Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Advice on maps/atlas for Messier hunting

  • Please log in to reply
31 replies to this topic

#1 quietglow

quietglow

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 10 Apr 2014
  • Loc: Chicago

Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:06 AM

I have resolved to finally complete the Astronomical League's Messier challenge this year. I think I have seen them all over the years, but I am doing the systematic logging etc this time around. I've returned to observing after a hiatus of a bunch of years.

 

Anyway, one thing I have returned to the night sky with is a desire to limit the amount of computer screen time I involve in my actual observing sessions. I had a brief return to stargazing a few years ago, and I think it was so short lived because I immediately jumped into imaging etc. I spend my days in front of a screen, and if I can avoid one while I have the telescope out, I'd be happier.

 

Which brings me to my question: for a M hunt, what sort of paper maps/atlas would one recommend? I have had three observing sessions with the very popular Pocket Atlas, and I am finding that it's not working for me. My chief complaint is that in busy areas of the sky, it's super difficult for me to pick out the M objects from all the other deep sky things under a dim red light. As a reference during the day it's great.

 

I have been resorting to Stellarium on the computer (and will continue to if I can't find a paper based solution). It allows you to select which deep space objects are shown.

 

Many thanks!
Joe


  • Roger Corbett and SeaBee1 like this

#2 izar187

izar187

    Mercury-Atlas

  • -----
  • Posts: 2838
  • Joined: 02 Sep 2006
  • Loc: 43N

Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:10 AM

http://www.willbell....tlas/atlas1.htm


  • kellyvictoria likes this

#3 hollandj

hollandj

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 139
  • Joined: 11 Jul 2014
  • Loc: Searcy Arkansas

Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:14 AM

I really liked this book:

 

The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide: With Complete Maps, Charts and Tips to Guide You to Enjoying the Most Famous List of Deep-Sky Objects.  by H. Pennington


  • astro744, Roger Corbett and Chesterguy1 like this

#4 caveman_astronomer

caveman_astronomer

    Surveyor 1

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1521
  • Joined: 18 Mar 2016

Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:41 AM

I have resolved to finally complete the Astronomical League's Messier challenge this year. I think I have seen them all over the years, but I am doing the systematic logging etc this time around. I've returned to observing after a hiatus of a bunch of years.

 

Anyway, one thing I have returned to the night sky with is a desire to limit the amount of computer screen time I involve in my actual observing sessions. I had a brief return to stargazing a few years ago, and I think it was so short lived because I immediately jumped into imaging etc. I spend my days in front of a screen, and if I can avoid one while I have the telescope out, I'd be happier.

 

Which brings me to my question: for a M hunt, what sort of paper maps/atlas would one recommend? I have had three observing sessions with the very popular Pocket Atlas, and I am finding that it's not working for me. My chief complaint is that in busy areas of the sky, it's super difficult for me to pick out the M objects from all the other deep sky things under a dim red light. As a reference during the day it's great.

 

I have been resorting to Stellarium on the computer (and will continue to if I can't find a paper based solution). It allows you to select which deep space objects are shown.

 

Many thanks!
Joe

The $10 plain vanilla version of SkyAtlas 2000, black stars, white background, unlaminated is fine, but Uranometria is good to have in addition, just way more expensive.

 

Do plenty of planning and chart work ahead of time, give priority to objects in the west and especially in the south when you observe.  Maintain a "hit list" of objects for each month and revise it constantly.

 

You can make pointers to the M-objects using Post-It if you don't want to mark up your charts.  You can also take a planisphere and mark the locations of the M-objects on it.


  • tomwall, oakman72 and kellyvictoria like this

#5 quietglow

quietglow

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 10 Apr 2014
  • Loc: Chicago

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:07 AM

Fantastic suggestions. Thank you!

 

And reflecting on this all: I think the last time I was "serious" about making it through all the M objects was when I was about 16 (25 years ago), and then my main reference was the Peterson FG to Stars and Planets. Looking at it now, I can see that I clearly did much more pre planning and had WAY better eyesight. That book is tiny!

 

Is the Bright Star Atlas fairly large? I can't seem to find dimensions listed anywhere.



#6 NEOhio

NEOhio

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1386
  • Joined: 12 Apr 2016
  • Loc: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:08 AM

Pocket Sky Atlas shows stars down to magnitude 7.5, which is about as low as you can go. Most of the other suggested atlases are magnitude 8 or higher and will be even more cluttered than PSA which you indicate is already too cluttered for you. There are some atlases that only go down to magnitude 6, but you may find they don't show enough stars to star hop to the target. Another option is this planisphere which looks like it goes down to mag 5, but again there may not be enough stars to star hop. Or for free you can just print the appropriate constellation map, which goes down to mag 6. I think they plot all Messiers and not too many other objects.

