Jump to content


Photo

Night Sky Observers Guide

  • Please log in to reply
86 replies to this topic

#26 turtle86

turtle86

    Pooh-Bah Everywhere Else

  • *****
  • Posts: 2981
  • Joined: 09 Oct 2006

Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:33 PM

I can't imagine there are too many folks who use these in the field... they are indeed, great for planning, comparing observations, setting expectations, etc.

I'm a little curious why Mr. Knisely seems so down on the descriptions. Of COURSE, they're submitted by many different observers, and they're going to vary from individual to individual... but isn't that what observing is all about?

The ridiculous comprehensiveness of these books, makes them second to none, in my opinion.


+1

#27 David Knisely

David Knisely

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 15576
  • Joined: 19 Apr 2004
  • Loc: southeastern Nebraska

Posted 03 November 2012 - 12:20 AM

I can't imagine there are too many folks who use these in the field... they are indeed, great for planning, comparing observations, setting expectations, etc.

I'm a little curious why Mr. Knisely seems so down on the descriptions. Of COURSE, they're submitted by many different observers, and they're going to vary from individual to individual... but isn't that what observing is all about?

The ridiculous comprehensiveness of these books, makes them second to none, in my opinion.


Well, Jeff, I *do* use them in the field, as do a lot of people. NSOG contains a lot of objects that are worth at least a passing look at, so for a list of potential targets, the books are definitely worth having around. I keep them in my "portable library" (a wheeled carry-on luggage container) and pull them out in the van as I need them. As an aside, here is what my Portable Library contained when I went to NSP this year (and *all* of these books get field use)

1. Deluxe 2nd Edition of SKY ATLAS 2000.0
2. Sky and Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas.
3. URANOMETRIA Vols. 1, 2, and 3.
4. NIGHT SKY OBSERVERS GUIDE, Vols. 1 and 2
5. The ARP ATLAS OF PECULIAR GALAXIES.
6. OBSERVING HANDBOOK AND CATALOGUE OF DEEP-SKY OBJECTS
7. Webb Society's DEEP-SKY OBSERVER'S HANDBOOK Vol. 5 (Clusters of Galaxies)
8. DOUBLE STARS FOR SMALL TELESCOPES by Sissy Haas
9. The current volume of my formal Observing Logbook

As for the NSOG books themselves, I might suggest reading the review I did of Volumes 1 and 2 carefully:

CN REPORTS: The Night Sky Observers Guide

The descriptions are far from useless, as they do give you quite a bit to go by. However, with the extensive observing I do, I have run into a few unfortunate foul-ups with the descriptions in NSOG, along with what I like to call a "large scope bias" to their tone. I noted the most prominent problems with some of the descriptions in the review I did of the work, but mainly, some of them just aren't quite as accurate as those in works like Luginbuhl & Skiff's OBSERVING HANDBOOK AND CATALOGUE OF DEEP-SKY OBJECTS (c. 1989, Cambridge Univ. Press). In particular, one that really got my goat early on was the suggestion of using an OIII filter on the Horsehead! That one stuck out like a sort thumb (along with the one suggesting that an H-alpha filter would be good for visual use on nebulae).

NSOG is a quite useful work, as long as you take some of the descriptions with a grain of salt. It is best to observe the objects yourself anyway to get your own descriptions down on paper or on the computer for best reference. Clear skies to you.

#28 Rick Woods

Rick Woods

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 14621
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Inner Solar System

Posted 03 November 2012 - 12:59 AM

I use them in the field all the time. More than any other reference, actually.

#29 blb

blb

    Skylab

  • -----
  • Posts: 4489
  • Joined: 25 Nov 2005
  • Loc: Piedmont NC

Posted 03 November 2012 - 08:55 AM

... have run into a few unfortunate foul-ups with the descriptions in NSOG,...


David,
About how many errors have you found in volumes one and two? I mean how common are they because I have not noticed them. That may be because I use them for planning and not in the field.
Thanks

#30 okieav8r

okieav8r

    I'd rather be flying!

  • *****
  • Administrators
  • Posts: 4377
  • Joined: 01 Mar 2009
  • Loc: Oklahoma!

Posted 03 November 2012 - 10:02 AM

I use'em in the field. I bought a set many years ago that I keep in one of my field cases. They've seen a lot of use and they show it. I purchased the updated version a few years ago, which I use at home.

#31 David Knisely

David Knisely

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 15576
  • Joined: 19 Apr 2004
  • Loc: southeastern Nebraska

Posted 03 November 2012 - 01:16 PM

... have run into a few unfortunate foul-ups with the descriptions in NSOG,...


