Skyraider

Skyraider

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  • in reply to: DSO Round Table Meetings #5623
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Hey Bob,

    I love your post. It strikes right at the heart of who Chesmont is. We are first and foremost an observing club. Your enthusiasm for observing is what allows you to be a perfect fit with us. This club has helped shape me into the observer that I am today, and has offered me many opportunities to have a great time enjoying the lifestyle of an amateur astronomer. Here in Chesmont we call it a lifestyle, not a hobby, because honestly, for most of us, that’s what it is. As I address your specific questions I’m sure you’ll begin to see what I mean by that.

    1. Logging

    Over the years I have approached logging from multiple stand points.
    I have made up my own observing sheets where I would write down each object and some information about it and I would record every object I observed. I found this to take a lot of “observing time” away from me each night, so then I started using a digital voice recorder to record my observing sessions, and then I would transfer them to paper at a later date. This worked well, but eventually what wound up happening was a backlog of observing sessions on the recorder that I hadn’t transferred to paper. So then I started using Skytools III observing software in the field and printing out the report when I got home. Unfortunately, as is the case quite often, my computer crashed and I had not backed up the information properly so I lost the digital aspect of my logs. Then I tried Skysafari but did not like that software as much as Skytools III. So then I went back to hand writing my logs, writing down every object I observed. After a while I began to wonder why I was putting so much effort into writing down all the information on some random 16.8 magnitude galaxy that was just a small round fuzzball in the eyepiece.  Right around the time when I was questioning the virtues of writing down or digitally logging every single object I observed, I found out about Steve Gotleib’s observation of the entire NGC catalog. This inspired me to try to observe all of the deep sky objects in the Uranometria Vol 1 (Northern Sky) catalog. Taking on the challenge of  observing the entire Uranometria 1 catalog will be a life long, time consuming endeavor. Therefore I wanted an observing / logging strategy that matched the challenge. So instead of my focus being on logging in detail every single object I observe, it has shifted to noting what objects in Uranometria I have observed. The other aspect that had to go was the digital logs. Let’s face it, there’s not much software around today and in use that was around 20 years ago, but there are books that are thousands of years old. If I’m looking at spending the next 20 years or more on an observing project it is going to be done on a format that I know will last…paper.

    So now what I do is threefold but easily and quickly done in the field.

    A. The first part of my observing log  is recorded in a diary format. It includes the events of each observing session, what darksite I am at, the date, what scope I’m  using, who I am observing with, and the highlights of the night. I have created a custom sheet that I can print out and take with me to be filled out in the field .  This allows me to reminisce about each observing session when I read back over my logs.

    B. The second part is whenever I observe an object that is listed in the Uranometria Vol 1 (Northern catalog) I simply highlight it (shade it) with a pencil, that way I know I have observed it and therefore I don’t have to worry about observing it again.
    This makes it obvious what objects still need to be observed to complete the observing challenge.

    C. The third part of my logging involves custom sheets that I have made for each constellation in the northern hemisphere. I have two sheets for each contellaion. The first sheet is for favorite objects and is meant for show piece objects. Bright objects that show lots of detail. The second sheet is for interesting objects in each constellation, and contains objects that don’t quite fit the criteria of showpiece objects, but are ones that I would like to observe again. Both sheets are formatted the same way. They have a place where I can record the name of the object, the Uranometria chart number it is listed on, what type of object it is (Galaxy, Planetary Neb, etc), a brief description of the object and what eyepiece I feel best suits the object . This way, if I ever find myself at a really good dark site (more on that later) on a really good night, I will have a long list of objects, organized by constellation, to enjoy and to share with others. Future DSO meetings will most definitely contain objects from these lists.