 

FWIW, I would take a shot with Stellarium Mobile or Skysafari if you have not already done so. Use it on your phone or tablet at the scope. Understood about your desire to avoid screens when out, but Skysafari has a red screen mode, dim the screen as much as possible and put a red plastic sheet (rubylith-type) over it, and you will find it gets as dim as you need for Messier hunting. You will see some complaints on CN that the screen is still too bright, but keep in mind many who are complaining are die-hard DSO hunters looking for things like 15th magnitude galaxies. For any Messier object I think you can get the screen dim enough to work with. Nice thing about these programs is you can just hit the search button, type "M..." and it will go right to it. You can zoom out for wide field then zoom in as you approach the target. They also have an option to superimpose the finder circles, and yet another benefit is that if you are using an alt-az (e.g. dob) mount they show the sky in its current orientation (whereas your printed atlas is aligned with the declination/right ascension coordinates, which are usually at some angle to the altitude/azimuth coordinates in any given part of the sky). 


  • Jon Isaacs, tomwall, cincosauces and 1 other like this

#7 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 5309
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:31 AM

I find the Sky Atlas 2000, with black stars on white background to be the best overall for most objects. My complaint about the Pocket Sky Atlas is that not enough of the sky is covered to give me the orientation I need. I I go to Uranometria when I am having difficulty, and need more detail. But that is not necessary on the Messiers. 

 

Alex



#8 Jim Davis

Jim Davis

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2657
  • Joined: 05 Jul 2014
  • Loc: Lewisberry, PA

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:33 AM

Our club has a list of finder charts for Messier objects. https://www.astrohbg...r-finder-charts



#9 astro744

astro744

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 390
  • Joined: 22 Sep 2007

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:40 AM

I really liked this book:

 

The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide: With Complete Maps, Charts and Tips to Guide You to Enjoying the Most Famous List of Deep-Sky Objects.  by H. Pennington

Highly recommended, in fact indispensable!

 

Sky Atlas 2000 Deluxe (color) has served me well many years and the Second Edition has the Virgo galaxies covered in detail on Chart B.   Uranometria of course too has a larger image scale and more stars for the entire sky but the aforementioned Sky Atlas is fine.  Really though the 'Year Round' book is all you need (and a Telrad!).  It is fantastic!  Happy hunting!

 

Edit: http://www.willbell....NDBOOK/mess.htm

 


Edited by astro744, 17 July 2017 - 11:03 AM.


#10 Chesterguy1

Chesterguy1

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 363
  • Joined: 21 May 2015
  • Loc: Stillwater, OK

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:42 AM

Thumbs up for the planisphere and Pennington book, which were already mentioned--could be even used in tandem.

 

Chesterguy


  • Roger Corbett likes this

#11 clearwaterdave

clearwaterdave

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1440
  • Joined: 27 May 2014
  • Loc: Western Maine

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:47 AM

The maps in Bright star atlas are 7"X10+5/8".,the center ones shows 4+hours of RA.,and 100*,-50/+50* of Dec..I suggest you keep playing with the PSA.,just work your way into the thick spots slowly.,perhaps using the tablet to help you through these spots along with the PSA..,good luck.,

#12 S.Boerner

S.Boerner

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 694
  • Joined: 29 Apr 2010
  • Loc: Chesterfield, MO

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:53 AM

I found Telrad Messier charts very helpful when I worked on the AL's program.  One source is http://www.custerobs...cs/messier2.pdf but a Google search will turn up many more.  This pdf is 18 pages long and you could print only the pages needed for a particular night.  If dew were a problem you could put them upside down on a clear clip board.

 

Another possibility is to use SkySafari Plus ($20) or Pro ($40) on a smart phone--iPhone or Android.  One feature I like is that my Pro version has Celestron audio descriptions of the objects that you could listen to as you are doing the star hops.  Finding objects isn't a problem either because they can be high lighted on the display.  I even log my observations with it.  Since I've discovered SkySafari some four years ago I hardly ever crack open my Pocket Sky Atlas.lol.gif


  • Ohmless likes this

#13 Sketcher

Sketcher

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 159
  • Joined: 29 Jun 2017
  • Loc: rural Montana

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:54 AM

Your Pocket Atlas is a good little atlas. A large magnifying glass can help out with the small size. A certain amount of 'clutter' is a good thing when going after the Messier objects.  Sometimes it's worth knowing that there's another deep sky object just above, below, to the left, etc. of a particular Messier object.

 

It would also help to preview in the daytime the charts and 'targeted' objects for the upcoming night.  This preview along with the magnifying glass should make the task a tad bit easier.

 

If you want another or a different atlas, by all means go for it!  I love star atlases!  I can't get enough of them!  They all have their place.  In addition to on-line sources, you may be able find just the right atlas at a nearby book store.  I won't make any specific recommendations here, since too much depends on individual preferences.



#14 rowdy388

rowdy388

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1564
  • Joined: 09 Apr 2013
  • Loc: Saratoga County, NY

Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:55 AM

The Bright Star Atlas â€‹does show more of the sky per page than the PSA which is sometimes very

useful. The price is right as well. Can't hurt to add that tool to your arsenal I say.


  • Dave Mitsky likes this

#15 caveman_astronomer

caveman_astronomer

    Surveyor 1

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1521
  • Joined: 18 Mar 2016

Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:02 AM

A "pocket" sky atlas has to be small. 

 

After all, it fits in your pocket!

 

That means it will either be crowded with detail or simply lack detail.

 

Get something larger and more detailed.

 

Cell phone screens are small and too bright.

 

Tablets and laptops are not much better, sometimes.



#16 caveman_astronomer

caveman_astronomer

    Surveyor 1

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1521
  • Joined: 18 Mar 2016

Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:08 AM

Sky Atlas currently (as in right now) has a version available for $9.99.

 

For tracking down the Messiers, it is fiendishly difficult to argue for anything else, no matter how sentimentally attached you are to that "anything else."

 

 

 

 

 



#17 NIdahoObserver31

NIdahoObserver31

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 97
  • Joined: 13 Aug 2015
  • Loc: Moscow, ID

Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:27 AM

I have a set of these Messier charts .....http://www.sky-spot.com/charts.htm

 

The Year Round Messier Marathon is a great book with a well deserved spot on the shelf. They also make a Messier object specific planisphere that I've had an eye on for awhile. https://www.messierp...t&product_id=51

 

A full page magnifier could be a worth while suggestion for your PSA, have you tried using the Jumbo PSA at all? The Jumbo has been my goto atlas for working the binocular Messier program.  

 

S&T is having a sale on the Sky Atlas 2000.0 currently and the deluxe laminated will only set you back $30 https://www.shopatsk...bes/sky-atlases

 

Uranometria is great, but I would bet you could do w/o it for the Messier's.   

 

If you want really big pages to work with you could always look for a copy of Antonin Becvar's "Atlas of the Heavens." 


Edited by NIdahoObserver31, 17 July 2017 - 12:13 PM.


#18 caveman_astronomer

caveman_astronomer

    Surveyor 1

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1521
  • Joined: 18 Mar 2016

Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:28 AM

Many of the Messiers are beginning to settle into the murky glow in the western sky.  For those seeking to get the Messiers done without making it into a lifelong project, it might be a good time to get a move on, using what you already have and ordering anything else you might need or find helpful, now.

 

Not trying to rush you, just mentioning it.


Edited by caveman_astronomer, 17 July 2017 - 11:30 AM.


#19 Tony Flanders

Tony Flanders

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 14542
  • Joined: 18 May 2006
  • Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA

Posted 17 July 2017 - 01:42 PM

Which brings me to my question: for a M hunt, what sort of paper maps/atlas would one recommend? I have had three observing sessions with the very popular Pocket Atlas, and I am finding that it's not working for me. My chief complaint is that in busy areas of the sky, it's super difficult for me to pick out the M objects from all the other deep sky things under a dim red light. As a reference during the day it's great.

If reading the charts is your main problem, the Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas is vastly more legible than the "vanilla" Pocket Sky Atlas. Almost certainly the easiest-to-read sky atlas on the market, in fact. The Jumbo PSA is simply the PSA magnified by a factor of 40% or so. It makes a huge difference; more than you might guess from the numbers.

For me, the biggest problem with the Pocket Sky Atlas is that it doesn't show enough stars to star-hop to the faintest objects, especially when attempting to view them under skies that are less than fully dark. Sky Atlas 2000.0 shows many more stars (and deep-sky objects) than the Pocket Sky Atlas, but it's physically huge and vastly less legible than the Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas.


  • Starkid2u likes this

#20 bumm

bumm

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1865
  • Joined: 07 Jan 2011
  • Loc: Iowa

Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:01 PM

I'm strictly a paper atlas person... sort of a dinosaur.  I use the Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas (or the old Skalnate Pleso, very similar,) to get a rough jumping off point, and then the Uranometria 2000 goes out to the scope with me.  The Uranometria 2000 might be a bit intimidating at first, and sort of overkill for most Messier objects, but there are SO MANY stars that later you can use it to track down thousands of much dimmer objects.  It IS a bit expensive, but not crushingly so, and I simply wouldn't have seen a majority of the things I've seen without it.

