When I first began visual observations in the early 1960's with my homemade 6-inch reflector I began writing in a paper journal my descriptions of what had been seen. This was hard to do requiring use of ball-point pen and red flashlight on sometimes damp paper in my little 120-page bound composition book. When the first one filled up I began using a second volume. From time to time I even included a simple drawing of what was seen, such as cloud patterns on Jupiter. At one point I began to transcribe these written records into an Excel spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet was set up to look like the example below. Notice the little down-arrows on the column headings. These will be discussed later.
But the process was cumbersome to actually gather my thoughts and observations in written form under nighttime conditions. A big improvement was added a few years ago when I began using a small digital voice recorder to capture my thoughts nearly real time at the eyepiece. These were later transcribed onto the spreadsheet on the succeeding day. As such my observations have become more natural, not being constrained by having to write these down in readable text. Also they have become more verbose, which can be a challenge to get it all transcribed. One example of this is my recent report of observing some double stars in Hercules using my new AT115EDT APO refractor:
Now my observations are still being transcribed into my spreadsheet, which now has over 3300 different observations over some 55 years. One reason I can heartily recommend this method is two fold. First the ease of getting observations recorded at the eyepiece. The second reason is how I have set up the spreadsheet to enable sorting the observations by the entries in some of the columns. For example I can sort the list to include observations (over various years) of a single object - for instance NGC 7293 as shown below:
So then the list can be sorted by any of the column headings by clicking the little down-arrow on the column headings (as shown in the first photo). Sorting is most usefully done for the following categories:
- Date - the spreadsheet can be ordered by ascending or descending dates
- Instrument - for instance showing all observations with a particular telescope
- Object - showing all observations (in chronological order) of a particular object (as shown above)
When sorted by Object, all observations are re-ordered with the objects listed in ascending (or descending) alphabetic order. So to find all observations of something like NGC 7293, just scroll down the list through all the Messier objects and then the NGC objects until you find all the NGC 7293 observations on different dates grouped together, as shown above. I always save the spreadsheet with the observations sorted by ascending date. That way the next night's observations are just added to the bottom of the record.
So give it a try. This method is quite easy:
- Use a voice recorder to capture observations at the telescope
- Transcribe these to a spreadsheet
If anyone wants a copy of the Excel spreadsheet set up like mine (minus all my observations) send me a PM. I have also used a commercial program called AstroPlanner to save my observations. But I prefer using the spreadsheet.
Edited by Rustler46, 02 August 2018 - 02:18 AM.