    2. Lists

    As you can see from above, my logging naturally generates lists. However, as far as keeping track of specific objects that I want to observe I have also created my own custom observing lists of objects I want to observe. That list is not generated for each constellation as that would create a lot of extra paperwork. It is simply a page with a running list that contains the object catalogue number, the constellation it is it in, and the reason I am interested in observing it. That way when I’m in the field I can look over that list and easily know if the object is able to be observed at that time. I also print out our DSO Meeting lists. These are especially handy because they are specific to the upcoming season and they have the constellations noted. It is very easy to know whether you can observe off of that list based on the time of year. Again as I work a list I handle it the same way as I handle my Uranometria quest. I simply take a pencil and shade the object once it is observed.

    All of my logging paperwork and lists are hole punched and put in a three ring binder. That keeps all of that information handy and in one spot.

    3. Telescope Tolerance

    As far as the telescope tolerance is concerned, that is in reference to the scopes ability to safely travel long distances over bumpy roads, and to its ability to be precisely collimated and then hold that collimation throughout the night. Because the scope is going to travel long distances to get to the optimum dark skies (more on that later)  I want to make sure that the mirror is safe in the cell. Some of the more remote locations require travel over rough roads. I want to make sure every precaution is taken so the scope and it’s mirror arrive intact.
    Then once I arrive at a location and set the scope up I want to make sure I can precisely collimate the scope and that it will hold its collimation throughout the night. After all, I (and many of us in the club) have spent a lot of money acquiring a premium optic. There is NO point in having a really good mirror set, paired with quality eyepieces, and then have a scope that does not have the ability to get a precise collimation and hold that collimation. If you want a pristine refractor like view from a Dob you have to make sure your collimation is very accurate.

    4. Dark Sites

    This I cannot stress enough…Get your scope to the darkest skies possible every chance possible. PERIOD!!  However, be fore warned that once you observe under truly dark skies, there’s a good chance you will find less interest in observing under local dark skies. I can’t speak for others, but I know for sure that has happened to me .
    This is how important I feel dark skies are… I will hop in the truck and drive 4000 miles round-trip to get to some of the darkest skies in the continental U.S. . I bought a camper and put it on a permanent site up in the mountains, just south of Sullivan County, to give me a “home” under dark skies and a jumping off point to even darker skies. I will drive 9 hours round trip for one night of observing. I have become a dark sky snob and I don’t even try to hide it. I joke with the guys that I must be annoying to observe with locally because every time I do I complain about the lack of contrast and the lack of the aesthetic beauty of a black background sky. Once you see what a large Dob can do under pristine dark skies it can be very hard to go back to more local light polluted skies. This is the analogy that I use. Let’s say you have a high-end sports car and you take it out for a drive on a bumpy dirt road. It’s going to do only slightly better than any average vehicle on that road, but when you put that car on a high-performance racetrack, now you get the full benefit of it and you can smoke the average car. It’s the same way with a large premium Dob. If you think you’ve had the most spectacular view possible of M 27 and M51 and M42 or any other deep sky object from a site like Hawkmountain…you have not. Yes, observing at these sites can be a super fun time and I do it regularly. Yes you can see the objects, but you can’t REALLY see these objects. It is fun and rewarding to observe locally. I do it and encourage other to as well, but anymore (at the risk of sounding like a dark sky snob) I don’t consider it serious observing.
    Yes, you can look up the difference darker skies give you in magnitude number, but let me give you an example. From my driveway at home under the city light dome, with my 25 inch scope, the view of M51 shows two small dim round “fuzzball’s”. Now that same object from Blue Mountain Vista shows the core of M 51 and it’s spiral arms connecting to the companion galaxy. The galaxies appear much brighter and beautiful against a blacker sky. Now observe that same object from Magdalena New Mexico, and you can actually see lace like detail with in the arms. The entire eyepiece will be filled with the galaxy’s arms. Each individual arm will become an object in and of itself to observe. You can see tendrils wrapping around other tendrils offering a depth of view that becomes almost three dimensional. And there are three galaxies, not just two. The view is so different that  objects you have observed on a regular basis locally become almost unrecognizable there is so much detail and extension to them. I remember one night in New Mexico that I dubbed “The companion night”. I looked at many objects that I am very familiar with from observing locally, but I kept getting confused because of all the background objects that I was seeing that I had never seen before. The saying with real estate is location location location, when it comes to astronomy it is LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. You can see as much in a 12 inch scope from a site like Magdalena, New Mexico or the Texas Star Party as you will see through a 25 inch scope from Hawk Mountain.