                                                                                                                         Marty


  • astro744 and clearwaterdave like this

#21 quietglow

quietglow

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 10 Apr 2014
  • Loc: Chicago

Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:12 PM

I just ordered up a used copy of the Bright Star Atlas, for now but I'll likely order most of these others as well. I too love star atlases and I imagine I can't have enough. The more I think about it, the more I realize the problem is really the size of the pages, so I will definitely get a jumbo version of the PSA.

 

And for now (if the wx holds, tonight!) I'll do some marking up of my PSA. I always start off the night with a wish list, but the problem I was running into was finding, say, M39 on the map of Cygnus in dim light. Drawing some arrows will help. 


  • kellyvictoria likes this

#22 astro744

astro744

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 390
  • Joined: 22 Sep 2007

Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:39 PM

I'm strictly a paper atlas person... sort of a dinosaur.  I use the Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas (or the old Skalnate Pleso, very similar,) to get a rough jumping off point, and then the Uranometria 2000 goes out to the scope with me.  The Uranometria 2000 might be a bit intimidating at first, and sort of overkill for most Messier objects, but there are SO MANY stars that later you can use it to track down thousands of much dimmer objects.  It IS a bit expensive, but not crushingly so, and I simply wouldn't have seen a majority of the things I've seen without it.

                                                                                                                         Marty

I'm right there with you in that 'Jurassic park'; much prefer books and paper atlases and paper maps.  Yes more stars are always better as is a larger image scale and Uranometria is a fine addition to any bookshelf and field observing kit.

 

The OP is looking to hunt down the Messiers at this point, and yes it is perhaps the wrong time of year to do a marathon as around March is best but I feel his best companion for this task is still the 'Year-round Messier' book mentioned earlier and it is a very handy book for learning the night sky in general.

 

For general observing I use Sky Atlas 2000 Deluxe and Uranometria in the field depending on how deep I want to observe but the 'Messier' book has taught me how to Messier hop.



#23 quietglow

quietglow

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 10 Apr 2014
  • Loc: Chicago

Posted 17 July 2017 - 03:32 PM

 

I'm strictly a paper atlas person... sort of a dinosaur.  I use the Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas (or the old Skalnate Pleso, very similar,) to get a rough jumping off point, and then the Uranometria 2000 goes out to the scope with me.  The Uranometria 2000 might be a bit intimidating at first, and sort of overkill for most Messier objects, but there are SO MANY stars that later you can use it to track down thousands of much dimmer objects.  It IS a bit expensive, but not crushingly so, and I simply wouldn't have seen a majority of the things I've seen without it.

                                                                                                                         Marty

I'm right there with you in that 'Jurassic park'; much prefer books and paper atlases and paper maps.  Yes more stars are always better as is a larger image scale and Uranometria is a fine addition to any bookshelf and field observing kit.

 

The OP is looking to hunt down the Messiers at this point, and yes it is perhaps the wrong time of year to do a marathon as around March is best but I feel his best companion for this task is still the 'Year-round Messier' book mentioned earlier and it is a very handy book for learning the night sky in general.

 

For general observing I use Sky Atlas 2000 Deluxe and Uranometria in the field depending on how deep I want to observe but the 'Messier' book has taught me how to Messier hop.

 

Didn't mean to give the impression I was shooting to do a marathon. Over the next year I am going to try to log all the Ms as a means of getting me back used to regular observing and logging.



#24 Spockk

Spockk

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 153
  • Joined: 12 Feb 2017
  • Loc: Ogden Utah

Posted 17 July 2017 - 03:38 PM

Anyone have the Sky atlas from S&T that shows stars. Down to 12 mag or something like that? It's $100 or so? Not the large version.

#25 caveman_astronomer

caveman_astronomer

    Surveyor 1

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1521
  • Joined: 18 Mar 2016

Posted 17 July 2017 - 04:02 PM

I just ordered up a used copy of the Bright Star Atlas, for now but I'll likely order most of these others as well. I too love star atlases and I imagine I can't have enough. The more I think about it, the more I realize the problem is really the size of the pages, so I will definitely get a jumbo version of the PSA.

 

And for now (if the wx holds, tonight!) I'll do some marking up of my PSA. I always start off the night with a wish list, but the problem I was running into was finding, say, M39 on the map of Cygnus in dim light. Drawing some arrows will help. 

M39 will keep.

 

Try some stuff in Leo, Virgo, Coma, Ursa Major, Corvus, Hydra area instead.  The area from 9 to 13 hours of RA.  The more of it you can log now, the less of it you will have to log next winter.

 

Once you have made some kind of a dent there, work your way NE up the Milky Way from Scorpius.  Don't let the Scorpius-Sagittarius region get away from you.  It doesn't hang around long, stays low in the sky.


  • kellyvictoria likes this


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.







Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics