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Observing Strategies


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Good evening everyone, 

So I've had about 10 nights out since getting my first scope a few months ago. I've been having a great time, but I find myself just hopping around.

To keep it short, I've seen Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, about a dozen messiers and a few variable/double stars, so I know what I'm looking for through the EP at this point. I was considering going constellation by constellation, searching out what is in 1 or 2 constellations each session. 

Do any of you have a "plan" for your nights out gazing? Or a way to be more organized with viewing?

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The Nights I do plan Ahead of a session I pick 10-12 Objects tops I think, maybe less if I havent observed them before. (I always check stellarium before a session)

For dso`s I always start in the west, going eastwards.  Late Autumn - Winter, my starting point most often is in Cassiopeia.

It really Depends, I can get stuck in Orion, Auriga or maybe spend an hour With the double cluster no matter how many times I`ve seen these Objects before.

 

Why not start With the messier list and take notes?

 

Rune

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Turn Left At Orion organises objects by season, I've used that on a few occasions.

I also have SkyTools which will generate lists of visible objects using my equipment and sky conditions.

plenty of online resources and lists though.

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I think focussing on one or two constellations is a good idea. I do this and will for example pick a couple of doubles and a couple of dso's per constellation. My observing sessions are usually short and I don't like to rush so I don't pick too many targets.

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It depends how much time I have, what the skies are like and what's available. Certainly planning a session creates more of a sense of achievement if you hit all of your targets. I tend to try and sketch new objects where possible. Nothing special but it's nice to read back through notes. Heres the sketches I made of mostly new objects to me over a recent weekend. Staying in one approximate area of the sky really reduces backache!

 

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If I plan, usually it is less of a "plan" and more a few well intentioned ideas, it is either go through a constellation and for that I use The Monthly Sky Guide by Ridpath & Tirion. I use that one as I get along with it easiest, it suits me.

The other is I make up a sheet for myself. Usually a table in word and about 10 or 12 rows and I list the object, constellation and anything else I thik relevant. That means I can make a list of say 6 to 8 planetary nebula to locate, or double stars, or globular clusters etc. You can also put one together for a month or time of year.

The table generated tends to be small = not many rows, and then I have the lower half of an A4 sheet to write on. And the rear of it also.

One place to possibly search is The Astronomy League, they do observing programs. The RASC (Canada) site also has a couple of observing ideas. The UK has nothing to aid you which seems poor, I would have expected the BAA or RASC to have produced something.

 

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On ‎6‎/‎25‎/‎2017 at 07:48, ronin said:

The other is I make up a sheet for myself. Usually a table in word and about 10 or 12 rows and I list the object, constellation and anything else I thik relevant. That means I can make a list of say 6 to 8 planetary nebula to locate, or double stars, or globular clusters etc. You can also put one together for a month or time of year.

The table generated tends to be small = not many rows, and then I have the lower half of an A4 sheet to write on. And the rear of it also.

I like that idea. Thanks!

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I like using astro mags. they always give lists about 'whats best that month'-always have something new to look at. And just remember before long you will soon have your own list of favorites that you will return to time and time again! I was the same but it gets easier and easier to pick targets to look for.

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I have two distinct modes of observing: "hunting" and "browsing". In the former I prepare by looking which regions of the skies are best visible at the moment, and scouring the very much annotated Sky Atlas 2000.0, and various catalogues for objects I have not yet seen before. I compile a list of as many targets as possible, and try to hunt these down. Some years back, I decided that I wanted to do more than just visit the same bunch of bright Messier objects over and over again, but wanted to finally nail ALL Messiers. Making notes and planning observations is essential for such a task. Once the Messier list had been completed, I switched to the Caldwell list, the Herschel 400, the 100 brightest planetaries list, and finally the Revised Shapley-Ames Catalogue of Bright Galaxies, and the Herschel 2500 list. These lists of targets help me in structuring my observing nights, and prevent me from getting bored on the same old targets every time. In hunting mode, I star-hop methodically from object to object, and spend just enough time on each object to make a few notes, and describe the type of galaxy/nebula/cluster in general terms, and I have bagged up to 30 targets in a single (long) session. I also make a note on whether it is an object which merits a return visit in "browsing" mode. In the latter mode I move more casually from object to object, and spend far more time on them, really trying to get the most detail out of the view. Very often I will just visit a series of "old friends", but sometimes I revisit objects I noted as interesting in previous hunts. I might switch between hunting and browsing in a single session. I often start a session with a few well-known targets, to assess conditions (e.g. M101 is great for judging transparency), and frequently end a session with some old favourites (M13, M57).

The above only really holds when I set up the main scope (Celestron C8). When I don't have the time for that (or I don't feel like it), I just take some binoculars and point them at some of the brighter Messiers and Caldwells. Very relaxing.

Note that this is just my way of keeping the hobby interesting. There really are no hard and fast rules, and each must find his or her own way of enjoying the skies.

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It depends on one's preferences and viewing conditions.

I do not have a backyard, so my sessions are (unless at my parent's cottage or at vacation with family) usually car trips and I try to make them worthwhile. SkySafari plus Turn Left plus some more resources helps me pick 10-15 realistic targets. If planets are on menu, check the seeing first and if good, zero on them, if not, go to deep sky. Do not rush if you are looking at faint stuff, give your eye time to start seeing details, play with magnifications and filters.

At first, you will of course want to try everything with your new scope. But I find it now more enjoyable when I pace myself and make a sort of a plan (or plan plus) and try to stick to it, conditions permitting.

 

edit: plus all that michael f wilkinson said, some sound advice/system there

Edited by BGazing
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I don't really keep any lists or anything, but I usually start with the planets, even if the seeing isn't good it gets started. Then I move on to the brightest DSO's, stuff that I can see even if my eyes aren't adapted yet. Then I start hunting for fainter stuff once I'm fully adapted. 

Then there is the ocasional quick look at (insert astronomical object here) at 3AM, then back to bed! :happy11:

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