects in the West before they set and work my way gradually over the sky towards the East. That way you can catch any objects that are about to set and spend longer with stuff that's on the rise earlier in the morning. It kinda maximises the number of targets you can see in one night. :)

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Yesterday evening I saw M44 for the first time. Now that is an impressive and beautiful cluster and I really enjoyed watching it for quite a long time.

I guess it is also easier to follow objects for a long time when you have a tracking motor. E.g. When I watch Jupiter with high magnification, I must turn the handle all the time to keep it in view. Not so stimulating to do for hours...

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19 hours ago, brantuk said:

I always start with objects in the West before they set and work my way gradually over the sky towards the East. That way you can catch any objects that are about to set and spend longer with stuff that's on the rise earlier in the morning. It kinda maximises the number of targets you can see in one night. :)

Never thought of doing this. I normally start in the east and observe objects as they rise. I'll adopt your method of starting in the west. 

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When I had goto scopes, it seemed that I needed to see as much as possible. Nowadays, I only really bother with the Sun, Moon and brighter planets, and maybe some interesting doubles, so I spend a lot of time on one or two objects per session. To me, it's more satisfying to wait for those moments of good seeing, and know that I have used the available time, to get as much detail out of an object, as possible.

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14 hours ago, Roy Challen said:

When I had goto scopes, it seemed that I needed to see as much as possible. Nowadays, I only really bother with the Sun, Moon and brighter planets, and maybe some interesting doubles, so I spend a lot of time on one or two objects per session. To me, it's more satisfying to wait for those moments of good seeing, and know that I have used the available time, to get as much detail out of an object, as possible.

I like your observing strategy,Roy.

I don't know how you are effected by Light Pollution,but you have a couple of Scopes in your signature that seem to be well suited to your chosen targets.

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3 hours ago, MAN or ASTROMAN said:

I like your observing strategy,Roy.

I don't know how you are effected by Light Pollution,but you have a couple of Scopes in your signature that seem to be well suited to your chosen targets.

Thanks! I don't really have a strategy though, just a lot of constraints that I try to work around (actually, that is a strategy!). I live in a fairly busy town centre with lots of LP, so it is only sensible to concentrate on brighter targets, which turn reduces the need for huge apertures and heavy, expensive mounts. I don't tend to think of astronomy as a race against time/clouds/whatever anymore - I prefer to be relaxed behind the eyepiece - whatever was there last night, will be there tomorrow (with a few caveats and exceptions).

Edited by Roy Challen
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A thought on sketching: the purpose of sketching can be seen as an effort to produce a good sketch. However, it can also be seen as havng nothing to do with that at all. Its purpose might be seen as being to teach you to look. My parents were both skilled professional artists and insisted that learning to draw was about learning to look.

Olly

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