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Littleguy80

Simple Astronomy Challenges

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A big part of the appeal of astronomy for me is the challenge. I thinks that’s why I love deep sky observing the most. Trying to see fainter and fainter objects. However, when the moon is bright or a dark site trip isn’t possible, I have to find challenges in different ways.

This evening it’s clear with a near full moon but it’s very windy outside. I set my 80mm refractor up in my front bay window for a quick look at the moon. I spotted Arcturus and wondered if I could see M3. Under normal circumstances M3 is an easy spot. Tonight I had to carefully star hop my way there and then slowly increase magnification with the Baader zoom until I was certain that I had the bright globular cluster. As my eyes adjusted it became clearer. I felt very engaged doing this and it was satisfying to achieve me goal. 

I do this type of thing quite a lot. Recently I tried to view as many solar system objects as I could in a short early evening session. Sometimes I’ll pick a particular object type such as planetary nebula and try to see as many as I can. On other occasions, the challenge will be using a single eyepiece/scope combination for a session, such as my 40mm eyepiece in my frac, and seeing what objects I can pick up. 

These little challenges keep astronomy alive for me when I can’t go chasing the faint DSO’s. I really think that this has helped with training my eye and brain for seeing fainter objects through continued practise. 

Does anyone else set themselves similar challenges and if so what are they? I’d love to add some new ones to the list!

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I do enjoy challenges in a similar way Neil. I don't often get away to dark sites, so do enjoy seeing what is possible with relatively small scopes from urban skies.

I guess my most memorable one was the M82 SN with a 4" Genesis. Easy enough with a big scope, or a small scope under reasonable skies, but right on the limit for my sky and scope combination and great fun.

Seeing the GRS and shadow transits with my 65mm TAL Alkor newt is another favourite.

I have also enjoyed seeing what I can do with my Heritage 130P. Splitting Pi Aquilae was a good one I recall.

So, not sure that gives you anything new, but I do share the enjoyment of not just throwing aperture at things, and do agree that it helps improve observing skills.

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Lately I've been enjoying observing relatively straightforward targets such as open clusters and double stars etc and then finding out more about them, when they were first observed and by who, theories and discoveries relating to them, quirky information etc, etc.

Armed with a little bit more information, a familiar target seems to take on a whole new level of interest I find :smiley:

Reading old accounts by well known (and not so well known) historic observers then examining the subject with your own instrument and eye is also absorbing.

 

 

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I seem to be enjoying familiar "easy" targets these day, weather (not) permitting. DSO hunting is a great challenge but personally can only do it in short spurts so the Messiers tick many boxes for relaxed, fun observing and I eagerly wait for the planets to be higher, another favorite set of objects.

Edited by jetstream
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I tend to use this wonderful resource for inspiration.

If someone has said they've seen something, if it's reasonable for my setup and the conditions are right, then I will have a go. :)

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I set myself the challenge of photographing as many Messier's in a year as I can, March 31st 2019 to march 31 2020.

I have imaged 89 so far, some good some not so good but an image all the same! Some I had to check with Astrometry.com! It's made my last year interesting and at times challenging for sure.

Good luck

Ron

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 As an amateur in this hobby reading this sort of topic is  a big help to me. I started out by viewing the large Jupiter & Saturn last year, They were so easy to locate in the finder that I was naive enough to assume you just aim up and view a target...

With no real understanding in the earlier days of LP, transparency,seeing  I am amazed now that I managed to locate some objects such as the Snow ball, Eskimo, Ring and cat eye nebula's. After all the effort I put in to locate them the only one I can honestly say which I had any enjoyment viewing was the Snow ball. I don't know how these objects fair on the "difficulty scale" to find but they sure did frustrate me and take the enjoyment out of the hobby. 

I have now grown as an amateur astronomer in part thanks to the insightful and helpful advice on these forums to know what is more realistic to view from a light polluted location. I have eased back and realized that you cant bend the sky to your will and you need to take it for what it is. Since then I have  managed a peek at all planets except Mars, Neptune & Pluto ( I like to think of this little fella as a planet 🙂) the most prominent stars, clusters and Orion Nebula. And following on from a recent thread on here I have been enjoying splitting stars. 

