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Try using an angle gauge to find your targets in a light polluted sky

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#1 aeajr

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:01 AM

I have three telescopes, all computer assisted, but I also want to learn how to find targets by other methods.  

 

I have used star hopping but I find it difficult in my very light polluted area.   I estimate the sky is Bortel 8.  On the www.darksitefinder.com map I am in a dark white zone, the second worst.  

 

What this means is that there are entire parts of my sky that have no visible stars.   Even in my best direction, NE through SE there aren’t a lot.    For example, Cassiopeia floats in a gray sea with not much around it.

 

I had read about the use of digital angle gauges as a method of finding targets, so I purchased one from Harbor Freight about a  year ago.  It is normally $34.  I had a 25% off coupon so I bought one to try out the idea.   However it sat in my workshop unused until a clear night on 9/23.

 

Harbor Freight Digital Angle Finder,
https://www.harborfr...auge-95998.html

 

 

I pulled out my Orion XT8i Intelliscope, an 8” Dobsonian.   I decided to star hop rather than turn on the Intelliscope.   I wanted to see if I could find M92, a globular star cluster in Hercules in a bad part of my sky.  I have tried to star hop to this one several times but with no success.  I would start at Vega and work my way over to M92.  But I was having problems seeing the guide stars or recognizing star patterns in my 9X50 finder scope.   Even using my lowest power 31.5X and 2.2 degrees eyepeice I was not able to find it.  

 

Then I remembered the Harbor Freight Angle Gauge that I had purchased a year ago.   It magnetically attached to the tube of the XT8i.  I did no calibration and the ground I was on was not level.  I just turned it on and read the screen.  This is not an illuminated screen so I used my red flashlight to read it.  

 

M92 - Stellarium said that M92 should be at 38 degrees altitude.  I reset the tube to 38 degrees.   Swung to the left of where I was and BINGO, there it was.  I was just high and and a bit to the right.     This angle gauge worked great!  In the 9X50 finder I could see some stars in the area but had to use averted vision to see the slight smudge that was the cluster.  I must have gone right past it.

 

Hercules Cluster - Next I went for the Great Cluster in Hercules.   Stellarium said this was at about 25 degrees, down and a bit to the left of M92.  This was just barely above the trees, and I would be looking through a lot of atmosphere and a lot of sky glow.   No way I could star hop to this one.   I reset the telescope to 25 degrees and drifted a bit to the left and I found it in my low power eyepiece.   In my finder scope I saw very little in stars and could not see the cluster at all.  

 

Capella – Moving to the NE part of the sky, a much better part of my sky.   Capella was bright and beautiful.  I used it to confirm that the gauge was again accurately matching to what Stellarium said was the altitude of Capella.  Good match.

 

Mirphak – Stellarium said 40.4 degrees.  I could see it so I centered it in the eyepiece.  I read the angle gauge.   A good match to what Stellarium predicted.    

 

This was only one night but it showed me that I have another method of finding targets and it works well.   If I can get the angle right and get the scope into the right area, just a little left and right sweep finds the target.   The angle gauge now lives on the XT8i.

 

Next time out I may try a compass in combination with the angle gauge. 

 

If you have a manual scope and are having trouble finding your targets, try one of these angle gauges.  Get one that is magnetic so it attaches to the optical tube.   This one is very small, on 2" square so it is not bothersome but the numbers are large so it is easy to read.

 

Clear skies.


Edited by aeajr, 24 September 2017 - 12:31 PM.

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#2 DLuders

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:10 AM

Great advice!  I have only manual telescopes and have some difficulty finding DSOs using the "star hopping" method.  I love using Stellarium, and that Digital Angle Finder may be VERY USEFUL.  waytogo.gif    I have a ShopSmith in my basement, so I could use that device on a sawblade too! 


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#3 viewer

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:13 AM

Maybe the scales on my mount aren't useless after all? Your angle gauge is certainly better though!

