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You're in dark sky heaven, but you have a difficult choice to make. . . .


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Imagine yourself in this scenario.
You've travelled a long way to get to a dark sky site. It's just getting dark and the daytime's heavy rainfall has left the sky crystal clear and you have the whole evening ahead of you with your favourite telescope. You normally do your observing from a partially light polluted site, but now you're under a beautiful velvet black sky with excellent seeing and even before astronomical darkness you can see M31 as an easy naked eye object. It's going to be one of those rare nights of perfect conditions for astronomy, and the Milky Way is stretching from horizon to horizon, wow! this is going to be amazing!

 And you have a choice, and here's the thing. You can do one or the other, but not both.

Which of these two options would you choose?

1) You look for only new deep space objects.
At last you have the chance to see objects you've never found. Really faint galaxies that have eluded you from light polluted sites, nebulae that you've never seen before. Now at last you have the opportunity to see those elusive objects, perhaps you can see the Horsehead at last? Your observation book should be bulging with new observations after the night is over, what a wonderful opportunity!

OR

2) You visit only old favourites. Now you have the chance to try and see the spiral arms of M51, the dust lanes of M31. And is there any sight better than the double cluster under dark crisp skies? Now is your chance to see the greatest sights of the night sky under perfect conditions.  All those objects you've visited for years will now be accessible with brightness and clarity you've never before seen. It's going to be amazing!

The choice is yours. New objects or old favourites? One or the other, but you can't do both.

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I'd do both! (I know this is not a "compliant" answer to your questions, but this IS what I would do...)

Edited by Froeng
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1). That's what I did anyway! I used naked-eye and binos for old favourites. 

Well - perhaps I did cheat and look at a few old faves, but that now means they're spoiled for me when I'm back at my usual home spot!

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Thanks guys.

It's a daft imaginary scenario where you can only do one or the other. I know we'd all do both, so it's not really about what we'd do in real life. We can use our naked eye looking at whatever we want, but for scope (or bins), it's got be be either previously unseen objects, or previously seen. Not a mixture of both.

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If I ever got to skies like that it’d be a firm 1, with a decent pair of bins for wide angle views. Of course if the milky way was not about then I’d try 2 as those sort of skies are best for the Milky Way.

Peter

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2 hours ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

You visit only old favourites

This one ^^, and with decent aperture, 8" and up. The showcase objects take on a whole new level of greatness under truly dark skies. After all, DSO smudges will always be DSO smudges with differences in most of them only showing up with big aperture increases.

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2 minutes ago, jetstream said:

This one ^^, and with decent aperture, 8" and up. The showcase objects take on a whole new level of greatness under truly dark skies. After all, DSO smudges will always be DSO smudges with differences in most of them only showing up with big aperture increases.

I'm inclined to agree. With the darkest sky, surely the brightest objects would afford us the best views?

That said, I do like to make new entries in my observing log. Hmmmm...

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8 minutes ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

I'm inclined to agree. With the darkest sky, surely the brightest objects would afford us the best views?

That said, I do like to make new entries in my observing log. Hmmmm...

The thing is objects that would be poor under lighter skies become showcase under excellent skies, the Flame neb is one of them. M101 will show spirals in an 8"+ scope, M33 same thing and so many nebula open right up with a proper filter. M42 takes on a whole new, stunning look with its lower loop showing and M43 will show its lane cutting it. The Running Man will show its shape easily etc.

What I do is a nice sky cruise on bright objects and then have a few DSO goals for the evening. I rarely only chase very faint objects.

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Going rural turns the sky into one's personal  playground, so anything and everything! Familiar objects take on a whole new lease of life and new objects are a massive bonus.

So for me, a peak at the old favourites to remind me what they should look like and searching out the new. For instance a camping trip last September with 10x50s ticked off several DSOs I've no chance of observing at home with a telescope.

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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15 minutes ago, ScouseSpaceCadet said:

So for me, a peak at the old favourites to remind me what they should look like and searching out the new.

 

But if you could only choose new objects or old favorites, which would you choose?

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Old favourites probably since you will have more time observing them since you will know roughly their location, so more likely to make good use of the skies.

I would revisit the same site another day for option 1.

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1 minute ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

You guys are just making your own rules up!

Absolutely! You made it hard for us with this question. 🤣

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Favourites all d-... All night for me. Thing is, they've become favourites even under sub-optimal conditions, so can you imagine the improvements you'll see under the conditions you've given us!? 

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Earlier on in my visual observing journey it would be 1. with a few fillers of favourites.  However, it is now definitely 2. favourites nearly all the way!!

Whatever the 'scope' 18" dob, 4" frac or bins, I now work my way starhopping all the way along the Milky Way then dip around the outlying Messiers, bright NGCs and asterisms.  Awesome!

The whole of a dark sky is to be gorged on...

...hope we all get more of them!!!

Cheers, Paul.

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3 hours ago, clarkpm4242 said:

Earlier on in my visual observing journey it would be 1. with a few fillers of favourites.  However, it is now definitely 2. favourites nearly all the way!!

Me too lol!

Early on I went on a mission to see as many DSO as I could, but now I visit favorite objects, including the strange Arp's and Hicksons- HCG 55 is an absolute favourite of mine.

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It's gotta be both. I would simply stay out longer to fit it all in.

If I have skipped an old favorite, or failed to try to locate a previously unseen target, I feel disappointed.

Edited by Ags
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It would definitely number 2 for me. If I had great dark skies I would not want to be spending any time searching for targets or reducing my dark adaptation looking at star charts or smart phone screens to help me star hop. I would stick to things I can find by myself and just appreciate the better views.

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