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How do you plan for your viewing session?

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#1 yemtig


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Posted 22 October 2017 - 06:16 PM

How do you guys and gals here prepare for a viewing session?  Is it a simple process or something more complex?  I don't even have a telescope and view through binos right now.  I usually consult deep sky objects browser, stellarium, and tonight's sky for ideas then move to my pocket sky atlas and binocular highlights books to finish it off..   I would assume that most telescope users have a certain routine to get ready for that night's viewing, what is yours?



#2 PlanetNamek


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Posted 22 October 2017 - 06:24 PM

I use Starry Night on my PC to plan out the evening and what I want to look at.

#3 Kyphoron


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Posted 22 October 2017 - 07:01 PM

I usually create a plan on Skytools which gives me rise and set times and puts my objects in the order so I dont miss anything.

#4 NEOhio



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Posted 22 October 2017 - 07:40 PM

I keep a running list of current season targets in a Google Docs file, accessible from work or home, sorted into categories (galaxies, nebula, stars, clusters). When I run across an object that interests me on CN, or browsing Skysafari, it gets added to the list. Before going out I review the list and boldface those targets that make sense for the night (e.g., if it is in my backyard galaxies will tend not to be highlighted, double stars are, while if I am going to a darker site it will be the opposite; the categories also help in this), print it out and stick it in a plastic sheet protector to avoid dewing. Once in a while I curate the list by removing targets that have gone away for the season.

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#5 junomike


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Posted 22 October 2017 - 07:49 PM

1) Targets (Lunar, Planetary DSO's ~ Wide Field/Open Clusters and Globulars/Galaxies.

2) Scope selection (target dependent)

3) DSO's = Observing list made in SkySafari for desired objects.

4) Make list of gear required (as to not forget something).

#6 Sketcher


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Posted 22 October 2017 - 09:29 PM

Your plans sound great -- at least as good as anyone else's.  For myself, there's lots of variability.


It was clear last night.  I took a small group of adult students to a nearby *seriously dark* location where we looked at some of the sky's telescopic highlights after first taking a naked-eye tour (partially to allow for more complete dark adaptation) -- constellations, Mizar/Alcor, Milky Way (with structural details), M31, M13, double cluster, Pleiades, etc.  This was something that is very rare for me.  Mostly I'm a 'lone observer'; but a group of visiting college students were in the area engaged in various nature-related field studies.


Cloudy tonight -- made  plans for tomorrow night -- a variety of (specially selected) targets to experiment with a visual, five-space, filter-wheel loaded with: UltraBlock, OIII, H-Beta, and Moon&SkyGlow filters (leaving one position empty).  It's an old project that I'm only now getting around to re-starting.  Various sky events tend to distract me from "plans".


After tomorrow night, the moon starts becoming a more prominent evening object -- calling for further plan adjustments.


Plans don't always get followed -- due to fatigue, changing sky (or other) conditions, last minute decision changes, etc.


It all boils down to:  I do whatever I feel like doing at the time.

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#7 Astronomerforfun


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Posted 22 October 2017 - 09:39 PM

I generally improvise.  I usually know in advance the seasonal objects, and I count on a friend who's like a walking star map.  If he's not around I use my phone and look around and try to pick them out.  If I have my mount out, it has goto and there's a button for Tour, which I scroll down.  Not super scientific yet.  




I've been building an App in R that I plan to publish at some point for everyone to use.  



#8 Feidb



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Posted 22 October 2017 - 09:48 PM

I always have a plan. My scope is packaged up and ready to go at all times, so to speak. It's a large scope, but simple set up and never a hassle, at least for me.


I have plans and goals for what I want to observe, such as the Herschel 2500, all open clusters,  the Skiff and Luginbul catalog (from the back of their book) and a few others.


Before I go  out, I print  out the charts of the objects I want to look for (some more detailed than others) using Megastar. I always print multiple programs in case the weather has issues.


For instance, if clouds block one part of the sky, I can always look in another area. If the transparency is bad, I can always scratch galaxies (mostly the Herschels) and go for open clusters and planetary nebulae, etc.


I always have a backup plan.

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#9 izar187



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Posted 23 October 2017 - 12:57 AM

I keep a scope(s) ready to roll at all times too. Newts.  

But haven't prepared observing plans in many years. That's not a recommendation.

Work and life's other commitments whack the usefulness preprinted charts, for me.

I gave up as I can never seem to match my hour at the meridian with my preprints. 

Instead I keep whole sky charting, both wide and deeper field more detailed, always at hand with the scope(s). So that any hour of the night that I make it out, I am prepared for what's up.

