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O'Meara's Herschel 400 guide -- why no TOC?

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#1 mwedel

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 10:31 PM

Caveats and background: I own, use, and love O'Meara's Deep Sky Companions books. I do find much value in his H400 book. And, to satisfy the pedants, okay, yes, the book does have a TOC page, which lists all of the...months of the year.

Now, the main event: why oh why does this book not have a useful table of contents? One that lists all of the objects for each night in each month in each season? It can't be for want of space, since all of the H400s already appear in three lists: in order by NGC in Appendix A (but no page numbers!), in order by NGC again in Appendix B (with room for observing notes, but still no page numbers), and a third time in the index. And it's to the index you must go if you want to find out when is the best time to observe NGC 4800, or what objects O'Meara recommends observing on the same night.

What I would like to be able to do is sit down with the book and my own H400 checklist and see what's left to observe in, say, February, without flipping through 24 pages looking for all the object headers.

What I am actually doing is going through the book making my own TOC in an Excel file. Obviously, I find the book useful enough to justify this effort. But it seems like a stupid waste of time to be doing something that the publisher should have done in the first place.

Am I crazy? None of the reviews I've read have mentioned the lack of a good TOC, so maybe most users aren't bothered by it, but it drives me completely nuts.

Your thoughts?

This rant was brought to you by :( :confused: :bawling: :foreheadslap: and :question:

#2 LivingNDixie

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 10:45 PM

I have the book. I generally use it with the list of objects by constellation. I have found observing the H400 by constellation the easiest method for me.

#3 blb

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 05:42 PM

What is TOC? :question:

#4 okieav8r

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 06:45 PM

What is TOC? :question:


table of contents ;)

#5 Starman1

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 04:36 PM

For some of us, probably 300 of the 400 are visible any night of the year.

Books that are arranged by month or season are NOT USEFUL (are you listening NSOG?) for those of us who observe all night. Arranged by constellation IS, since you can simply look up to see what constellation is on the meridian or coming up or setting. So is a numerical arrangement.

One of the reasons this book never goes to the field with me is its user-unfriendly arrangement by months.

Tell me, off the top of your head, what's the sidereal time when it gets dark in February? What NGC sequence is visible on the meridian on February 17th?

The book needed to be arranged in numerical order (like the companion to Sky Atlas 2000) so that it would be useful in the field.

Well, it is a nice desk reference. With the non-reflective pages and good type size, it could have been useful in the field.

Here's the list in constellation order:
http://www.astroleag...l/h400lstc.html
Here's the list in numerical order:
http://www.astroleag...l/h400lstn.html
And here's the list for color print:
http://www.saguaroas...HERSHEL400.html
And here's the list for download:
http://www.ngcicproj...ss/dss_h400.asp

#6 Rick Woods

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:33 PM

Books that are arranged by month or season are NOT USEFUL (are you listening NSOG?) for those of us who observe all night. Arranged by constellation IS, since you can simply look up to see what constellation is on the meridian or coming up or setting. So is a numerical arrangement.


Not necessarily, especially if it's a multi-volume book in either case. If divided by season, you only need to use one at a time; by constellation (eg. Burnham's), you're constantly going from one to the other.
I had the same misgiving about the NSOG; but when I thought it all over, I decided it was a pretty good arrangement after all. None of them are perfect.

#7 Starman1

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:42 PM

Books that are arranged by month or season are NOT USEFUL (are you listening NSOG?) for those of us who observe all night. Arranged by constellation IS, since you can simply look up to see what constellation is on the meridian or coming up or setting. So is a numerical arrangement.


Not necessarily, especially if it's a multi-volume book in either case. If divided by season, you only need to use one at a time; by constellation (eg. Burnham's), you're constantly going from one to the other.
I had the same misgiving about the NSOG; but when I thought it all over, I decided it was a pretty good arrangement after all. None of them is perfect.

Rick,
Every night I go out with my scope I use both volumes of NSOG. I always end up hopping back and forth at some point of the night. I ended up putting a label on the front of each volume with a list of the constellations in that volume.
If it were completely alphabetical, all I would need is to mark the cover with a letter range. Sort of like Burnham's.

#8 Rick Woods

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 12:46 AM

Well, whatever works best for you. Lots of options available!