More importantly, The frustration has gone and the enjoyment improved considerably.

That said I do have unfinished business with DSO and in particular Galaxies, I have had no real joy with locating these except for Andromeda. This can wait until I can get to a dark sky!

Thanks all.

 

Barry

 

 

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2 hours ago, Ronclarke said:

I set myself the challenge of photographing as many Messier's in a year as I can, March 31st 2019 to march 31 2020.

I have imaged 89 so far, some good some not so good but an image all the same! Some I had to check with Astrometry.com! It's made my last year interesting and at times challenging for sure.

Good luck

Ron

Ron, wow 89 imaged in under one year, I'm in awe...!! I set myself the goal of getting an image of as many of the Messiers as I can and so far have imaged the same number 89/110, but it has taken me over 6 years.....!! I hope to add a few more galaxies in the coming couple of months, but getting close to the 110 will be a few years yet and some I'll probably never be able to image, at least not from my home observatory.

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Perhaps the very simplest challenge I will apply myself to are during good but brief periods of lunar observing. Weekday evenings can be difficult to become motivated or there are other agendas, nipping in and out with my 16x70 binoculars set onto a monopod becomes absorbing and stimulating. As my eye and the binocular settles, particularly when sat on the bench, I will quickly get to see with considerable clarity and scrutinise the topography. Nipping back in I will consult with the 21century Atlas of the Moon and other paper charts and references, before going back out to scrutinise and analysis further. Taking regard to any reporting happening on here, it is engaging to attempt to glean and extract more features with this small aperture and limited magnification. Always something new to learn concerning each lunar phase and by the simplest method possible. 

   

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What are the Trapezium E and F stars if not a challenge? Actually seeing a galaxy with my own eyes is awe-inspiring but there is no such intrinsic magnificence in spotting two more stars in a cluster. Don't get me wrong, I've spent a good while on them and am very pleased if I manage to bag them (the F star only on one or two occasions). I still give Rigel a look but now I can see the secondary without problem, I rarely linger on it. 

In fact, the Cambridge Double Star Atlas has been my main motivator since November. I've loved tracking down, star-hopping, splitting and seeing faint companions. We've all been enthused by Nick Cotterless' descriptions of doubles and others' too. In my case, though, it's the challenge rather than the aesthetics that are my motivation. I hardly look at Albireo now, especially after I read here that the pair are no longer considered gravity bound.

As for the moon- volcanic domes give me a buzz closely followed by difficult rilles and tiny craters. 

For me, the wow factor is still there but you can only see Jupiter for the first time once. We could give up or develop how we enjoy the hobby. When I started out, I never could have imagined what I would be able to see or especially what I would spend my time doing in the name of entertainment and how much I would enjoy it.

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3 hours ago, geoflewis said:

Ron, wow 89 imaged in under one year, I'm in awe...!! I set myself the goal of getting an image of as many of the Messiers as I can and so far have imaged the same number 89/110, but it has taken me over 6 years.....!! I hope to add a few more galaxies in the coming couple of months, but getting close to the 110 will be a few years yet and some I'll probably never be able to image, at least not from my home observatory.

I.m hoping to get 100 if I can, some can't be seen from the UK. I struggled with M41 and got part of the obsy wall in as well!!

Good luck with your count!!

Ron

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Firstly , it's a challenge just to get out there !

The most enjoyable challenges have rewarded others , especially those lost in the sky. I remember at SGL passing a couple holding a planisphère up in various positions. 5 hours later , I not only got them handy with the sky , but able to star hop and find targets. The planisphère was packed away. I think that a few shots at this send you'll rake up handy tips and learn much yourself. Those members of the public at outreach are mainly awed . Special mention must be made of the young Jack Sparrow who tried to swing both scope and mount around. It was a challenge biting my tongue and banishing various images of fiery hot doom .

