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How do you select your targets?


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My visibility is slightly restricted where I live (and I don't have a car). My best view is in the region NE to SE so I need to be able to find targets that are in that zone after 11pm (as it doesn't get dark until then at this time of year). Alternatively stuff that's at high altitude.

So how do you all select your targets? Are there apps you use? I have stellarium which tells you where stuff is, if you already know what you want. But it doesn't make recommendations 

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I'm visual only, but I think the same applies.

I use various sources for potential targets, such as Turn Left at OrionAstronomical LeagueDeep-Sky Watch, and various pages on this site.  The RA/Dec co-ordinates are enough for me to decide roughly if and when in the year they will be visible for me. There is also Telescopius and the Skywatcher SynScan app, both of which give suggestions for your location/date.

Then if I'm planning for a specific evening coming up, I use Stellarium on my laptop to fine tune this. I have an obstructed view, so I spent (quite a bit of) time creating a bespoke landscape, but it has been worth it to be able to see when objects are visible.

I use SkySafari Plus to build observing lists (and there is also a library of lists that can be imported and selected from - this is another source of ideas).

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I like to go in Stellarium, go to the sky viewing options, and in that window, go to DSOs, then filter the type of DSOs you're interested in, and move the hints and labels sliders all the way up and have a look around.

Note this doesn't really work very well if you're looking for galaxies, just because there are sooo many of them up there!

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I use https://www.12dstring.me.uk/fovcalc.php

Whether visual or imaging by entering the scope / camera / eyepiece combinations you can then enter a target and get an impression of what you'll get either on the camera or in the eyepiece. For imaging I usually save the image and print it so I have a reference sheet. If I'm wanting to have a visual clue as to what various objects look like in a particular area of sky then I'll enter ngc refs for the objects from a chart first and print off my own ref sheet for that area - ticking themoff as I record or view them.

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Telescopius (previously known as Deep Sky Browser) is useful, you can filter objects by type, magnitude and importantly size. There is a FOV facility so you can see how well your chosen object will look on your sensor/scope combination.

I try to plan my targets but frequently get frustrated by areas of cloud that refuse to budge from my chosen area of sky, so pick another target at short notice using Stellarium.

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Personally, whether its observing or imaging. I just do simple things like check stellarium, see how high they will be by the time its dark, where they will be to make sure they're not being blocked by my house for example. Also check out what other people are doing on this forum and reddit to get some ideas!

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I sometimes use NINA for planning - as I use it for capture also it Is convenient. On the framing assistant you can select the area of sky and the type of object you want and it will list all the options. If you have downloaded the image library it will also give you the images of the target plus other info such as surface brightness.

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Since you have Stellarium, the trick is to download all the extra catelogs and enable all the object types you want to consider.  Then, set the time and date for your observing time and point the screen in the direction you have a clear view.  Finally, zoom in.  That's the trick.  You'll see objects appear that you did not see with the default zoom setting.  It also helps to have a grid visible that will give you an altitude reference.

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Posted (edited)

I am a big fan of Charlie Bracken's stuff generally, and the Astrophotography Sky Atlas is no exception. He has a list of 103 "best" AP targets sorted by culmination date, e.g. later in June the Lagoon Nebula will be as high in the sky as it ever gets. That gives a great first cull on great targets, and then you can use Stellarium or Whatsup to narrow it down to what you'll be able to see. I have an exceedingly limited sky at home, I had been thinking about a custom landscape for Stellarium but I'll have to try Whatsup.

My other source, for narrowband, is over at Cloudy Nights. Our dear departed friend and master AP Goofi published a great list of emission nebulae, broken out by season and listed in RA order so they, too, are more or less in calendar  order. You don't have to be a CN member to view the lists.

Edited by rickwayne
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