#9 mwedel

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 01:02 PM

Books that are arranged by month or season are NOT USEFUL (are you listening NSOG?) for those of us who observe all night. Arranged by constellation IS, since you can simply look up to see what constellation is on the meridian or coming up or setting. So is a numerical arrangement.


Yes, exactly! I would strongly prefer to have things listed either by constellation or by RA, and if the actual entries aren't going to be in those formats, at least have tables of contents that are. But O'Meara's book does neither. You can go through season by season, night by night, with no way to look ahead other than flipping every. stinkin'. page. OR you can look up objects by NGC number in the index. If you want to look them up by RA or constellation, you're hosed.

Now, sure, you can print out lists by RA or constellation and then use the index to get where you want to go, but dang, that is a lot of work to replicate what a good table of contents would have given you up front.

So I'm afraid that for anyone who wants to use this book for more than the intended straight-line plod, it's sort of a work in progress. You can make it useful, but only by doing quite a bit of work yourself. So it ends up being a better shelf reference than field guide--and ironically, it would be a better shelf ref AND a better field guide if it was arranged by RA or constellation.

I don't want to sound like I hate the book. I don't. I refer to it all the time, and it's a good and useful thing. It's just nowhere as useful as it could be. And I don't understand why.

#10 Rich_W

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 07:34 PM

I agree, the lack of a meaningful TOC is a real handicap. I don't use O'Meara's book to make up my observing plan. But once I have my plan, I look up each object to get some background and note the page number for the object on my plan. With this nightly TOC of my own, I find the book very helpful in the field.

#11 blb

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 10:19 AM

...With this nightly TOC of my own, I find the book very helpful in the field.

Exactly! This is how I use the book and I love it.

#12 JayinUT

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 10:35 PM

This link may help you. I put all the lists by month and night into one excel spreadsheet several years ago. It's in my Google Documents, is Excel format and feel free to use it or not at your choice.

#13 FLAKPA

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 01:35 PM

I know many Folks refuse to think about a software package for observational planning... But.... for a small charge Astroplanner will allow you to do all of what has been mentioned.

And... many good hearted Folks have made observation plans based on many good books, including the mentioned Herschel 400 and both of Sue French's great books, as well as many many many others such as Scotty Houstons great work, which I just bit and painfully paid $75 for a copy. Simply download the plan off the internet and you can see rise, transit and set times for ANY time or location. Very handy.

Cheers,
Robert

#14 Starman1

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:33 PM

I know many Folks refuse to think about a software package for observational planning... But.... for a small charge Astroplanner will allow you to do all of what has been mentioned.

And... many good hearted Folks have made observation plans based on many good books, including the mentioned Herschel 400 and both of Sue French's great books, as well as many many many others such as Scotty Houstons great work, which I just bit and painfully paid $75 for a copy. Simply download the plan off the internet and you can see rise, transit and set times for ANY time or location. Very handy.

Cheers,
Robert

But SkyTools, AstroPlanner, and DeepSkyPlanner all have a few issues:
--used in the field, they will destroy your night vision, no matter what device they're on
--if you print a list by magnitude, even at the limit for, say, an 8" scope, that list will be the size of a small book. You can set the limit higher, of course, and print a smaller list, but then you will want to know what the two galaxies were that were 1 magnitude below your cutoff that were adjacent to your target.

Software is a powerful tool to help you put the objects you want to view in the best sequence, but it suffers compared to a printed atlas in the field.

#15 mwedel

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 05:16 PM

I agree with the stated pros and cons of planning software. I'm not looking for tools to fix the lack of a good TOC for O'Meara's book, I'm wondering why O'Meara and his editor would put so much effort into the book but leave out such an obvious aid to actual use. As it is, one only has two options: proceed through the book in the order given, or look up objects one at a time in the index. There's no place to get an overview of what's culminating in any given month, or a list of H400 objects for each constellation. And, sure, you can get that stuff from other sources, but if you want to use the book you're still stuck going to the index. It's a frustrating omission.

Who knows, perhaps O'Meara and the publisher thought that the omnipresence of good planning software made a table of contents redundant. If so, that was a mistake--planning software can give you plenty of ways to proceed through the H400s, but it can't tell you where to find things in the book. And in fact, the better the planning software works, the more it obviates the stated goal of the book, which is to be an observing guide.

#16 Rich_W

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 06:49 PM

My guess would be that the publisher did not have a good sense of how the book would be used.






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