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Notes - how do you take yours?


ashenlight
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I've recently started taking decent (let's keep in mind 'decent' is subjective here - mine are quite simple but a step up from no notes at all!) notes from each of my observing sessions as I want to keep a proper record of what I see, when, what it looks like etc. I was wondering if any of you do the same, is note taking a priority for you? What do your notes look like? What are the most important details for you to include?

Mine are pretty basic, here's a page from the other night:

post-16040-133877381322_thumb.jpg

I tend to try and include:

The date, the time and the objects I managed to locate

Eyepieces

How was the seeing? - I don't grade it on a scale, just make a note of it if it is particularly bad

Honest description of object, any prominent stars near by? I often use 'clock times' to describe the positions of stars.... is it an obvious shape, is it tight/loose (think clusters), does it have depth, is it fairly 2D in appearance etc

Colours - particularly for doubles - 'corn gold' and 'skywatcher blue' for Albireo recently.

What do you include in your notes, or do you think that note taking is the least of your worries - would you rather spend more time at the EP looking, rather than noting? I look upon note taking as I do sketching - it turns me into a more 'observant observer' and things pop out over time and I'm looking at the object and trying to tease out details for my notes.

How about you?

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Every year I promise myself I will make better (some) notes, and every year I don't!!

It is a shame, as I would like to look back and see what I saw in previous observations, and you never know, when I am old and wrinkly, I can show them to the great-grand children!

And I agree with you, it should make you a better observer!

I would also include: Location (lat, long if you know it) and ideally the time should be UT, but if you note if it was BST then that would be fine. You never know, one day BST might not exist!

As for seeing, there are various "standards" - Pickering being a common one to use, and its easy to remember as well.

I have to say, mine would probably be electronic as I am cack at writing, and as I already have it, I would use Deep Sky Planner/.

So, as September draws near, I will again tell myself to make notes......

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This is something I have to start getting into, making logs. I have done some basic logs which I have had to submit every 4 weeks for my IYA course, so I got some basic form of observing log. But I want to keep personal for myself to look back at over the years.

I think I havent really start is cause, I bought my Meade 114mm, and I spent 2 weeks trying everything to sort out the mount, as it was terrible and the motors were not accurate and anything past a 40 degree angle the scope was really unstable.

So I too it back for a refund and ordered the skywatcher one in my sig, and the clouds have not been my best friends since and when it has been clear, I have been getting use to the scope, so not really thought much about note taking. But will start soon now I got used to the scope and everything, hopefully tonight with the moon and take some afocal shots of it.

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Brilliant Steve, I really enjoy looking through my note book at what I've seen, you should get alot out of it :)

daz... I will remind you come September :headbang: Your reasoning about the great-grand children is part of mine too... then I can do the 'back in my day' thing, lol! Thanks for the tips, didn't think about UT time.. will do that from now on:D I've just looked up Pickering scale, it looks quite easy to understand so I think I'll give that a go.

I did think about using the computer for the notes but I haven't got a laptop so it was easier to just use pen and paper. I forget so much in the journey from patio - computer it is unbelieveable!

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I think I will make rough notes on paper, and then transfer them next day to DSP.

DSP also holds pictures, scope data, etc, etc. and you can sort and report and generate target lists and so on...

Oh, one other thing. By all means record the eyepiece, but also the magnification. Its easier for people to then relate that to their own equipment

And remember to post your reports here too!! :):headbang:

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Good point daz... I think I'll add those details about mag when I get inside, didn't think of it at all! It's prob coz I write as I go along, <insert 25mm EP> 'using 25mm EP...' <looks down> 'the primary is etc etc'. Adding mag will certainly make them more user friendly.

Of course I will post them here too :):D gotta share my finds with SGL! if it wasn't for the forum I'd never have found M57, lol!

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Soft pencil on looseleaf reporter's pad. The dew makes ink pens unmanageable & hard pencils cut through soggy paper. Soft pencils work in my experience down to low temperatures, it's true that wetting then freezing can form an ice layer through which the pencil won't bite but this is not common & easily bypassed by turning to a fresh page. I have three or four ready, it's more a case of not remembering where you put them down than needing to sharpen them but I don't want to waste valuable observing time playing hunt the pencil.

