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

Observing Log - From Paper to Voice Recorder & Spreadsheet

  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 Rustler46

Rustler46

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 938
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2018
  • Loc: Coos Bay, Oregon

Posted 02 August 2018 - 02:12 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 11.08.07 PM.png

 

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:

 

42 Doubles in Hercules Observed

 

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:

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 11.21.05 PM.png

 

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.

  • DHEB and petmic like this

#2 DHEB

DHEB

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 684
  • Joined: 12 Sep 2010
  • Loc: Sweden

Posted 02 August 2018 - 04:05 AM

Nice work! Agree that a digital voice recorder is a great improvement over a paper notebook (minus the charm), for convenience and also for increased detail of records. I algo agree with the use of a ledger system, such as your spreadsheet.

In the same line of thought as you do, I designed for my own use a database model that fits in a single file in a SQLite database. The database can be used from a program like sqlitebrowser, that works exactly like a spreasheet, with the added advantage that it can also be used from scripts or programs to extract reports and statistics.
If you are curious, you could get the freely available model and sample database here:

https://figshare.com...vations/3484928

#3 RyanSem

RyanSem

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 535
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2018
  • Loc: Lancaster, PA

Posted 02 August 2018 - 03:00 PM

This is an awesome idea, I'm new to this hobby so will be starting my own log now. Hope to be able to look back on it in a couple decades just like you have done.



#4 S.Boerner

S.Boerner

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1163
  • Joined: 29 Apr 2010
  • Loc: Chesterfield, MO

Posted 02 August 2018 - 06:37 PM

Also one of the later Windows 10 updates provides voice to text from within applications like Excel, Word, etc.

 

I dictated this with the new Windows 10 thing.  It does make mistakes but it is usually close enough to remember what I said in the morning. 

 

press the WIndows key and h  to see if it is on your computer.



#5 MP173

MP173

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 863
  • Joined: 30 Oct 2015

Posted 03 August 2018 - 05:35 AM

I like what you have done.

 

My observing records are still in a notebook, using a Bienfang "Note/Sketch" which is divided into two vertical sections...left half unlined and right half lined.  Gives a great platform for sketching (all observations) and notes.

 

Your system allows for access to all observations over a period of time, ordering by object.  That is outstanding.  I use an old system of going into books/atlas and making a date notation.

 

For instance for binaries, I will record the date in the appendix of Cambridge Double Star Atlas, also keeping an excel spreadsheet for the year of binary observations.  Deep sky objects are recorded by date in Night Sky Observer...thus I can reference back to my notebook/sketchbook.  It works, as long as the dates are recorded.

 

Ed



#6 RyanSem

RyanSem

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 535
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2018
  • Loc: Lancaster, PA

Posted 06 August 2018 - 01:31 PM

Rustler, any information on how to create the drop-down menus you're using in Excel to sort the data in order? 



#7 Rustler46

Rustler46

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 938
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2018
  • Loc: Coos Bay, Oregon

Posted 06 August 2018 - 02:46 PM

Rustler, any information on how to create the drop-down menus you're using in Excel to sort the data in order? 

Hi Ryan,

 

It has been many years since I set up the Excel spreadsheet. But I believe the drop down sort function was constructed using the Data > Sort procedure. You'll likely need to look at Help for that subject. Data is one of the major categories of the top menu.

 

There is also a way to pin the column headings (with sort arrows) to the top of your spreadsheet view. That way when you scroll down hundreds (or thousands) of rows the column headings are still visible. I don't remember how that is done. But it is fairly easy. 

 

All the Best,

Russ


Edited by Rustler46, 06 August 2018 - 03:11 PM.


#8 Tony Flanders

Tony Flanders

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16976
  • Joined: 18 May 2006
  • Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA

Posted 06 August 2018 - 03:12 PM

It's true, Excel does have obvious virtues for recording notes. But it would be a little awkward for me, since many of my notes for individual objects go on for hundreds of words. Excel can handle that, but not very gracefully.

 

It's also interesting for me to muse what columns I might use. Date, object, and instrument are obvious. I would also need a separate column for observing site, since I use many sites with very different levels of light pollution. I think I would mix the magnification in with the notes themselves, as I do now, rather than having a separate column. I almost always observe a given object at multiple magnifications during one session, and it would be a shame for those observations to get sorted separately.

 

If I had a column for magnification, it would also be logical to have another one for filter type.

 

Being a computer programmer, I wrote my own program to index and colate my observations. But I'm not at all sure I would do that if I had it all to do over again.

 

There are a number of excellent software tools specifically designed for recording and colating observing notes.


  • Rustler46 likes this

#9 Rustler46

Rustler46

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 938
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2018
  • Loc: Coos Bay, Oregon

Posted 06 August 2018 - 06:03 PM

It's true, Excel does have obvious virtues for recording notes. But it would be a little awkward for me, since many of my notes for individual objects go on for hundreds of words. Excel can handle that, but not very gracefully.

 

It's also interesting for me to muse what columns I might use. Date, object, and instrument are obvious. I would also need a separate column for observing site, since I use many sites with very different levels of light pollution. I think I would mix the magnification in with the notes themselves, as I do now, rather than having a separate column. I almost always observe a given object at multiple magnifications during one session, and it would be a shame for those observations to get sorted separately.

 

If I had a column for magnification, it would also be logical to have another one for filter type.

 

Being a computer programmer, I wrote my own program to index and colate my observations. But I'm not at all sure I would do that if I had it all to do over again.

 

There are a number of excellent software tools specifically designed for recording and colating observing notes.

Hi Tony,

 

Thanks for your comments. Yeah, Excel might not handle things very gracefully. But many of my observing notes end up being a long paragraph. This is especially so since I started using a voice recorder at the telescope. I try recording in the spreadsheet pretty much what was said under the stars. Also some of my observations link to drawings that reside on another "Drawings" sheet in the overall spreadsheet.

 

Maybe that's why my 3300+ observations have swollen the spreadsheet to be over 18 MB in size. Not being constrained by me actually knowing the most efficient way of doing things, this spreadsheet has evolved into its present form and works well for my purposes.

 

As for observing site, at present this information resides in a comment attached to the date cell of the observation. These comments also include observing conditions like presence of light pollution, moon phase, atmospheric clarity, seeing, etc. I suppose I could insert a narrow column with a one or two digit identifier for the site. That way observations could be sorted by site.

 

I agree with your point about having a separate column for magnification. I've never found it useful to sort by that parameter.  So that column could/should be removed. Quite a few of my entries of a single object on a night are just with magnification changed and new observations noted for that power. I should just add the magnification in the observation, at least for any observations from this date forward. If I felt moved to do so, for prior dates observations at different magnifications could be incorporated into a single observation. That would certainly reduce the number of observations down from the present 3300+ entries. 

 

As for filters being used, I do have a single column with a 1 character code for the filter being used. There is an "Abbreviations" sheet in the overall spreadsheet that contains abbreviations and the filter codes. 

 

Regarding your comment

  • "I almost always observe a given object at multiple magnifications during one session, and it would be a shame for those observations to get sorted separately."

I when I do any sorts of the data they can always be resorted by date to put them back in their original sequence. The only change might be the order the observations were made on a particular date. But I usually make a habit of not saving the spreadsheet after doing any sorts. When observations are added for the current night, I save at that point before doing any sorts.

 

Regarding your comment

  • "There are a number of excellent software tools specifically designed for recording and colating observing notes."

I used to employ AstroPlanner for saving my  observations along with saving in the Excel Spreadsheet. It's not difficult to transfer observations from the spreadsheet to AstroPlanner. But later on I just saved them in the spreadsheet. The extra time need to transfer them to Astroplanner wasn't worth the effort. 

 

I don't claim that my Excel spreadsheet is the most efficient or "best" way to capture observations. It's just what I have come to use over the years. It's always interesting to sort by object and see what has been observed in the past. This allows comparing views with different instruments or what others have seen. For those who already have the Excel program it might be a useful way to do things. Otherwise programs like Astroplanner could also be useful.

 

Thanks for your comments, Tony. I would appreciate any further comments or suggestions on how to best use my spreadsheet.

 

Best Regards,

Russ


Edited by Rustler46, 07 August 2018 - 12:51 PM.

  • druhela likes this

#10 Tony Flanders

Tony Flanders

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16976
  • Joined: 18 May 2006
  • Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA

Posted 07 August 2018 - 04:28 AM

I don't claim that my Excel spreadsheet is the most efficient or "best" way to capture observations. It's just what I have come to use over the years.

Yeah, funny the way that happens. My own custom-rolled software is very far from optimal, but I'm stuck with it now.

But Excel has the huge virtue of being readily available and standard over an overwhelming number of different applications.


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.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics