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Create a list of targets sorted by constellation using Tonight's Sky - Free

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#1 aeajr

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 12:59 AM

When you are planning an observing session there are a variety of way to proceed.  

 

* You can set up your scope and just wander around the sky.  I sometimes do that.

 

* You can scan with binoculars or the finder scope and when you see something interesting, zero in on it with the telescope.

 

* You can start to organize you observation sessions with a target list using "Tonight's Sky", a free web site that will allow you to run a report of what is in your sky tonight.  It will let you select the difficulty of the targets and will provide a printed, PDF or HTML report that you can use when you are at your telescope.

 

The default sort is by difficulty, from brightest to dimmest.   That is great but you could end up all over the sky trying to work the list.    I normally sort it by constellation.  Then I can mark the constellations that are in my best part of the sky and focus on them.    You could spend an entire evening working on small part of the sky finding all sorts of cool stuff.  

 

Aside from making it easier to observe, you get to know a specific region of the sky.    You can focus on Orion, for example.  See all that is in Orion up to the capability of your telescope.  Then move on to Taurus or Cassiopeia or whatever constellations are in the best areas for you to observe.

 

Not sure which constellations are in your best viewing area?  I use Stellarium to help me see which constellations are in my best viewing area. For me that is East and directly overhead.  But you could use a Planisphere, a star chart, "Turn Left at Orion,  or an app on your phone or tablet.

 

Here is how you do it.

 

Tonight's Sky Web site
http://www.tonightss...om/MainPage.php

 

Put in your location and time settings and click the box to remember them

.

Select the difficulty level - If you are using binoculars then select that.  If you are in a highly light polluted area work naked eye and binoculars first, maybe small telescope.  If you can find all of those then on the next report raise the difficulty level.   I attached a screen shot of the settings I used to create the sample report I attached.  

 

Select what types of targets you want to see - Planets, clusters, whatever you want.

 

Run the report - standard sort that will be displayed is by increasing magnitude number, that is to say brightest to dimmest

 

Choose which ones you want in the printed report, or select all.

 

Select Print or right click and select print.   If you want a PDF select "save as"

 

Change default print out sort to "by constellation"

 

Run the report and it will be sorted by constellation.  This is how I normally sort it.

 

You can print it or save it as a PDF or a web page.  If you save it as a web page there are live links to resources for each item.

 

I have the settings that were used to generate the report.  This site will not let me upload the .PDF file but you can do that for yourself.

 

Just another resource.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Print setting to sort by constellation.PNG
  • My setting for Tonight's Sky.PNG

Edited by aeajr, 01 December 2015 - 01:08 AM.

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#2 chrysalis

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Posted 05 December 2015 - 06:06 AM

That is a great website, I use it all the time. I save the monthly ones as excel spreadsheets so I don't have to go back live....but I do anyway ;)

 

A couple of other very nice websites:

 

http://www.virtualcolony.com/sac/

 

http://dso-browser.com/


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#3 REC

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Posted 05 December 2015 - 10:54 AM

When you are planning an observing session there are a variety of way to proceed.  

 

* You can set up your scope and just wander around the sky.  I sometimes do that.

 

* You can scan with binoculars or the finder scope and when you see something interesting, zero in on it with the telescope.

 

* You can start to organize you observation sessions with a target list using "Tonight's Sky", a free web site that will allow you to run a report of what is in your sky tonight.  It will let you select the difficulty of the targets and will provide a printed, PDF or HTML report that you can use when you are at your telescope.

 

The default sort is by difficulty, from brightest to dimmest.   That is great but you could end up all over the sky trying to work the list.    I normally sort it by constellation.  Then I can mark the constellations that are in my best part of the sky and focus on them.    You could spend an entire evening working on small part of the sky finding all sorts of cool stuff.  

 

Aside from making it easier to observe, you get to know a specific region of the sky.    You can focus on Orion, for example.  See all that is in Orion up to the capability of your telescope.  Then move on to Taurus or Cassiopeia or whatever constellations are in the best areas for you to observe.

 

Not sure which constellations are in your best viewing area?  I use Stellarium to help me see which constellations are in my best viewing area. For me that is East and directly overhead.  But you could use a Planisphere, a star chart, "Turn Left at Orion,  or an app on your phone or tablet.

 

Here is how you do it.

 

Tonight's Sky Web site
http://www.tonightss...om/MainPage.php

 

Put in your location and time settings and click the box to remember them

.

Select the difficulty level - If you are using binoculars then select that.  If you are in a highly light polluted area work naked eye and binoculars first, maybe small telescope.  If you can find all of those then on the next report raise the difficulty level.   I attached a screen shot of the settings I used to create the sample report I attached.  

 

Select what types of targets you want to see - Planets, clusters, whatever you want.

 

Run the report - standard sort that will be displayed is by increasing magnitude number, that is to say brightest to dimmest

 

Choose which ones you want in the printed report, or select all.

 

Select Print or right click and select print.   If you want a PDF select "save as"

 

Change default print out sort to "by constellation"

 

Run the report and it will be sorted by constellation.  This is how I normally sort it.

 

You can print it or save it as a PDF or a web page.  If you save it as a web page there are live links to resources for each item.

 

I have the settings that were used to generate the report.  This site will not let me upload the .PDF file but you can do that for yourself.

 

Just another resource.

Yeah, between this site and following up with stellaarium to see where they are, you have more than enough targets to observe. We had our first good night in two weeks last night and I mainly stayed in east from Cassiopeia over to Auriga. So many great star clusters in that area! The transparency was super, but the seeing was awefull, stars were twinkling like mad. I waited to see Orion rise up and was view able about 9pm from my yard. I could just make out the trap and the nebula with a filter. Still, it need to be a little higher in the sky, but I was freezing at that time, so packed it up. BTW, just had my grab scope out for this session and some binos. Maybe I'll print up a list for tonight as it's gonna be another good night.


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#4 Michael Rapp

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 10:41 AM

What a cool resource!  

 

BTW, Ed, I've been delighted watching you gain experience in astronomy.  Your enthusiasm reminds me of why this is all so much fun.


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#5 aeajr

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 05:25 PM

What a cool resource!  

 

BTW, Ed, I've been delighted watching you gain experience in astronomy.  Your enthusiasm reminds me of why this is all so much fun.

 

Thanks!   I have received so much help and support here. I just want to give back by helping the newbies, like me.



#6 thomasr

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 01:33 PM

I use that same website, but instead of printing the resulting report, I use the export to CSV option and bring it into Excel for further massaging.

 

What I do is I take the RA column, copy it to a new column, and truncate to keep only the first two digits. Then I sort the list using two columns: the (new, truncated) RA column, plus the Declination column. Finally, I figure out what RA will be close to the western horizon when I start my observing session, and move that stuff to the top of the list (e.g. for the most recent list I printed, I moved the 19 - 23 zones above the 00 - 18 zones).

 

The end result is a list of objects sorted west-to-east as 1 hour wide slices, and then south-to-north within each slice. And since the data is in Excel, I have the flexibility to increase font sizes (for easier night viewing), add special formatting (e.g. make all globular clusters italic, or put outline boxes around cells for nebulas, etc), control pagination, and generally set things up exactly the way I want to see them.

 

In the field, I just start in the southwest (or as close to that horizon as I care to get) corner of the sky and work my way east as new stuff is rising to greet me. In practice, the list is quite long and I tend to skip stuff as I go ... and sometimes I'll go back to previous objects.


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#7 aeajr

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 04:23 PM

I use that same website, but instead of printing the resulting report, I use the export to CSV option and bring it into Excel for further massaging.

 

What I do is I take the RA column, copy it to a new column, and truncate to keep only the first two digits. Then I sort the list using two columns: the (new, truncated) RA column, plus the Declination column. Finally, I figure out what RA will be close to the western horizon when I start my observing session, and move that stuff to the top of the list (e.g. for the most recent list I printed, I moved the 19 - 23 zones above the 00 - 18 zones).

 

The end result is a list of objects sorted west-to-east as 1 hour wide slices, and then south-to-north within each slice. And since the data is in Excel, I have the flexibility to increase font sizes (for easier night viewing), add special formatting (e.g. make all globular clusters italic, or put outline boxes around cells for nebulas, etc), control pagination, and generally set things up exactly the way I want to see them.

 

In the field, I just start in the southwest (or as close to that horizon as I care to get) corner of the sky and work my way east as new stuff is rising to greet me. In practice, the list is quite long and I tend to skip stuff as I go ... and sometimes I'll go back to previous objects.

 

That is brilliant. I love it!



#8 Timmie99

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 07:08 PM

Oh!  This is good!  Thanks Ed.


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#9 aeajr

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Posted 17 December 2015 - 12:58 PM

Does anyone have an alternate approach they would like to share?



#10 REC

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Posted 17 December 2015 - 02:37 PM

I know the sky pretty well after many years in this hobby and have my favorite objects for each season, but always looking for new ones to observe. I get a lot of ideas from this website and also the other forum, "deep sky objects" with user reports.

 

Also, I have found Stellarium program to be a great program to review my sky before I'll go out some nights. I'll bring it up and look at the map for about an hour or so after dark. I'll add the "nebula ect" mode and go from there. You can zoom in and see a lot more DSO"s start to show up and then you can click on each object to see how bright and how big it is. That way I can compare them with other well know to me to get an idea what it will look like. I generally observe from my backyard which has not direct light hitting me. Front of the house is the street and lights. I'm in a red zone and have a NELM of about 4.5 to about 5 at zenith. I''ll pull up the map and check out the east to south sky and up to the the zenith to see what's out.

 

So between this very useful tool for my manual scopes to my Go-To SCT, I have lot's to observe on a clear night.

 

Clear Skies all!


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#11 Nile

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Posted 17 December 2015 - 03:46 PM

How do you export to CSV? I couldn't see the option.

I use SkySafari and Stellarium to plan my night. I can create lists in SkySafari, which is good. But having a sorted out and printed list would be nice!

