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Observation planning software?


rwg
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Does anyone use a software package they can recommend to help them choose observing targets? I'm looking for something to give me a list of objects that will be visible in a certain observing window - so for instance I could easily get a list of all planetary nebulae brighter than magnitude X visible between 10pm and 1am tonight...

I have tried using Astroplanner, but it persists in including objects in the list that won't rise above my local horizon (set up at 30 degrees to allow for the neighbours houses), which kind of spoils the point.

Any other suggestions?

cheers,

Robin

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I use Starry Night, and just make the target list manually, but I'm sure there is a better way to do it

Here is someone using it with Deep Sky Planner

tjFxStyZLsM

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Hmmm,

never used the horizon feature in AstroPlanner, but I've just set it up as variable horizon 20 to 30 degrees and AP shows which objects are now not visible due to the horizon.

Just sort on the visiblity column to put the "visible" objects at the top of the list.....

Does this help??

Ken

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Hi Ken,

I looked at the visibility column, but it seemed to me it was showing the visibility of the object 'now' rather than at the time for the plan I'd set up. Adjusting the date/time near the top-right seemed to work, but it all seemed a bit long-winded - somehow I seemed to be fighting against the application rather than working with it.

Euan, I'll have a look into using Starry Night - I have a copy of 5.8 around somewhere that came with a book I bought.

cheers,

Robin

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so for instance I could easily get a list of all planetary nebulae brighter than magnitude X visible between 10pm and 1am tonight...

My way is to start with a planisphere to get the hours of RA well placed at that time, then check against my Excel lists (downloaded from the sites below) to see what will be visible.

Astronomical Catalogs in Excel

The Historically Corrected New General Catalogue (HCNGC) - Since 1993

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If you have a Linux box, then you could give KStars a go.

It's got an observation planning tool, as well as a What's up Now one.

Not used it in anger yet, so can't say if it's really useful or not.

Edited by david o
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I'm making the transition from using my GOTO to learning how to use my recently acquired dob. Although I already have Stellarium (with my horizon profile photo)and Cartes du Ciel, I thought it would be nice to have something that would let me print a list of alt/az for my targets at different intervals through the evening. Just a few days ago I found a program called AstroHelper which does just that. To meet your needs also has a feature to key in simple horizon information - the lowest an object can be seen in each of 8 compass directions, and it will then offer a list of visible targets. I haven't tried that feature yet. Astrohelper is at Astro Software Home Page

Allan

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I use a program called 'Tonights Sky'.

You just enter your Lat/Long. Choose a start time. There's a section where you can choose what to look at and what size object (easy to difficult) results can be printed out.Quite a useful program. Just Google it.

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Well, there are some interesting suggestions there - having done a brief scan of the options, come up with the following points :

* KStars is pretty good - it has a useful 'what's up tonight wizard', however it doesn't let you choose a custom horizon, and it's awkward to see details on the items it suggests (you have to click on 'info' for each, rather than having the info appear when you select or hover over the item)

* Tonight's sky is another useful tool - the web site seems to work easily, but it would be nice to have some maps as well as the text details of the object - probably good for picking objects out to investigate in another program like KStars, Stellarium, etc

* Deepsky Planner - no trial version available, which is always a shame, also it's worrying when the latest update is ~3 years old. Having said that the features look promising, but I'm not planning to splash cash on it right now

* Starry Night - turns out my CD of starry night has a big fat crack in it - so much for that :).

* Astro Helper does what it's supposed to do, but is rather long-in-the-tooth (last updated 2003). I found the UI a bit awkward as you can't see any details on an object without adding it to the list.

* Didn't try the Excel catalogues, it seemed a bit too much like hard work!

* Tried AstroPlanner again - still don't understand how it picks objects - ask it for a plan for the darkness hours for tonight and 1/3 of the objects it suggests never rise above the local horizon during those hours... However, a plan with all the Messier objects in looks rather useful actually.

Overall, I'm going to keep trying to get my head round Astroplanner - it has the richest feature set and I'm just going to have to ignore it suggesting objects that aren't visible for whatever reason.

cheers,

Robin

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I just so happens that I'm working on a program to do just what you are asking for.

You will be able to enter a date and a time range and your location, and it'll tell you what is visible, filtered on mag and object type. You will also be able to provide it with the various obstructions at your observing site (trees, houses etc) so it won't tell you you can see M57 (for example) when it has risen, but it blocked by next door's tree.

I have it as a basic command line tool atm. I'm currently working to convert it to a more user friendly GUI tool.

I'll post it up here when Its done.

cheers

Paul

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi rwg,

The latest update to Deep-Sky Planner was in January of this year (2010). There is no trial at this time but there is a money back guarantee and there is no charge for shipping. Deep-Sky Planner is under development full-time and has been in publication since 1994.

- Phyllis

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Hi Phyllis, Talitha,

Thanks for the heads up on deep sky planner - I think I might have been looking at the wrong website - one for another astronomy program with deepsky in the name...

I will check out Sky Tools 3 - now definitely looking for something to fill this gap as I was out last night surveying my horizon - I now know, for instance, that I can get down to 19 degrees altitude between NNW and due N... :D

cheers,

Robin

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Hah!

I have finally worked out what was confusing me about AstroPlanner...

For some reason I was expecting that if I selected level 3 for difficulty in the plan creation, I would get objects of all levels *up to* 3. You don't, you get objects of exactly level 3 difficulty.

This explains why it was leaving out objects that I thought should definitely be in the list (the brighter Messiers, etc), and also why it was including items that would never rise (I was asking for 20 level 3 difficulty globulars, but there weren't 20 available in the time window, so it filled in the 20 with ones that weren't too far below the horizon....)

I've also managed to get my custom horizon loaded, so I feel I'm getting there!

thanks for all the suggestions folks :D

Robin

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AsrtoPlanner V2 just seems to get better and better. There's no other planning software which has the same amount of catalogue information and data available. Combine that with the ability to write scripts ( to control DSLR's) and it's got to be a winner!!

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Hi, :)

I'm new to the game but I really like Stellarium. Its great! You can enter your Lat & Long and run it during the day, click night mode and see whats up in the sky right at that moment. You can also download the ASCOM platform and Stellarium Scope and control you scope through the software! Cool! :D

It tracks planets and start realtime across your field of view so its great for seeing what's out there to look at. I also has a cool red night vision mode. Anyway, I love it! Its FREE! Here's the link:

stellarium downloads - Free software downloads and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Clear skies

Mark

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