All the other stuff in the observing kit, is packed and ready to roll too.

Nothing to remember to take, as a rather minimalist kit that this evolved into for me, fits in two modest sided cases in the back of my roll-ing observatory.

One case is printed atlases, and might be possible to eliminate by a handheld. Nah.


So my particular prep, is to hop in my vehicle and drive out from under my suburban forest with it's intrusive neighborhood lighting, and out to nearby open rural sky. Or farther out to darker darkness. The only thing to remember is to open certain windows, and newt ota's, for some active cooling on the way out.

#10 nicknacknock


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Posted 23 October 2017 - 02:26 AM

During any given day, some object or other gets my attention and is saved on SkySafari Pro 5. 


Come observing day, I sit down beforehand and go through any lists, trim them, add stuff, investigate what I will see and then just grab my ipad and telescope and go observe :)

#11 caveman_astronomer



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Posted 23 October 2017 - 04:48 AM

How do you guys and gals here prepare for a viewing session?  Is it a simple process or something more complex?  I don't even have a telescope and view through binos right now.  I usually consult deep sky objects browser, stellarium, and tonight's sky for ideas then move to my pocket sky atlas and binocular highlights books to finish it off..   I would assume that most telescope users have a certain routine to get ready for that night's viewing, what is yours?



Some observing sessions require plans while others don't.


Some observing plans are made in advance but are only implemented when conditions for them are favorable or ideal.



#12 MP173


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Posted 23 October 2017 - 08:50 AM

The planning is almost as much fun as the observing sessions for me.


First of all I am limited in what I can observe.  Geographically, I have a wide open view to the north and around to the east before the house comes into play.  From due east to southwest I have the house to deal with.  I have a good view to the south to about 5 degrees below Rigel and Sirius (roofline of garage).  Unfortunately we live on the north side of town and there is serious light pollution to the south.  Trees completely blockout from Southwest (about 200 degrees) all the way to almost due north (about 340 degrees).  Second, my scope (ETX90RA) has limitations.  Deep sky galaxies are out.  Nebula (except for brighter ones) are difficult and globulars are simply "smudges".


So, my best objects are open clusters and doubles.  My priorities are objects due south as those will soon pass into trees.  The Northeast objects have some time.  


I will often plan based on the part of the sky which will disappear quickly.  I identify that region and then begin using Interstellum Deep Sky Atlas (iDSA) and Cambridge Double Star Atlas (CDSA) to identify doubles and clusters.  I use a couple of on line sites to identify objects.  My limit for doubles is about 4" and I need an open cluster to be at least 5' and have a few stars brighter than 10mag.


Stella Doppe and DSO are great on line tools. I also have a few books and have clipped articles from S&T (Sue French) which provide small scope objects.


I then identify a target star to begin my observing session and use photo copies of iDSA to plan my session with star hopping notes.  I write the objects on an index card and use it with the paper copies of charts to see as many objects as possible.  A written observation log for each item is written in a notebook with sketching.


After the session, I will index observations to my books with the date observed and will file the paper charts in a folder for the constellation for future reference.  Also file the index cards.


One of my goals is to see and resolve as many doubles as possible.  I tend to concentrate on a very small area of the sky each session and cover as much of that area as possible...typically one constellation or region of the sky.


At the end, I often will go to favorites such as Double Cluster, M34, M42, M45, gamma Andromedia, etc just for fun before heading back inside. 


I have about 30 more days before the weather becomes an issue.  I will use both evenings and mornings to catch as many fall and winter objects as possible.



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#13 wrvond



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Posted 23 October 2017 - 09:20 AM

Using Sky Safari to tell me what is going to be visible, I normally start the evening out with planets, then binaries, then globulars, and nebula and galaxies.

I usually end the evening (morning) by laying back on a recliner and taking in the sky with the Mark I mod 0 eyeball.

Edited by wrvond, 23 October 2017 - 01:27 PM.

#14 NYJohn S

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 10:01 AM

It sounds like what you are doing should work fine.


I have a list ready to go that is compiled from different sources. I was using Stellarium until recently to browse for subjects. I have limited open sky at home so some some subjects are based on what I can see in my sky at a given time. I keep another list of things I want to view when at different locations. They may be nebulae or galaxies that require darker skies or subjects that are normally blocked by trees at home. I recently switched to SkySafari so now as I'm finding object's of interest I can create an observing list. After a session I just add notes and export to my log. Up until last night we had 8 consecutive clear nights here. I was out every night and still didn't get to everything on my list. Part of that was due to revisiting things that really interested me and then finding things that weren't on my list as I was star hopping.