 

Best,

-Nile



#12 aeajr

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Posted 17 December 2015 - 09:28 PM

How do you export to CSV? I couldn't see the option.

I use SkySafari and Stellarium to plan my night. I can create lists in SkySafari, which is good. But having a sorted out and printed list would be nice!

 

Best,

-Nile

It is part of the print set-up.  You run the report. The export to CSV is one of the format options for printing.



#13 Nile

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 11:03 AM

Are you using print option on the web? I don't see one. I did try browser print option (ctrl+p) earlier, but I do not have CSV option! (I do have office suite installed.) 


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#14 thomasr

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 01:18 PM

There's a dropdown for report type - click on that and you'll see CSV as a listed option.


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#15 aeajr

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 03:53 PM

it is at the bottom of the report, left side.  format options and print options.



#16 Nile

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 05:37 PM

Got it! Thanks, guys! For some reason I wasn't seeing it on the other computer!



#17 ebarnett

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Posted 20 December 2015 - 12:56 AM

Good topic. I have created custom observing lists in Sky Safari based on coordinates. As an example one of my lists is 00-02 (+90 to +70) - This list would contain all objects (I also set the limiting magnitude to < 13 for deep sky objects and < 7 on double star primaries) in that Quadrant of the sky. I have lists made for all quadrants of the sky down to -30 degrees. When I observe, I simple stay in the quadrant I'm viewing for the night. My telescope makes very minor slews from one object to the next. And of course i just control the telescope with sky safari and my list.

 

hope that wasn't confusing.


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#18 Asbytec

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Posted 20 December 2015 - 04:13 AM

DSO Browser is another great tool.

 

http://dso-browser.com/


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#19 aeajr

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Posted 20 December 2015 - 06:00 AM

Had not tried DSO Browser.  Will check that out.


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#20 alacant

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Posted 25 December 2015 - 04:00 AM

Absolutely first rate. An excellent thread.



#21 aeajr

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Posted 25 December 2015 - 05:31 AM

If you gave or received a very small aperture telescope, 50 or 60 mm aperture, let me welcome you to the cosmos.   While that is smaller than what we typically recommend here it can still be your entry to the cosmos.  

 

As you learn about the sky, and your telescope, let me encourage you to look for books and resources on binocular astronomy as many people start in astronomy via that path and the recommended starting point is often 10X50 binoculars.   So your scope can be used for many of the targets that are recommended for new binocular users but can take those images to higher magnification.

 

Congratulations on your new telescope.  We can help you get the most out of it as your entry point to the sky.  ;)



#22 REC

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Posted 25 December 2015 - 09:02 AM

Good topic. I have created custom observing lists in Sky Safari based on coordinates. As an example one of my lists is 00-02 (+90 to +70) - This list would contain all objects (I also set the limiting magnitude to < 13 for deep sky objects and < 7 on double star primaries) in that Quadrant of the sky. I have lists made for all quadrants of the sky down to -30 degrees. When I observe, I simple stay in the quadrant I'm viewing for the night. My telescope makes very minor slews from one object to the next. And of course i just control the telescope with sky safari and my list.

 

hope that wasn't confusing.

That sounds like an interesting idea. I just got Sky Safari and would like to learn how to make up observing lists like that. Any tips?

 

Bob


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#23 aeajr

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Posted 25 December 2015 - 10:41 AM

Good topic. I have created custom observing lists in Sky Safari based on coordinates. As an example one of my lists is 00-02 (+90 to +70) - This list would contain all objects (I also set the limiting magnitude to < 13 for deep sky objects and < 7 on double star primaries) in that Quadrant of the sky. I have lists made for all quadrants of the sky down to -30 degrees. When I observe, I simple stay in the quadrant I'm viewing for the night. My telescope makes very minor slews from one object to the next. And of course i just control the telescope with sky safari and my list.

 

hope that wasn't confusing.

 

 

If you can post the procedure here I am sure people will enjoy following your method.



#24 aeajr

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Posted 26 March 2016 - 11:13 AM

Let me add this resource to the discussion.

 

What's Out Tonight
http://whatsouttonight.com/

 

This site has a wonderful resource.  This is a 2 page printout that is published each month with a chart of the sky and information about targets for the month.   It is not loaded with stars but highlights the constellations and a few key targets to enjoy.   If you have not taken time to prepare a target list this might give you something to work.

 

One of the things I love is that this includes binocular targets.  These are also great for those new telescope owners who have those small 50 and 60 mm refractors.  

 

When I do a star party for my friends I print these out and hand them out.  They can note what they saw and mark it on the chart so the have something to take home.  And if they have binoculars or a telescope at home this can give them some good targets.

 

 

I am looking forward to the April maps.


Edited by aeajr, 26 March 2016 - 11:20 AM.

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#25 aeajr

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 04:04 PM

I just learned about a commercial package called Skytools

http://www.skyhound.com/skytools.html

 

Can anyone provide some input on how that would work compared to the approach outlined here?  




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