 

I shouldn't maybe complain about LP by the way. According to the DarkSiteFinder I live in a bright red zone, that's "only" the third worst, with some luck even Bortle 7! I'm telling this because we have three clear nights in a row now, and I've found a potential observing spot only a couple of hundred meters away which I previously have overlooked, will check it out tonight, you can't always travel. Will keep your gauge in mind. 


Edited by viewer, 24 September 2017 - 09:46 AM.

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#4 REC

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:51 AM

I have three telescopes, all computer assisted, but I also want to learn how to find targets by other methods.  

 

I have used star hopping but I find it difficult in my very light polluted area.   I estimate the sky is Bortel 8.  On the www.darksitefinder.com map I am in a dark white zone, the second worst.  

 

What this means is that there are entire parts of my sky that have no visible stars.   Even in my best direction, NE through SE there aren’t a lot.    For example, Cassiopeia floats in a gray sea with not much around it.

 

I had read about the use of digital angle gauges as a method of finding targets, so I purchased one from Harbor Freight about a  year ago.  It is normally $34.  I had a 25% off coupon so I bought one to try out the idea.   However it sat in my workshop unused until a clear night on 9/23.

 

Harbor Freight Digital Angle Finder,
https://www.harborfr...auge-95998.html

 

 

I pulled out my Orion XT8i Intelliscope, an 8” Dobsonian.   I decided to star hop rather than turn on the Intelliscope.   I wanted to see if I could find M92, a globular star cluster in Hercules in a bad part of my sky.  I have tried to star hop to this one several times but with no success.  I would start at Vega and work my way over to M92.  But I was having problems seeing the guide stars or recognizing star patterns in my 9X50 finder scope.   Even using my lowest power 31.5X and 2.2 degrees eyepeice I was not able to find it.  

 

Then I remembered the Harbor Freight Angle Gauge that I had purchased a year ago.   It magnetically attached to the tube of the XT8i.  I did no calibration and the ground I was on was not level.  I just turned it on and read the screen.  This is not an illuminated screen so I used my red flashlight to read it.  

 

M92 - Stellarium said that M92 should be at 38 degrees altitude.  I reset the tube to 38 degrees.   Swung to the left of where I was and BINGO, there it was.  I was just high and and a bit to the right.     This angle gauge worked great!  In the 9X50 finder I could see some stars in the area but had to use averted vision to see the slight smudge that was the cluster.  I must have gone right past it.

 

Hercules Cluster - Next I went for the Great Cluster in Hercules.   Stellarium said this was at about 25 degrees, down and a bit to the left of M92.  This was just barely above the trees, and I would be looking through a lot of atmosphere and a lot of sky glow.   No way I could star hop to this one.   I reset the telescope to 25 degrees and drifted a bit to the left and I found it in my low power eyepiece.   In my finder scope I saw very little in stars and could not see the cluster at all.  

 

Capella – Moving to the NE part of the sky, a much better part of my sky.   Capella was bright and beautiful.  I used it to confirm that the gauge was again accurately matching to what Stellarium said was the altitude of Capella.  Good match.

 

Mirphak – Stellarium said 40.4 degrees.  I could see it so I centered it in the eyepiece.  I read the angle gauge.   A good match to what Stellarium predicted.    

 

This was only one night but it showed me that I have another method of finding targets and it works well.   If I can get the angle right and get the scope into the right area, just a little left and right sweep finds the target.   The angle gauge now lives on the XT8i.

 

Next time out I may try a compass in combination with the angle gauge. 

 

If you have a manual scope and are having trouble finding your targets, try one of these angle gauges.  Get one that is magnetic so it attaches to the optical tube.   This one is very small, on 2" square so it is not bothersome but the numbers are large so it is easy to read.

 

Clear skies.

I'll have to try that method, forgot all about it! My AZ mount, VersaGoII has altitude settings and 360* markings on the base of the scope. I'll try that along with the 8x50 as my C102 is my go-to scope and have to "hunt" down DSO's that are not easily visible in the finder.


