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Buzzard75

Planispheres, Star Atlases, and Apps, Oh My!

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So which do you prefer and why? I've seen planispheres before, but never spent enough time with one to figure out how to use one. I assume they wouldn't be much different than a star atlas that basically just spins around a fixed point and keeps you from having to flip pages. I suppose, depending on the size, a planisphere may not have the detail that an atlas does. As for apps and other software, there are so many to choose from. Do you prefer to have an app that changes and updates and can tell you exactly what's in front of you just by pointing your device at it, or do you prefer the more tactile feel of a planishere or an atlas? If you do use an app or other piece of software, what do you use? I've used a few (including Google Sky, Stellarium, and Star Walk), and find the new version of Star Walk 2 to actually be quite nice. They even have a Windows 10 app, which is pretty awesome to use on my Surface Pro 4.

So what's your preference? Which planispheres, atlases, or apps/software do you recommend?

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I've used many aids although, so far, I've not moved into tablet or mobile apps such as Sky Safari (which I know many really rate highly). My favourite hard copy star atlas is the Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas and the planetarium software that I use most often is Cartes du Ciel. I've just found that these tools fit best with my observing preferences so others will have other favourites I'm sure :smiley:

I also use, to a slightly lesser extent, Stellarium, the Virtual Moon Atlas and the Virtual Planet Atlas software as well as the hard copy Uranometria 2000.00 All Sky Edition, Interstellarium and the Cambridge Double Star Atlas.

I have a planisphere but I've not used it for about 25 years !.

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Hi. A planisphere is a bit more useful than you think. By spinning the window you can set a date and time so that it shows you what is observable at that time. This is a great way of seeing what you can see when out observing and it's also a very good way to learn your way around the night sky.

I do not often use electronic guides, but I do have Sky safari and it is very useful. I tend to use paper star atlases and have found the Sky and Telescope pocket atlas to be the most useful for general observing.

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I see Sky and Telescope Pocket Atlas pop up a lot in mentions on other forums and websites as well. I think this will be something I pick up. I can see a planisphere being useful as a quick reference for what's out, an atlas as having a bit more detail, and the software as being the easiest for most people to use. Of course then there's the GoTo and Intelliscope mounts that just take all the fun out of it. :D

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It seems the pocket  Star guide is popular, and I use a Planisphere when entertaining.

Buzzard75 beat me,  I must type faster.

Buzzard That was one of my CB handles back in the late 70's Good Buddy!
 

Edited by Charic

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54 minutes ago, Charic said:

Just ordered the pocket atlas.

lol, they convinced you too, huh?

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I found that the S&T Pocket Sky Atlas really improved my deep sky observing :smiley:

Combining it and the finders on my 12" dobsonian (one optical and one illuminated reticule) has proved very effective and my DSO count increased considerably once I started to use this combination. I've had a couple of nights when I've managed to find literally dozens of DSO's that I've not found before. A really good investment of around £12 :icon_biggrin:

 

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I confess that I am a SkySafari addict/fan. In some ways I hate that fact because I love paper atlases!

I don't use it to wave around the sky to see what is there, but as a virtual star atlas. There is just something about being able to, for example, dynamically change the number of stars visible to match what you see or put a circle on screen to show you the field of view of your scope/eyepiece combination that makes it much more useful than any paper atlas.

The fact that the stars are white on black, not inverted makes it easier for my pea sized brain to interpret things, plus it generally goes far deeper than any atlas I have used, way beyond what I need.

Latest software on the iPhone allows you to turn the display red for all apps including the home screen and dim the white point, making it no brighter than reading a paper atlas with a red torch.

I have the S&T Pocket Atlas which I used a lot before getting SkySafari, plus also the InterStellarium atlas which is just lovely to browse.

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Although I have used Skysafari in the past I am more of a atlas fan. I tend to use a planisphere to get a general picture of the sky and whats 'up' then use a atlas to home in on my target- I have just got my first copy of 'Nortons' and can't wait to get under the skies with it, on top of that the information contained in the handbook section is second to none.

I suppose my fondness for using the paper method when out in the field is cause to me Astronomy Is all about getting away from technology and all the gizmos that control our lives everyday now. Its all about taking a step back, looking up and being blown away by what we are part of and I feel that waving a phone around taints that a bit-just my thoughts though! each to their own and what ever works.

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Used a Palnisphere initially to work out which constellation was where, and how to get between them. The scale of them seems to prevent greater detail. I actually find the same with an app (7" tablet). To work around the sky they are also to me limited.  I can find say Cassipiopeia but then to get more I sort have to previously know what is in Cas in order for the tablet to be of great use. Slightly self-defeating.

Find for me the best is a reasonably detail constellation map now. I get the constellation, if brain is in gear I can find it, then the deeper detail available in the constellation map becomes useful. Suspect is that the additional detail can be selective as in main stars and just Messiers.

Have SS5+ and the use of that is to select an object and read the data on it = How far away is M42, and the other Messiers, same for Jupiter and planets. Will say that SS5+ has all the information but displaying it at the right time is my problem. Suppose I want the option to show say Auriga and ALL Messiers immaterial of magnitude then Auriga and ALL NGC's again immaterial of magnitude. Which is what I find a reasonable constellation map does, or can do if I draw up my own. Will say there is likely an option or setting so I can do this in SS5+ but if and where I have no idea. Could be useful for a Messier MArathon, or I suppose a similar Caldwell Marathon.

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I've recently purchased the S&T pocket sky atlas. As the only finder I had was a red dot finder I found it good for picking targets but not necessarily finding them. I just got a Telrad finder and tried it out last night and it got me to the Owl Nebula. I've used Sky Guide on iPhone and Stellarium to find objects in the past.

The thing to remember is that the map, paper or electronic, is just one part of the puzzle. As well as the Atlas and the finder you'll also want a red light torch to preserve your night vision when looking at the Atlas and a low magnification eyepiece. I was using a 24mm eyepiece that gives 37x in my scope. I've gone off on a slight tangent from your original question but these are things I learned off the back of getting a sky atlas.

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Buzzard 75 welcome to SGL

I bought a planisphere with a 30 degree latitude to take to California/Canary Islands etc to see which constellations were viewable at certain times and dates. I also had my Sky and Telescope Pocket Atlas to check these lower constellations in more detail. So both the planisphere and the S&T atlas go on holiday with me.

At home I use Uranometria and Interstellarium because I star hop to DSOs some of which are very faint. These atlases usually have stars going down to mag 10 or 10.5 so occasional I will produce a star chart in Stellarium to go to the limit of my 12" Dob.

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1 hour ago, ronin said:

Suppose I want the option to show say Auriga and ALL Messiers immaterial of magnitude then Auriga and ALL NGC's again immaterial of magnitude. Which is what I find a reasonable constellation map does, or can do if I draw up my own. Will say there is likely an option or setting so I can do this in SS5+ but if and where I have no idea.

Ronin, there is indeed. :) 

If you go to search, then select say Messier Objects. At the top you will see a Settings box. Select this, and you then get the option to sort by a number of different criteria, including Constellation. This then allows you see all the Messier objects in whichever constellation you are interested in.

IMG_1787.PNG

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I bought Turn left at Orion on SGL recommendation and also got the oxford star atlas - so far I haven't opened either :icon_redface:

On the other hand I downloaded Stellarium mobile and use it on my phone most nights I go out and Sky Map (what I think use to be Google sky) is also good on my mobile - that's one where you hold the mobile up to the sky.  The thing with all these is that some of the constellations are still not easy to discern against the mass of stars that are up there.  I find many of the constellations are not as 'in your face' as Orion and can still be difficult to pick out even if you are looking in the right direction.  For example to find Hercules I used Sky Map to find Vega and then found the square arrangement of stars that are part of it.  to the right of Vega.  The stars in Hercules didn't seem as bright as those in Orion. 

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I use only PC version of Stellarium and a planisphere. I have some kind of SkySafari or similar app on my phone, but I ended up not using it at all. I find it too much hassle, it messes up my night adapted vision and the benefit it provides is questionable.

The reason why PC version of stellarium and a simple planisphere is enough for me right now, is the fact, that I plan my sessions beforehand and I tend to not overdo it with objects to observe, 5-7 objects per session is a reasonable maximum for me. My sessions tend to be shorter than 2 hours. Also, I am a green observer, I tend to enjoy easy-to-find objects, as all is pretty much new to me.

Also, GoTo helps a lot, so I don't need any fancy apps/maps, but still I enjoy galaxy or nebula hunting sessions with my ST80 on a manual AZ3 as much as I enjoy my GoTo-powered SkyMax (maybe I enjoy that ST80 even more than that GoTo scope, but don't tell anybody, it was too expensive to admit that :icon_biggrin:).

The exception to this 5-7object rule are double stars, which one can observe 10+ double stars per session, but I have GoTo for that, don't search for them manually.

Edited by kilix

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1 hour ago, Stu said:

Ronin, there is indeed. :) 

If you go to search, then select say Messier Objects. At the top you will see a Settings box. Select this, and you then get the option to sort by a number of different criteria, including Constellation. This then allows you see all the Messier objects in whichever constellation you are interested in.

IMG_1787.PNG

Stu I can see you giving a talk at the next SGL star party on using this APP???

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A planisphere to see what's due south (therefore at its highest in the sky) for the time and date when you're viewing.

Then S&T Pocket Atlas to star hop with the finder.

Then, at a dark site with decent aperture, a more detailed atlas to locate the exact position of the target (Uranometria, Millennium Star Atlas, Great Atlas Of The Sky, TriAtlas C, whatever).

With an 8-inch I found SkyAtlas 2000 sufficient for steps 2 and 3.

My planisphere is one of the few things that has served me at all stages of the hobby. Its simplicity is its greatest virtue.

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I dont use any. If i want to use it, my telescope (well one of them) has Go-To. If i had to pick one it would be a planisphere. So simple to use. I do have Sky Safari on my phone, but its there just for a bit of fun while out and about doing anything non-related to astronomy.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher

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3 hours ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Stu I can see you giving a talk at the next SGL star party on using this APP???

Happy to if the demand is there Mark?

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For an app on my phone i use sky view. It lets you point it at the sky and it shows you whats there. You can also select an object, say saturn and it will show you its path across the sky. This means you can move around and it will show where that object will be at any time you want. This is very handy as it shows you where the selected object will be at a certain time allowing me to plan my nights observing. You can also change the date and time to any time in the future. I have just used it to show when saturn will be at its highest at around midnight (in a couple of months time).

For something on paper I use the sky and telescope pocket sky atlas. This i take outside with me. I also use turn left at orion but this stays inside the house and is used to read up and plan my observing sessions

Edited by Chefgage

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14 hours ago, Buzzard75 said:

lol, they convinced you too, huh?

Its been on the cards for a while, just another book for my collection. There's just one book missing now, and it will have Newtonian somewhere in its title? 
Funny old thing though! most items I have in my signature were highly recommended here at SGL, and so far, I'm quite happy with the results, so maybe 'convinced' to try them for what they are is no bad idea, and to-date,  I've  not yet  had to sell  a book.

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Interesting thread.

For me, it's the whole bunch I need - planisphere and Pocket Sky Atlas; Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas and Uranometria with Deep Sky Field Guide (which gives values of integrated magnitude and surface brightness (SB) - important for the observation of extended objects like galaxies and nebulas). At the scope, SkySafari 5 Pro with all the features others have described above, on an Android smartphone with this light screen: http://www.siriusastroproducts.com/index.html

(The "Xtra dark Cling" is important).

I still love the Night Sky Observer's Guide for it's descriptions of DSO's (for several apertures from 4" up to 20"), including SB values, and the detailed sketches. It's a pity, that a similar observer's guide, for visual only, is available only in German. It's arranged following the constellations, and gives detailed comments on 2200 DSO's, even on all Abell PN and Hickson groups. For those, who understand some German, here's the link:

http://beobachteratlas.webs.com/

Stephan

Edited by Nyctimene
typos
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I look at Stellarium before an observing session to get an idea of what is observable and use S & T Pocket Sky Atlas at the scope. 

When doing a lunar session the Virtual Moon Atlas on the laptop is by my side.

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14 hours ago, Stu said:

I confess that I am a SkySafari addict/fan. In some ways I hate that fact because I love paper atlases!

I don't use it to wave around the sky to see what is there, but as a virtual star atlas. There is just something about being able to, for example, dynamically change the number of stars visible to match what you see or put a circle on screen to show you the field of view of your scope/eyepiece combination that makes it much more useful than any paper atlas.

The fact that the stars are white on black, not inverted makes it easier for my pea sized brain to interpret things, plus it generally goes far deeper than any atlas I have used, way beyond what I need.

Latest software on the iPhone allows you to turn the display red for all apps including the home screen and dim the white point, making it no brighter than reading a paper atlas with a red torch.

I have the S&T Pocket Atlas which I used a lot before getting SkySafari, plus also the InterStellarium atlas which is just lovely to browse.

Just tried the turn the display red on my iphone, works a treat. Have you also set a short cut to it? You can then tripple tap the home button and it instantly turns on.

It even works when your phone is off. Tripple tap and the phone wakes up in red mode so you do not loose tour nigjt vision while you unlock your phone

Edited by Chefgage
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