Observing binary stars presents several challenges , contrast of magnitudes, closeness of separation and colour. Very often the most stunning views are a lower magnification just barely splitting , but often getting just the tiniest split. Similarly lovely views when very faint companions suddenly appear beside the A star. Again these look lovely at low magnification. Colour increases with smaller aperture and a handy aperture mask can give the glowing coal of carbon stars or contrasting colours.

There's also the challenge of light pollution versus the faint fuzzies. They're always worth a shot. Nearly fell over seeing a perfect Swan Nebula (M17) low over town without filters. Similarly Hubble 's variable Nebula( NGC 2261)and the Eastern Veil can show up from town.

It's all a challenge , but oh ! the rewards !

Nick.

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20 hours ago, Littleguy80 said:

A big part of the appeal of astronomy for me is the challenge. I thinks that’s why I love deep sky observing the most. Trying to see fainter and fainter objects. However, when the moon is bright or a dark site trip isn’t possible, I have to find challenges in different ways.

This evening it’s clear with a near full moon but it’s very windy outside. I set my 80mm refractor up in my front bay window for a quick look at the moon. I spotted Arcturus and wondered if I could see M3. Under normal circumstances M3 is an easy spot. Tonight I had to carefully star hop my way there and then slowly increase magnification with the Baader zoom until I was certain that I had the bright globular cluster. As my eyes adjusted it became clearer. I felt very engaged doing this and it was satisfying to achieve me goal. 

I do this type of thing quite a lot. Recently I tried to view as many solar system objects as I could in a short early evening session. Sometimes I’ll pick a particular object type such as planetary nebula and try to see as many as I can. On other occasions, the challenge will be using a single eyepiece/scope combination for a session, such as my 40mm eyepiece in my frac, and seeing what objects I can pick up. 

These little challenges keep astronomy alive for me when I can’t go chasing the faint DSO’s. I really think that this has helped with training my eye and brain for seeing fainter objects through continued practise. 

Does anyone else set themselves similar challenges and if so what are they? I’d love to add some new ones to the list!

Setting goals, even challenging ones, makes things exciting. Deep sky was where my initial interests lay when I began in astronomy. Within the first two years of observing I'd seen every Messier object from the UK using nothing more than a pair of 12X60 binoculars, which is a challenge with objects close to the horizon. Comets were also hot on my list of targets back then, and I'd make it my aim to not only find each one that dared to come within range of my 4" F10 achromat, I'd sketch each one as I followed it night after night as it crossed my skies, plotting their course in my trusty old Nortons Star Atlas which i still have. It's nice to look back on sketches of comets and Messier's and relive the night's of around four decades ago.

As time went on and as my telescopes increased in quality and capability, I was drawn more towards the planets, but i avoided the Moon. I made it a personal project to see as much as I could of each planet and read copious books, especially the personal observations of visual observers of the past. Again I found sketching what I saw helped me concentrate and enabled me to see deeper. I made a little project of observing Jupiter continuously throughout the night, and attempting to sketch all its features in one continuous elongated sketch as the planet rotated. I've also made a number of cylindrical grid maps of Mars as seen through my telescopes. In 2016 I even made a small globe of the Martian albedo features I'd observed throughout that apperition. 

In time the Moon did grab my attention. I reasoned that I'd avoided it because its complexity frightened me. As an observer who loves to sketch at the eyepiece, the Moon was difficult for me, as I wanted to draw everything I could see, which is impossible. You either have to make a general limited detail sketch of a region or limit your subject. I chose the latter as my prefered observing method. My main lunar interests are rille systems. They can be wonderfully complex things to study and traverse vast distances. Often it appears as if they are limited to a small area, but that's usually more to do with illumination. When the illumination and liberation are right, rilles can become truly thrilling things to trace. For example, there's a tiny rille that crosses the width of the Alpine Valley about mid way and extends into the mountains at either side. On a steady night in a sharp scope, that rille twists and turns its way through the rough terrain branching off here and there to link with other fine rilles. The system links the rilles that follow the shore of the Imbrium basin with the equally impressive rilles around the southern shore of Mare Frigoris.