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#5 REC

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:53 AM

I have three telescopes, all computer assisted, but I also want to learn how to find targets by other methods.  

 

I have used star hopping but I find it difficult in my very light polluted area.   I estimate the sky is Bortel 8.  On the www.darksitefinder.com map I am in a dark white zone, the second worst.  

 

What this means is that there are entire parts of my sky that have no visible stars.   Even in my best direction, NE through SE there aren’t a lot.    For example, Cassiopeia floats in a gray sea with not much around it.

 

I had read about the use of digital angle gauges as a method of finding targets, so I purchased one from Harbor Freight about a  year ago.  It is normally $34.  I had a 25% off coupon so I bought one to try out the idea.   However it sat in my workshop unused until a clear night on 9/23.

 

Harbor Freight Digital Angle Finder,
https://www.harborfr...auge-95998.html

 

 

I pulled out my Orion XT8i Intelliscope, an 8” Dobsonian.   I decided to star hop rather than turn on the Intelliscope.   I wanted to see if I could find M92, a globular star cluster in Hercules in a bad part of my sky.  I have tried to star hop to this one several times but with no success.  I would start at Vega and work my way over to M92.  But I was having problems seeing the guide stars or recognizing star patterns in my 9X50 finder scope.   Even using my lowest power 31.5X and 2.2 degrees eyepeice I was not able to find it.  

 

Then I remembered the Harbor Freight Angle Gauge that I had purchased a year ago.   It magnetically attached to the tube of the XT8i.  I did no calibration and the ground I was on was not level.  I just turned it on and read the screen.  This is not an illuminated screen so I used my red flashlight to read it.  

 

M92 - Stellarium said that M92 should be at 38 degrees altitude.  I reset the tube to 38 degrees.   Swung to the left of where I was and BINGO, there it was.  I was just high and and a bit to the right.     This angle gauge worked great!  In the 9X50 finder I could see some stars in the area but had to use averted vision to see the slight smudge that was the cluster.  I must have gone right past it.

 

Hercules Cluster - Next I went for the Great Cluster in Hercules.   Stellarium said this was at about 25 degrees, down and a bit to the left of M92.  This was just barely above the trees, and I would be looking through a lot of atmosphere and a lot of sky glow.   No way I could star hop to this one.   I reset the telescope to 25 degrees and drifted a bit to the left and I found it in my low power eyepiece.   In my finder scope I saw very little in stars and could not see the cluster at all.  

 

Capella – Moving to the NE part of the sky, a much better part of my sky.   Capella was bright and beautiful.  I used it to confirm that the gauge was again accurately matching to what Stellarium said was the altitude of Capella.  Good match.

 

Mirphak – Stellarium said 40.4 degrees.  I could see it so I centered it in the eyepiece.  I read the angle gauge.   A good match to what Stellarium predicted.    

 

This was only one night but it showed me that I have another method of finding targets and it works well.   If I can get the angle right and get the scope into the right area, just a little left and right sweep finds the target.   The angle gauge now lives on the XT8i.

 

Next time out I may try a compass in combination with the angle gauge. 

 

If you have a manual scope and are having trouble finding your targets, try one of these angle gauges.  Get one that is magnetic so it attaches to the optical tube.   This one is very small, on 2" square so it is not bothersome but the numbers are large so it is easy to read.

 

Clear skies.

I forget, is Stellarium free for a tablet App? I have Sky Safari on my phone that probably does the same thing I would imagine?


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#6 DLuders

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:56 AM

Next time out I may try a compass in combination with the angle gauge.

This round, circular Compass / Disc Bubble Spirit Level may be useful:  http://www.ebay.com/...W-/161374155669


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#7 viewer

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 10:03 AM

 

I forget, is Stellarium free for a tablet App? I have Sky Safari on my phone that probably does the same thing I would imagine?

 

Edit, please see below: my windows tablets have it for free, works like wonder. But App means for your phone, get it!


Edited by viewer, 24 September 2017 - 11:45 AM.

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#8 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 10:12 AM

A few comments:

 

- The Stellarium app for tablets and phones is not free and it's quite limited compared to the Desktop version or to the Plus and Pro versions of Sky Safari.

 

- The discussion use of a digital level or angle gauge is a frequent topic in the equipment forum. It's commonly used in conjunction with manual "degree wheels" (setting circles, often on a Dob base).  There's a long thread at the top of the equipment forum that discusses degree wheels and believe digital levels/angle gauges.

 

- I use my Craftsman Digital Level to locate Venus and Mercury in the brightness of the twilight. I use use it with a widefield eyepiece. I find that once located, the level agrees with Sky Safari to within the +/- 0.1 degree accuracy of the level.

 

Jon


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#9 cookjaiii

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 10:12 AM

I can just picture an analyst at Harbor Freight wondering why all their digital angle finders suddenly flew off the shelves!


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#10 aeajr

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 10:39 AM

Stellarium is $2.50. Get it. Or one of the free ones that will give you angle info.


Edited by aeajr, 24 September 2017 - 12:35 PM.

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#11 tomykay12

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 11:04 AM

As Jon mentioned, there is a very long thread about this. It's very informative and many have had excellent success using this technique. I'm in...


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#12 sec4aa

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 11:21 AM

A digital angle finder is on its way...Thanks Ed!

How is that 38mm SWA working out for you around the edge? My finder is ES 68 24mm around TFOV 1.3...your 2.2 is tempting...


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#13 csa/montana

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 11:22 AM

As Jon mentioned, here's what I did years ago:

 

Link

 

Link to PDF files for the degree circles here:


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#14 aeajr

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 12:46 PM

A digital angle finder is on its way...Thanks Ed!

How is that 38mm SWA working out for you around the edge? My finder is ES 68 24mm around TFOV 1.3...your 2.2 is tempting..

The 38 mm SWA is pretty good to about 10% of the edge, which his fine for me.  I recommend it often.

 

I use the wide FOV to help me find things.  In my light polluted skies my 9X50 often just doesn't always have enough aperture to see what I need to see to star hop or to know I am on the target.   

 

The 38 mm is also great to take a large object into the context of its surroundings.  Sometimes I drop it in and just go exploring.  But even at 2.2 I can't get the entire Andromeda galaxy into the view.  The Pleiades, and the The Alpha Persei cluster/Mel 20 cluster look good.   If I recall correctly the coat hanger fits too.  

 

I am quite happy with mine and have no plans to replace it.   If I were to replace it I would get the ES 68 40 mm, but that is over 3X the price and I feel no need for an upgrade.

http://agenaastro.co...piece-40mm.html

 

It has now become my standard practice to get a low power /wide FOV for each of my scopes.   For the XT8i I have a second at 25 mm/ 70 degrees.   For the 1.25 mm it is a 32 mm Plossl.  Then I go to the zoom or zoom + barlow in each of my scopes.   That is now my standard working eyepiece set in all of my scopes.  


Edited by aeajr, 24 September 2017 - 12:54 PM.


#15 aeajr

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:02 PM

Let me add that it seemed, based on this experience, that I was missing my targets in the altitude more than in the azimuth range.  

 

I find it hard to translate vertical position based on flat screens and paper.   The angle gauge got me on the right altitude line with a high degree of accuracy so I would sweep left and right with confidence.    


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#16 Abhat

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:18 PM

Ed- Most of these angle gauges have bright green LED back light which I find bothersome. What did you do to over come the issue?


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#17 aeajr

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:20 PM

As noted in my post, this one is not backlit, so nothing to overcome.  Read the report, you will see that I used my red flashlight to read the display.


Edited by aeajr, 24 September 2017 - 01:23 PM.