I also add things while browsing the CL forums. I check Celestial Calendar by Dave Mitsky each month - https://www.cloudyni...stial-calendar/ The bottom has the top ten binocular objects so that may be of interest to you.


Earth Sky News - deborahbyrd@earthsky.org usually has a few things I'll take a look at.


Then there are times I take out the trash and the sky is clear so I just grab binoculars or a scope and head out with no plan whatsoever.

Edited by NYJohn S, 23 October 2017 - 10:11 AM.

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#15 SeaBee1



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Posted 23 October 2017 - 10:04 AM

I guess I am still evolving my planning actually. Most times I generate a list using one or more tools/apps, then step outside at twilight to check sky conditions and flow chart my decision to get a scope out... temp ok? No... go back inside... Yes... check sky conditions... Clouds present? Yes... go back inside... No... are stars twinkling like mad? Yes... go back inside... No... take scope out... enjoy... close loop.


At other times, there is no plan at all, I just happen across some free time and I'll roll a scope out and just look...


OK, while the above is kind of silly (I am sure I sometimes miss better conditions at a later time) and I am not including the entire decision process, that is kind of how I do it. It sort of works...


Clear DARK skies!



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#16 RAKing



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Posted 23 October 2017 - 10:18 AM

I have a few observing lists that I use to plan my sessions.  One list has about 250 of my Favorite objects that I have viewed every year since I started. It has all the Messier objects, many NGC objects, plus dozens of my favorite double stars.  Some of my favorite objects I will try to see every night. Others (M40), I'll look at once a year so I can check it off. lol.gif


I have long been a double star/variable star observer, so I have another list of a few hundred doubles I still want to check out and a third list of 100 variables that I follow each year. 


If I read about a new DSO, I'll scribble the coordinates on a sticky note and put in in my notebook so I can check it out when it comes into my view. And I also check to see which planets might be in view.


What I have learned over the years is I like to mix my sessions into "star gazing" and "star study".  Too much Study (double star searches and variable estimates) can start to feel like Real Work. tongue2.gif  So I also like to spend a fair amount of time just kicking back and looking at some of the objects on my Favorites list (Star Gazing). laugh.gif


Anyway, my observing deck faces to the west. I know what the LST is for a given night and know which objects from my lists will be in view.  Then depending on how much Real Work I want to do, I select the objects and go have fun! cool.gif





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#17 csrlice12



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Posted 23 October 2017 - 11:06 AM

Plan is a four letter working word.  It's good to be retired....grin.gif

#18 Muddman97


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Posted 23 October 2017 - 05:46 PM

Right now, I just kind of wing it.  Course I am new to the fray and though I have learned a VAST amount about this hobby in less than a year, I know I haven't even scratched the surface.  Seems every time I read the forums on CN, I learn yet another thing.


So my observing plans start with checking the weather, then scope setup.  Once night falls, I typically start with a few familiar objects like the Double Cluster, M57, Vega, M13, a couple easy doubles like Albireo and Achird, just to stretch my star hopping legs, so to speak.


Then I'll take a step back and just look up and get my bearings and more of a "plan" with what I have to work with.  Right now I am working on my Messier list.  I'm about half way through it but I know I'm going to need a dark site to actually complete it.


I downloaded Sky Safari Plus over the weekend and it lets you make observing lists so I see more concrete viewing plans in my near future but I suspect I will always be distracted by something shiny and never really stick to a plan of any kind.


Clear skies!

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#19 Phuzzie


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Posted 23 October 2017 - 08:21 PM

I usually take a look at Starry night on my laptop to see  whats up for the night even if I don't plan on viewing a particular object or it gives me an idea of what I might want to check out for the night. Next I decide what scope to take out. If I'm visiting the Moon or Jupiter or Saturn or stopping by Mars I might take out my 90mm refractor. If I plan on doing a little galaxy hopping I take out my reflector on my goto mount to save time finding objects. I take some paper to take observation notes, my eyepieces, a red flash light and star atlas and I'm ready to explore the universe....ENGAGE ! waytogo.gif !

#20 skfboiler1


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Posted 23 October 2017 - 08:45 PM

I use SkyTools 3 to plan my observing sessions.  Wonderful software.  I'm in 3 Astronomical League programs, Globular, Planetrary, and the Herschel 400.  I use SkyTools to print the list of objects for each of those programs.  Then after my session, I would log my observations of each object in SkyTools.  

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