 Crater floors are another focus of my attention. Ignoring the surrounding terrain, I study just the floor of craters which at first glance may seem relatively featureless, but they never are. Take a careful look at Archimedes, paying attention to its apparently bland flat basalt floor, and in particular its subtle albedo differences across that apparently flat surface. What do you see? :icon_cyclops_ani: Be careful - the Moon is addictive!

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Edited by mikeDnight
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Generally I take a pretty relaxed approach these days. Occasionally I get motivated by a particular challenge but not often to be honest.

I guess I'm just "coasting" now with the hobby :smiley:

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Very much a tourist when it comes to my astronomy and enjoy myself enormously being so.
The real challenge for me is the motivation to get outside when it's cold, 
this is mainly driven by my knees and back which challenge me now when colder.
 

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There's a lot of good ideas above I'm making a note of to try. Here's some things I do...

Measuring things is good fun, double star separations and PAs variable star variations over time, the movement of objects over time, the distance to the moon, etc.

Trying to guess the colour (OBAFG...etc) and magnitude of a star then checking it out on sky safari.

White light solar when there's no spots. There's more detail to be seen in a white light solar image even with no spot action than there is in many dso's.

Moon details - I think the moon could keep anyone busy for a lifetime. I enjoy picking a point (I mean a tiny point) of interest and fixating on it, I'll pick a crater, then pick a feature in it, say a terraced wall, and then pick a point on the feature, say one terrace level and just fix on that for a long time.

Edited by Paz
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I like pushing my small 61mm scope to the limit. It always gives me great pleasure when I can achieve this. Great thread by the way.

 

Glen.

 

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On ‎11‎/‎02‎/‎2020 at 01:48, John said:

Lately I've been enjoying observing relatively straightforward targets such as open clusters and double stars etc and then finding out more about them, when they were first observed and by who, theories and discoveries relating to them, quirky information etc, etc.

Armed with a little bit more information, a familiar target seems to take on a whole new level of interest I find :smiley:

Reading old accounts by well known (and not so well known) historic observers then examining the subject with your own instrument and eye is also absorbing.

 

 

John, do you have a favourite source for reading up on objects? Wikipedia is a treasure trove but I was just thinking if you had something specialised.

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I also love reading up on objects. This is what I sometimes do: 

1. Go to Simbad: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/

2. Type in the name of the object in the Basic Search box. This brings up some basic info on the object.

3. To find out more, scroll down to References and press the button marked 'display'. This brings up much of the known literature in which the object is mentioned, most-recent first. You need to be a bit selective here, but it can be interesting to look at the earliest such reference as well as some of the most recent.

4. To find out about a specific reference,  after clicking on the title (which brings up an abstract), the best option is 'view the reference in ADS' (near the base of the page). 

5. Once that page comes up, nearly always you'll find a free pdf on arXiv (link on the right go the page). Often going to the publishers website you get the abstract only.

Hope this helps!

Martin

 

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20 hours ago, Martin Meredith said:

I also love reading up on objects. This is what I sometimes do: 

1. Go to Simbad: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/

2. Type in the name of the object in the Basic Search box. This brings up some basic info on the object.

3. To find out more, scroll down to References and press the button marked 'display'. This brings up much of the known literature in which the object is mentioned, most-recent first. You need to be a bit selective here, but it can be interesting to look at the earliest such reference as well as some of the most recent.

4. To find out about a specific reference,  after clicking on the title (which brings up an abstract), the best option is 'view the reference in ADS' (near the base of the page). 

5. Once that page comes up, nearly always you'll find a free pdf on arXiv (link on the right go the page). Often going to the publishers website you get the abstract only.

Hope this helps!

Martin

 

That's a brilliant suggestion Martin, couldn't have asked for anything better really. Thanks for posting!

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