I write the minimum needed as an aide memoire, in a sort of shorthand which no one else is likely to be able to make sense of, though my variable star estimates are written down more or less as they will be reported, which is a sort of shorthand anyway. Notes are transcribed to ordinary text file on the computer at the earliest opportunity, whilst the memory is still reasonably fresh.

I've tried using a dictaphone but experiences with battery life put me off, not to mention that my neighbours think I'm mad enough without apparently talking to myself.

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Mine look pretty much just like yours Amanda except not as neat. I use the same book for sketches as well - keeps everything together and breaks it up a bit.

I usually put:

start and end time

scope used (important when you have 4 :headbang:)

eyepieces used and/or mags.

conditions (moon up? seeing, transparency, wind, cold, dew etc. - not everything - just what's relevant)

sometimes I make a really small rough sketch to identify an observation - for example of a planet and moon positions, just so i can see which moons i saw.

kev - nice idea! I'm going to start doing that...

If you would record number of meteors and satellites seen (naked eye and scope), and duration of your session, you could plot graphs of #/hour and see if there are any trends over time or at different times of year or night, just for a laugh... hmm - am i the only one who thinks that could be fun? :)

Andrew

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Andrew, I think that is a marvelous idea. I'd like to see the graphs you come up with if you go for it :) When I was observing M57 a while ago a meteor streaked through the FOV - that was something special.

I often make small sketches too, usually for double stars and, like you, for planets. Just helps to put things in perspective :headbang:

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I keep a kind of scrap book. It has sketches in (not very good) brief notes, pictures of gatherings, pictures of targets for the night. I never keep it as up to date as I'd like really.

It also has some data in the back, stuff like Lat/Lon for observing sites, data for Polaris transits etc and notes on operation of the GoTo in case I forget anything.

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I recently recommended Astro Planner on another thread about something else it does (it does a lot!), but it probably deserves a mention here too for its observing log features, which are pretty extensive. It's free in its basic version, so might make a good alternative to DSP for some.

Nick (who promises to take more rigorous notes when the rain stops)

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A friend of mine used to use a voice activated dictation machine (speaks as he's looking through the eyepiece) then does a write up on the computer, in an electronic diary, every other day.

I've just done a quick Google and the machines are about £30.

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I type mine out in notepad.

I start with date, time, seeing, moon, wind.

Then I make notes on all subjects I see making sure I note what eyepieces were used so I can work out magnifications. I make a note of colours and size of the object I'm observing.

Basically the same as yours.

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I use a voice activated recorder at night, and transcribe the notes into a log book the next day (on my 5th one already). I also make little scribble sketches (planetary satellite placement etc) on scratch paper which i transfer into my log, but the 'good' sketches are done separately and placed into ring binders. 1)Messiers, 2)misc deep sky, 3)Moon, 4) and a big one for everything else like comets, double stars, planets, asteroids, etc. Oh, and i also have a separate little sketch book with the sunspot records from solar cycle 23.. bought one for #24 but sadly, it's just gathering dust so far. :)

During the last solar max, i started to make voice logs during the Auroral displays because it was so much easier to look and talk, than to look, stop, write, look.;) Actually, i'm on my second recorder.. the mini-tape died a while ago and was replaced by a digital.

The recordings enabled me to make more detailed and descriptive reports to my Aurora group. It also helped when i made the formal report online. in fact, i came across my SGL username while making one such report. I needed to name the designation of the lowest altitude star detectable in the most intense area of activity, and it turned out to be Talitha in UMa.. i've liked the name ever since.:)

One thing about logs, if i may. They're fabulous records of your observations and give a lot of pleasure when you re-read them a number of years down the road. But i've found them to be quite useless when trying to share information because logs are chronologically based. Many times, i've wanted to contribute to discussions on specific targets but was unable to because i'd have to slog through 10 years of logs in order to gather all of my notes together.

If i had it to do all over again i'd have made detailed notes on looseleaf paper and categorized them according to object. The logs would still contain plenty of info, but the more detailed stuff would be easily accessible. :headbang:

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