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Learn from the Masters

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#1 StarDaddy


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Posted 02 June 2013 - 07:28 PM

So I'm beginning my journey throught the Messier catalogue and I'm wondering: what element/technique did you find most advantageous in your pursuit of Messier objects? An OIII filter? Honing your star-hoping skills? Flocking the inside of your tube to increase contrast?

Was there any one particular thing which stands out as taking your endevor "to the next level"?

I'd love to know what stumbling blocks you found, and overcame, so I may learn.

As they say: 'knowledge is good'

Thanks, and ......... Keep dancin' the clear skies boogie!

#2 cliff mygatt

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 09:27 PM

I would say working the Messiers was a great tool to learn what open and globular clusters as well as nebulae and galaxies look like in a scope. The Messiers are the brighter of the DSOs and will prepare you for the next level! All the things you mention will help but are not necessary for the Messiers! Averted vision is a good skill to hone. Good luck!

#3 GlennLeDrew


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Posted 02 June 2013 - 11:18 PM

Time at the eyepiece. And dark skies.

A beginner with a large scope often does not see what an experienced observer sees with a telescope of significantly smaller aperture.

A small instrument under a dark sky can show what's impossible in a huge scope suffering under light pollution.

#4 Astrodj


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Posted 02 June 2013 - 11:22 PM

I think it is very helpful when starting out to get a feel for what to expect the appearance of the object to be at different powers, depending on it's size and surface brightness.

Something a few seconds of arc in size like M57 may be hard to detect at 20x but will look great at 100x because of it's high surface brightness, while a large (apparent size) galaxy like M101 has such a low surface brightness that you will see it much easier at 20x, and probably not at all at 100x.

There are several Messier guide books that can help with this.

#5 Astrojensen


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Posted 03 June 2013 - 02:27 AM


There are many advices to give, so here's just a few, in no particular order:

- get to as dark skies as you can.

- get some good guidebooks, such as o'Meara's Messier guidebook

- get a good mag 9 star atlas or iPhone app. I use Uranometria 2000.0 and recommend it.

- learn how to use averted vision. It takes practice, but it allows you to see so much more.

- be patient. Not everything will be visible at once and some objects are tricky to find, requiring some experience.

- learn how to starhop, using your atlas. GOTO is nice, but it doesn't pinpoint the location for you, the way starhopping does, which is very important for detection. You can use GOTO to get to the location of the object, but then starhop to its exact location. Knowing exactly where to look can gain you at least one magnitude in detection of faint objects, more with experience.

- use good clothing. Nothing will spoil a crisp, clear winter evening as quickly as insufficient clothing. Don't forget boots. And a hat. Or gloves.

- start with the brightest objects, to build up confidence.

- don't stare blindly at the Messier list, there are plenty of NGC that are as bright as many of the brighter Messiers. Don't let the NGC name scare you, it's just a name.

I'm sure there's tons of things I haven't thought of. Please feel free to ask for details, if there's something you'd like to know.

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

#6 Fuzzyguy


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Posted 03 June 2013 - 02:49 AM

Everyone above has given great advise. What stands out for me as the three biggest things were:

1-Learning to star hop with both my scope's finder and my widest angle eyepiece.

2-Learning to use averted vision.

3-Time at the scope to practice.

I've got two more objects to go in my personal Messier list that I've been working on for a little over a year. I should be able to finish the list in a month or two when the objects rotate around a little more.

I've had a lot of fun and learned a lot doing the Messier list and I"ll bet you will too! Good luck.

#7 azure1961p


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Posted 03 June 2013 - 07:42 AM

Well learning to use averted vision to best effect is something that develops without a conscious effort really . Roger Clark mentioned that the most sensitive part of night vision is straight ahead to the bridge of your nose . Using that span peripherally has helped me.

What Ive learned here on Cloudy Nights despite years and years and more years of deepsky viewing is this:

1. Take more time observing gaxies and other challenging deepsky objects and it will pay off. My typical 15 minute galaxy visit was I found woefully short compared to at least one individual who observed one particular galaxy for over two hours. I saw a disappointing flat faint glow, he began to see galaxy arm definition.

2. High power will aid in seeing detail in small planetary nebula and reveal fainter stars. My faint star mag I used to use topped out at 240x and I thought that was a lot with my 8" for that purpose. Planetary nebua at most got around 312x-364x. I come to find out quite a few fellas here will go as high as 80x per inch to extract the most performance and Stephen James Omeara with his Televue 5" has gone up to 950x on a planetary nebula.
I am more flexible now with my magnification on deepsky. I usually use more than most on planets when the sky supports it, but Ive cone to find Ive been to conservative on faint targets.

Get a decent atlas. In book form my fav is Uranometria. On my phone its SkySafari. Sky Safari, I'm sorry, beats Uranometria to death but I still enjoy using the book too.

Oh - where applicable - avoid GOTO. Yes it's fun I enjoy it on my c6 but I ALWAYS enjoy the experience more when I navigate the star fields and see the context of my finds.

Good Luck.