    5. Star Parties

    It’s simple! Go! They are great learning opportunities. The more remote you go, typically the more serious the observers are. If you’re interested in a star party, see if you can find somebody that has been to it and talk to them. Each party typically has its own particular set of rules and regulations, so it would be nice to familiarize yourself with it before arriving. But generally it’s the same concept overall.

    So with all that said, if there’s anything that you are interested in in greater detail let me know. I’m more than happy to show you what I’ve done with my observing logging and observing lists, scope modifications I’ve made, give you more information on the better dark sites, and share my star party experiences. I’ve been to the Texas Star Party, Enchanted Skies Star Party in New Mexico and Cherry Springs Star Party.

    Good luck and keep looking up!

    Here’s to Clear DARK Skies!!

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 5 days ago by Skyraider.
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    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by Skyraider.
    in reply to: Why Aren’t the Celestial Calendars Appearing? #5612
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Dave (and Karl)

    Unfortunately we are having occasional issues with the website. We may be looking at doing a drastic move and abandoning this site for a completely new one. We miss your calendars Dave, so hopefully we can get this squared away soon.

    in reply to: CAS COVID-19 RESPONSE #5603
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    I hope everyone is doing well! I also hope everyone is now familiar with Zoom. We are planning on holding the monthly meeting May 10th at 7:00pm using Zoom. Stay tuned as the EC and those involved with bringing this months meeting work out the details. As soon as we have more info we will pass it along so you all can know how to participate!!

    in reply to: Ice can be beautiful #5453
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Jeff, feel free to share!

    in reply to: Ice can be beautiful #5450
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Despite the sky being very blue today, this ring (created by ice in the atmosphere) is a dead giveaway to the problem we were probably facing last night when we were struggling to get good views at the eyepiece. Freezing moisture in the atmosphere seemed to be the logical culprit of last nights mediocre views, and observing this rare phenomenon the following day lends confirmation to that. It was neat to observe this rare event. This was the most obvious and most colorful one of these I have ever seen.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 2 weeks ago by Skyraider.
    in reply to: Ice can be beautiful #5448
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    in reply to: Ice can be beautiful #5444
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    in reply to: Red Light #5439
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Rob thanks for the heads up on the iPhone settings! That is useful information.

    in reply to: Mercury Transit Nov 11 #5320
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Great pictures guys! I was able to share views of the transit with about 10 people through my Celestron “eclipse” binoculars. It was shocking to see how small it was compared to the sun, and think that earth is only 3 times larger than that tiny speck…

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by Skyraider.
    in reply to: Soldier Sanctuary Star Party 11.4.2019 #5302
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Nicely done guys. I salute your efforts to help those who have volunteered to go to hell and back so each one of us can enjoy life in the greatest country on God’s green earth. Proud both of you are members of our club!

    in reply to: Mercury Transit Nov 11 #5301
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Thanks for the reminder. Going to try and take some time during the day to check this out

    in reply to: Saturn’s Moons #5238
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    I need a bigger telescope…

    in reply to: West Virginia places to stay #4953
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    The days I am looking to go are: Wednesday September 25th through Sunday September 29 th.

    in reply to: 10 Object row volunteers StarFest #4886
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    I’ll do Saturn

    in reply to: Wide field binocs #4846
    Skyraider
    Moderator

    Frank,

    I saw them in one of my astronomy magazines this past issue (can’t remember if it was Astronomy or Sky and Telescope), but it definitely caught my attention as well. I might just have to allow myself an impulse buy…or wait and look through Doc’s first and then determine if I want to by my own or not. 😆

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 69 total)