#18 Abhat

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:26 PM

Got it. I missed the part where are you are using red flashlight to read it. I have two these permanently attached to my two scopes for quite some time but have not been using it as much I should. That is the part I find little inconvenient. I wish somebody made them back lit with red LED instead of green. I will open one up to see if green LED can be replaced with red.


Edited by Abhat, 24 September 2017 - 01:28 PM.

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#19 REC

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:53 PM

A few comments:

 

- The Stellarium app for tablets and phones is not free and it's quite limited compared to the Desktop version or to the Plus and Pro versions of Sky Safari.

 

- The discussion use of a digital level or angle gauge is a frequent topic in the equipment forum. It's commonly used in conjunction with manual "degree wheels" (setting circles, often on a Dob base).  There's a long thread at the top of the equipment forum that discusses degree wheels and believe digital levels/angle gauges.

 

- I use my Craftsman Digital Level to locate Venus and Mercury in the brightness of the twilight. I use use it with a widefield eyepiece. I find that once located, the level agrees with Sky Safari to within the +/- 0.1 degree accuracy of the level.

 

Jon

Jon, I have the 5SS+, what screen or page gives you the altitude of an object? I still have a lot to learn about this App.

 

Thanks, Bob


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#20 Abhat

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 02:08 PM

REC - Not to digress, you can try this link and save that as a short cut on your tablet. It gives real time alt-az for objects visible in several categories. Enter negative value of longitude ( e.g mine is 40 & -77). I use this with the digital gauge when I  can. http://www.astronomy...tarpointer.html


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#21 Apercu

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 03:01 PM

Most of these angle gauges have bright green LED back light which I find bothersome. What did you do to over come the issue?

I use a product called "Dim It" which is a static cling dimming film. Dim It is removeable and stackable. I have a few small pieces covering the display of my green light illuminated angle gauge. Works very well.

 

Been using a digital angle gauge for a number of years. Coupled with SkySafari on an iPad it makes finding elusive objects much, much easier.


Edited by Apercu, 24 September 2017 - 03:02 PM.

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#22 SeaBee1

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 03:12 PM

 

A few comments:

 

- The Stellarium app for tablets and phones is not free and it's quite limited compared to the Desktop version or to the Plus and Pro versions of Sky Safari.

 

- The discussion use of a digital level or angle gauge is a frequent topic in the equipment forum. It's commonly used in conjunction with manual "degree wheels" (setting circles, often on a Dob base).  There's a long thread at the top of the equipment forum that discusses degree wheels and believe digital levels/angle gauges.

 

- I use my Craftsman Digital Level to locate Venus and Mercury in the brightness of the twilight. I use use it with a widefield eyepiece. I find that once located, the level agrees with Sky Safari to within the +/- 0.1 degree accuracy of the level.

 

Jon

Jon, I have the 5SS+, what screen or page gives you the altitude of an object? I still have a lot to learn about this App.

 

Thanks, Bob

 

 

Hi Bob! You will find the alt/az info on the object info screen, once you are there you may need to scroll down a little to see it listed.

 

Hope that helps!

 

CB


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#23 tomykay12

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 04:06 PM

I just got the Wixey angle gauge; it is very compact and looks well made. I'll find some way to tone the green backlight down. Dim it sounds good...


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#24 aeajr

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 06:08 PM

Be sure to make a report on the Wiley. Post it here.

#25 paul m schofield

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 07:50 PM

I live in a gray zone and I installed a degree wheel and Craftsman digital level as referenced by Carol in the Equipment forum. Using the free app Star Chart on my iPhone enabled me to find a lot of objects in Scorpius and Sagitarius with little difficulty. I need to dim the green light of the level for dark skies but it worked fine under my backyard gray skies.
The Star Chart app lists the Messier objects and lots of stars but no NGC objects. To find those I use it in conjunction with my atlas maps and find very close stars to the NGC object. With a wide field eyepiece the search is successful and easy. The Star Chart gives real time altitude and azimuth figures.

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