Ps: a word of advice: never never underestimate what even a half a magnitude can do for you in a darker less light polluted sky. Even that much can make or break an observation. Never scoff at the virtue of driving to a darker sky, you'll always reap the rewards.

#8 Tony Flanders

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 08:07 AM

So I'm beginning my journey throught the Messier catalogue and I'm wondering: what element/technique did you find most advantageous in your pursuit of Messier objects? An OIII filter? Honing your star-hoping skills? Flocking the inside of your tube to increase contrast?

Certainly not an O III nor flocking my tube -- that's for sure! An O III is only useful on a handful of Messier objects. And flocking the tube is a fairly minor improvement.

If you're going to find them by star-hopping, then good star-hopping skills are absolutely essential. That only took me a few weeks to learn -- I'm good with maps on Earth and in the sky.

I got pretty far through the Messier list using my 70-mm refractor from the city. But plenty of Messier objects were and still are far beyond my ability through that scope in that setting. Under dark skies, however, they are (now) fairly easy.

Patience, persistence, honing your observing skills -- that's what stargazing is all about. There was a point in my first Messier quest where objects that I had once considered invisible became first "maybe" and then "but of course, how could I ever have missed it." And that took less than a year.

Of all observing skills, effective use of averted vision is most important for deep-sky observing.

#9 JayinUT


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Posted 03 June 2013 - 06:47 PM

The number one thing any newbie can do is when they have the object in the eyepiece is to look at, and I mean really look at the object. Try different eyepieces out and record what your seeing (write it, say it into a digital recorder etc.). Then try observing techniques to try and see more detail. Record the detail you see and then AFTER you've observed, go and read if others have seen what you've seen (they probably have). That is training your eye and the more you do that, the more you see.

Why train the eye? Because the vast majority of objects out there aren't bright Messier type objects. They are the fainter DSO's and they require and demand a trained eye to reveal their details. Some don't have some, many do but to the untrain eye they will never capture that detail. That's just my opinion but I think most observers run through objects way to fast. Just my opinion and I am the one who enjoys viewing an object in different spans of magnification to see the differences and finally, yep I like to sketch it. Each to their own.

#10 StarDaddy


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Posted 13 June 2013 - 10:22 PM

Thank you all very much for the wonderful guidance. Seems the most productive things I should do is get a chair, and spend lots of time at the eyepiece....... Gee, twist my arm! :lol:

#11 RolandosCY


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Posted 17 June 2013 - 12:42 AM

I will add something: Yes, you need time at the eyepiece, but I would suggest that you also attempt to sketch what you see. You don't have to be an artist to make a rough sketch of what you see. By making a sketch, you tend to "force" your brain to ask the eyes for ALL information that might be "hidden" in the little patch of light that you observe. Thus, you train tghe eye to look for details, not only the broad image that might be seen at first glance.

Sketching, with the associated training of the eyes, was probably the no1 reason I developed as a deep sky observer.

#12 jrbarnett


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Posted 17 June 2013 - 10:36 AM

Messiers, for the most part, are bright and pretty obvious. If you're star hopping them, I'd suggest two things - a large magnified right angle correct image finder (8x50 or 9x50) and a wide true field of view eyepiece. Many Messiers will be easy to spot in a big finder, and putting one in a 5-degree field of view is a heck of a lot easier than doing so in a sub-1 degree field of view. Having a >1 degree field of view in the main scope, too, makes it easier to pick them up. Once you have one, center it and then ramp up the magnification if you like.



#13 ensign


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Posted 18 June 2013 - 01:42 PM

Something indispensable for me in the beginning was the zero-power finder - I had a Telrad on my Dob and a red dot finder on my refractor.

I found that getting the scope pointed to the right part of the sky with the finder, then refining its position using a low power "finder" eyepiece was a very effective way to navigate the skies.

#14 Feidb



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Posted 19 June 2013 - 09:02 AM

My zero power finder is my green laser pointer. A good star chart, aiming at the approximate spot, and mowing the lawn with a wide field eyepiece usually do the job nicely. Sometimes I don't even hae to move much and I'm right on the object. You can do it too with a little practice.

#15 Usquebae


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Posted 19 June 2013 - 11:01 AM

I'm a beginner myself, but feel comfortable making a couple suggestions:

1 - If your skies are reasonably dark, a Telrad (or similar 1x finder) can be your best tool. On good nights in my green zone, I use it almost exclusively. I see this has been previously advised, but I figure it is worth repeating. I can make rather large jumps easily with the Telrad, often "eyeballing" huge angles in the sky and landing nearly right on top of a "new" DSO.

2 - Cultivate your night vision, and use a red LED only during sessions. It takes a while for eyes to dark-adjust, and one look at a bright white light will restart the clock. I have assigned my left eye to DSO viewing, and keep it covered anytime I use my light, or if I need to go back inside for something. If your normal viewing area is subject to lights from street lamps, houses, cars, etc., consider an eye patch (preferably one with a Jolly Roger on it). You will see fainter objects much better, and make a fashion statement at the same time. Two of the loftiest goals in stargazing.

Also, there's a companion list for Messier's 109, called the Caldwell list. Somehow, "C45" is easier for me to deal with than "NGC5248."

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