David,
About how many errors have you found in volumes one and two? I mean how common are they because I have not noticed them. That may be because I use them for planning and not in the field.
Thanks


It isn't plagued with errors at all. The Double star tables have a number of errors in them which are generally the fault of the time between publishing and when you do the observations (along with references to older inaccurate data). The deep-sky object descriptive material overall tends to have a little of what I have termed a "large scope bias". This means that what they report in some of their larger aperture descriptions I (and others) have seen in much smaller telescopes. When I was first going through the books as I began to review them, I was surprised at some of the differences between the NSOG descriptions of some of my favorite objects and those I had made in my own notes. In many cases, it just comes down to differences in observers, but once I got into the books more deeply, the "large scope bias" effect really started to get much more noticeable. There were a few true errors, such as the NGC 4111 fiasco (no dust lane guys), but they were not all that common. Despite the problems, NSOG remains a useful work that belongs in most amateur astronomer's libraries. Clear skies to you.

#32 mayidunk

mayidunk

    Don't Ask...

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 3997
  • Joined: 17 Feb 2010
  • Loc: Betwixt & Between...

Posted 03 November 2012 - 02:30 PM

Well, once again you guys have inspired me! First I was inspired last week to purchase, "The Great Atlas of the Sky" from Piotr Brych. A couple of days ago, after reading this thread, I decided to spring for the NSOG, ordering it directly from Willmann Bell as they have the best price for the set. I even got the Southern Hemisphere volume, as if I ever get down south, it can be used there.

I want to get the books while they're still available, before they just stop being published altogether, or publishers decide to cut corners, compromising the quality of the paper, bindings, and covers in order to just keep up with the economic pressures that just keep building!

#33 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 5450
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 03 November 2012 - 02:58 PM

I like NSOG for its pictures, drawings and write ups by Craig Crossen, but to fill the entire book with almost nothing but observational notes was a waste of valuable space. It's no wonder people have so few things to speak about regarding objects these days. Very few people retain information anymore. HAL is real.

#34 okieav8r

okieav8r

    I'd rather be flying!

  • *****
  • Administrators
  • Posts: 4377
  • Joined: 01 Mar 2009
  • Loc: Oklahoma!

Posted 03 November 2012 - 03:16 PM

I like NSOG for its pictures, drawings and write ups by Craig Crossen, but to fill the entire book with almost nothing but observational notes was a waste of valuable space. It's no wonder people have so few things to speak about regarding objects these days. Very few people retain information anymore. HAL is real.


I disagree.

#35 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 5450
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 03 November 2012 - 05:35 PM

Okay, how so?

#36 okieav8r

okieav8r

    I'd rather be flying!

  • *****
  • Administrators
  • Posts: 4377
  • Joined: 01 Mar 2009
  • Loc: Oklahoma!

Posted 03 November 2012 - 06:11 PM

Okay, how so?


Because that's all I ever expected it to be--the NSOG is, after all, an observer's guide. And because I, for one, find the observational notes useful, giving me a good idea of what to expect at the eyepiece. I've found both the notes and the sketches to be quite useful. The books are more than just a collection of observation notes, although that's a big part of what they are. The books usefulness also stems from the way objects are organized by seasons and constellations, good uncluttered finder charts, and good location data, especially useful for when RA/Dec information is important. I haven't found a more useful observers guide, although I realize that no one book on any subject is what's best for everyone.

I know that you like Burnham better because he waxes poetic and is romantically descriptive in his observations. That's great, I like Burnham too. I think that's good fireside reading, but I just don't find it useful in the field.

I'm a bit preplexed by this statement: "It's no wonder people have so few things to speak about regarding objects these days. Very few people retain information anymore."

#37 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 5450
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 03 November 2012 - 09:55 PM

I'm a bit preplexed by this statement: "It's no wonder people have so few things to speak about regarding objects these days. Very few people retain information anymore."


Perhaps I could best answer this question by asking you a question.

If you saw Alpha Centauri, would you just stare at it and say to yourself, it's a yellowish star? Or does anything else go through your mind?

#38 blb

blb

    Skylab

  • -----
  • Posts: 4489
  • Joined: 25 Nov 2005
  • Loc: Piedmont NC

Posted 04 November 2012 - 12:11 AM

I was so hoping that this would not devolve into a discussion about Burnham. I guess that is not going to happen though.

For those of us who love to look at deep sky objects, the NSOG is a great resource that is filled with wonderful descriptions of what we can see. Except for the large scope bias, the information is great even for small scope observers. The information is clear and concise and it addresses what I will see through the eyepiece. I do NOT need to read a four page dissertation about a double star I can not see from my latitude while observing. That kind of reading is best left for those cloudy nights we all suffer through.

#39 David Knisely

David Knisely

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 15576
  • Joined: 19 Apr 2004
  • Loc: southeastern Nebraska

Posted 04 November 2012 - 12:13 AM

Okay, how so?


Because that's all I ever expected it to be--the NSOG is, after all, an observer's guide. And because I, for one, find the observational notes useful, giving me a good idea of what to expect at the eyepiece. I've found both the notes and the sketches to be quite useful. The books are more than just a collection of observation notes, although that's a big part of what they are. The books usefulness also stems from the way objects are organized by seasons and constellations, good uncluttered finder charts, and good location data, especially useful for when RA/Dec information is important. I haven't found a more useful observers guide, although I realize that no one book on any subject is what's best for everyone.

I know that you like Burnham better because he waxes poetic and is romantically descriptive in his observations. That's great, I like Burnham too. I think that's good fireside reading, but I just don't find it useful in the field.

I'm a bit preplexed by this statement: "It's no wonder people have so few things to speak about regarding objects these days. Very few people retain information anymore."


I would have to agree. NSOG is not Burnham's Celestial Handbook, but quite frankly, it was never intended to be. The text "prosaic" work in Burnhams makes a very pleasant read, but those flowery descriptions of those showpieces he managed to describe in detail rarely told me enough of what I wanted to know about how the objects might actually look in my telescope. After a short period of field use, I didn't bother taking Burnham's into the field with me anymore. Even with all the darn Dreyer codes of descriptions, they tended to be not all that helpful, as one didn't know what aperture or conditions those rather cryptic descriptive lines were written for. Fully worded descriptions with apertures and powers noted are far more useful (Luginbuhl & Skiff is especially useful for that). NSOG is clearly intended as primarily a descriptive guide only and not some work of prose. I would have been sorely disappointed if it had just been some extended version of Burnham's. NSOG is clearly vastly superior to the Celestial Handbooks in terms of useful information for visual observations. If I want good "prose" about the heavens, I will read Timothy Ferris. Clear skies to you.

#40 Rick Woods

Rick Woods

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 14621
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Inner Solar System

Posted 04 November 2012 - 02:01 AM

NSOG is not Burnham's Celestial Handbook, but quite frankly, it was never intended to be.


And the authors said that specifically in the introductory section.
I don't really see why these two works get compared so often; they're completely different!

My main driving car is a Camero; but I also have a Jeep. There's no point in comparing the two, as they're intended for totally different purposes. One isn't "better" than the other - just different. And I love them both for what they do well. Same with BCH and NSOG.

#41 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 5450
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 04 November 2012 - 02:36 AM

I was so hoping that this would not devolve into a discussion about Burnham. I guess that is not going to happen though.


:lol: Buddy you'll never be rid of me. You know me all too well.

I do NOT need to read a four page dissertation.


Yes you do :lol:

#42 okieav8r

okieav8r

    I'd rather be flying!

  • *****
  • Administrators
  • Posts: 4377
  • Joined: 01 Mar 2009
  • Loc: Oklahoma!

Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:56 AM


I'm a bit preplexed by this statement: "It's no wonder people have so few things to speak about regarding objects these days. Very few people retain information anymore."


Perhaps I could best answer this question by asking you a question.

If you saw Alpha Centauri, would you just stare at it and say to yourself, it's a yellowish star? Or does anything else go through your mind?


Unfortunately, Alpha Centauri is a bit out of my line-of-sight. However....

When I'm looking at something through the eyepiece Daniel, I constantly marvel, and try to wrap my mind around what I'm seeing. When I look at a tight globular cluster, I wonder what the night sky looks like on a planet orbiting one of its stars. I'm time traveling. When I look at a faint galaxy 70 million light-years away, I'm awed and humbled that the photons from that fuzzy speck of light I'm seeing took that long to get here, only to fall on my eye. I'm amazed that it's comprised of maybe 300 billion or more stars, and stretches two or three hundred thousand light years across. I'm kind of saddened when I look at the Ring Nebula, knowing that it fortells the fate of our own Sun in the distant future. I wonder if there might have been thriving civilizations on a planet orbiting that star, and if so, were they fortunate enough to be technologically advanced enough to leave in time to escape their planet's fate? The Crab Nebula might look like a smudge to some, but knowing that at its heart is a neutron star, the most compactly dense visible object in the universe (purposely excluding black holes here), weighing billions of tons to the spoonful, and spinning 30 times a second is beyond mind blowing!

While I'm contemplating these things, I'm not simply staring at the object I'm looking at. I study it, try to push my visual accuity to its limit, doing my best to tease out detail and contrast. I love looking at closer objects like M51 and M33, working to see as much detail as I can pull out from the arms and HII regions. A real treat is watching one of Jupiter's moons as it emerges from, or ducks behind the planet. I wonder what Jupiter looks like if I were able to stand on one of it's moons? I can't see Alpha Centauri, but I can see Betelgeuse, and find it almost incomprehensible that it dwarfs our Sun the way the Sun dwarfs the Earth. I could site more examples, but I think I've made my point.

Daniel, what I'm trying to say here is that I, and many others, need nothing more in an observing guide other than simple, straightforward information to get me where I'm going, to find and observe the objects in the sky, and still be amazed, humbled, enlightened, and awed--to see much more than what is simply in the eyepiece--to get a better sense of my place in the universe. In the end, I find I am enriched in my observational endeavours far beyond just seeing something in a telescope, and my own sense of curiosity and wonder goes a long way in helping me to see things with my own sense of prosaic vision.

Again, I'm not knocking writers like Burnham. I really do like and read him. But my time in the field is for observation, and it is precious. The time I spend planning a session or afterward in my easychair is time in which folks like Burnham and O'meara can help me to further fill in the blanks.

#43 csa/montana

csa/montana

    Den Mama

  • *****
  • Posts: 86412
  • Joined: 14 May 2005
  • Loc: montana

Posted 04 November 2012 - 10:26 AM

I really use my NSOG's alot; not only in the observatory, but armchair planning as well! The NSOG is primary in my book collection.

#44 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 5450
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 04 November 2012 - 10:38 AM

Rex, I admire your response sir. :bow:

There does however appear to be some misunderstandings about how much astrophysical information one needs about the object at the eyepiece. Take the 1st and 2nd editions of the Sky Atlas 2000 companion for example. It gives a brief observational and astrophysical explanation about each object that's short enough to be easily usable under the stars. Of course I agree, it wouldn't be practical to read entire pages or several detailed pages under the stars.

There are in fact, some interesting but limited deep sky notes about some of the objects in NSOG, for example, Barnards star. In my opinion, it's important to teach others to take a little time to understand more about these interesting objects we are seeing in the night sky. Not doing this, deprives not only the observer, but others from appreciating even the most subtle of objects in appearance, in essence, a cure that helps avoid aperture fever that plagues observers. That's what was so genius about Burnham. He observed with his mind, rather than just his eyes, something lacking all to often with observers these days who are clueless about what they are actually looking at and believe me, they are clueless!

Take M92 and M13. Since everyone will point at M13, it's up to the observer to explain why M92 is also an interesting globular and that's not what's happening. Any observer who lacks the skill to explain or teach others that faint or less attractive objects may have great significance is not a very skilled observer in my opinion. A good observer knows how to make the universe an interesting place by knowing more about what they're seeing. NGC2419 isn't the finest globular from a visual perspective, but I'll bet if you explain to others why it's so faint, they will appreciate it much more. NSOG actually did this, so it's not entirely lacking.

NSOG is still a good guide in my opinion and don't get me wrong, I actually like certain parts of it. If you go to p.97 vol 1 and see the description of NGC2362, NSOG actually gives a nice, little description of the object that could easily be read under the stars at the telescope. All I'm suggesting, is that writers and authors take a little more time to put down something brief, but interesting so it can be shared with others at the eyepiece to help us all contemplate what we are seeing.

Remember folks, the attention span of the average observer is next to nothing. Many of them do not study because they don't have the patience to sit down and read Burnham's but if writers take a little more time to offer a brief explanation about the object, it will be the first step to getting other observers to wake up and think more about what they're seeing. The universe doesn't always need to be a loud, saturated, colorful place like we see in Hubble pictures. Writers, authors, editors, for crying out loud, just put a little more depth into your other than just another endless visual description.

Several of you have already complained about how the visual descriptions don't even match what you see anyway. I'm not saying to eliminate the visual descriptions at all. It's important to have them. Just minimize them and use the space in the book for other important notes. There are always going to be factors like experience, seeing, darkness etc effecting what we see vs. what others see. For that reason I always take other visual observations with a grain of salt.

#45 blb

blb

    Skylab

  • -----
  • Posts: 4489
  • Joined: 25 Nov 2005
  • Loc: Piedmont NC

Posted 04 November 2012 - 10:56 AM

Daniel, if you are going to quote me, please quote the whole sentence. Doing that will not change it's meaning. What I said was...

I do NOT need to read a four page dissertation about a double star I can not see from my latitude while observing.

When you quote the whole sentence you will see that I said that I do not need to read it while observing, that time is much to precious to spend it reading a four page discription that does little more than tell me the distance to these stars and there spectral type, that Proxima Centauri may be getting brighter. You see I have read it and it is a bunch of nothing that could not be shared in a paragraph in a modern text. Plus if I could see this star, I would have to look up it's curent position angle and seperation, coordinates and other information because that 50 year old information is no longer any good. Even you use sky safari for the curent information on doubles. So whats left is a nice wright up that is best left to the arm chair and not for use at the telescope.

#46 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 5450
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:49 PM

I do NOT need to read a four page dissertation about a double star I can not see from my latitude while observing.


And I don't need a 700 page dissertation on visual descriptions. You even stated yourself you don't take NSOG into the field, so what's the difference.

#47 turtle86

turtle86

    Pooh-Bah Everywhere Else

  • *****
  • Posts: 2981
  • Joined: 09 Oct 2006

Posted 04 November 2012 - 08:11 PM

No book can be all things to all people. Due to space limitations for printed works, authors and publishers are obliged to make practical choices--it's not easy to have it all in terms of depth, breadth and usability. While I certainly enjoy the depth of the O'Meara guides and Burnham's, they lack the sheer breadth of NSOG. If NSOG went into similar depth for each object it contained it would be completely unusable in the field. As things presently stand, many observers prefer to use NSOG solely as a desk reference anyway. Though NSOG doesn't pretend to be anything more than a comprehensive observing or field guide for amateurs with medium or large scopes, I think it actually manages to do a decent job of giving interesting background information for a lot of the objects it includes, despite its focus and space constraints. Indeed, the wonderful intro by Craig Crossen by itself goes a long way toward doing just that. I have pretty much every astronomy book worth having, but when I go out observing, I certainly can't take them all with me. Occasionally I'll take one of the O'Meara guides but I *always* take NSOG.

#48 Starman1

Starman1

    Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 22903
  • Joined: 23 Jun 2003
  • Loc: Los Angeles

Posted 05 November 2012 - 03:30 PM

One can have too much information on an object in the field.
From brief, like in the Sky Atlas 2000 reference books, to better, like the Sky Atlas 2000 Companion, to even better (Luginbuhl & Skiff) to even better (NSOG) to too much, like O'Meara's guides.
The best field guides are those from Alvin Huey, containing information, finder charts, drawings, and pictures and descriptions, and they lie flat. But if NSOG were done this way it would be in 20 volumes.
So I don't really have a major complaint about the NSOG, even though my own log now has over twice the number of entries. I take NSOG to the field every time I go.

Well, come to think of it, I do have one complaint--the organization! Whose idea was it to separate the constellations by "season"? What a dumb idea! As if no observer ever observed any other time than the first two hours of darkness every night. How am I to remember if Cepheus is a "summer" or "Autumn" constellation? I view something in Cepheus close to 12 months a year at some time of night or other. Plus, the seasons are reversed down south.

If they ever reprint these, I vote to have all the constellations arranged alphabetically so one book goes A-K, then L-V, then W-Z or something like that.
We all have different southern and northern horizons. Let us find the constellations in alpha order, please!

#49 Rick Woods

Rick Woods

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 14621
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Inner Solar System

Posted 05 November 2012 - 07:29 PM

If they ever reprint these, I vote to have all the constellations arranged alphabetically so one book goes A-K, then L-V, then W-Z or something like that.


Mehhh... that's a tough one.
During at least some parts of the year, you only need take one NSOG volume out. When they're arranged alphabetically, you always have to take everything out. Like with Burnham's.

Maybe arranged RA 0-12, and 12-24? (Hmm; that's sort of how it is now, isn't it.)
Or, just have one huge volume!

#50 blb

blb

    Skylab

  • -----
  • Posts: 4489
  • Joined: 25 Nov 2005
  • Loc: Piedmont NC

Posted 05 November 2012 - 08:05 PM

Don said,

Well, come to think of it, I do have one complaint--the organization! Whose idea was it to separate the constellations by "season"? What a dumb idea! As if no observer ever observed any other time than the first two hours of darkness every night.

I do agree with that. I still can see looking at fall objects in the sky after sunset now and yet before the sky starts to lighten up in the morning, Orion is already on the west side of my meridian and I am seeing some spring constellations in the east. So if I took them out when observing I would have to take both volums out to cover the whole night.






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics