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The Herschel 400 Quest

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#1 Augustus

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Posted 26 December 2018 - 10:10 PM

I've decided to organize my Herschel 400-observing efforts into a singular thread.

 

This all began with the completion of the Messier catalog in September 2018 followed by the completion of my 20" Dob a month later. Since completing the 20" I've been undergoing a (semi-) concentrated effort to observe all of the Herschel 400 objects. As of tonight I am at 109/400 objects.

 

I'm not the most focused observer, so I tend to go off-course a lot. Expect to see a lot of Caldwells, Abells, and just NGC objects that don't belong to any other observing list. Thus, I've put the H400 objects starting on night #6 in bold font and the rest in regular.

 

I just obtained a voice recorder and will be using it for all sessions following tonight, so expect more in the way of notes soon.

 

I live in the suburbs. The NELM is 5, maybe 5.25 on a really excellent night. I have dumb neighbors who turn their lights on constantly even though I've informed them of my hobby. Oh, and there are trees everywhere. So far I've yet to take my scope to a dark site.

 

Unless otherwise noted, I use my homemade 20" f/4.5 Dob with a spray-silvered primary, with a Paracorr I and 20mm Lunt XWA for low power, 9mm Lunt for high power, and 5mm William Optics XWA for very high power. I also have a 14mm ES82 which I use sparingly and will probably replace with a 13mm Lunt in the coming months. I exclusively use a Telrad to find objects.

 

So it begins.

 

Night 1:

 

https://www.cloudyni...12#entry8942736

 

Night 2:

 

https://www.cloudyni...-moon-and-cold/

 

Night 3:

 

https://www.cloudyni...me-high-clouds/

 

Night 4:

 

https://www.cloudyni...erschels-to-go/

 

Night 5:

 

https://www.cloudyni...galaxy-tonight/

 

Night 6 - 12/26/18:

 

Weather: Passing, fast-moving clouds. Damp. Frost became a problem later in the session on the eyepieces.

 

Transparency: 8/10.

 

Seeing: 3/5.

 

NELM: 5

  • M15 - Nice resolution at high power. Didn't look for Pease 1.
  • NGC 253 - I conclusively identified the Sculptor Galaxy - it turns out it's way east of where I thought it was. The core is bright, and the disk slowly tapers off into invisibility. 

Paused for about an hour for dinner.

  • M42 - Dark lanes stand out nicely.
  • NGC 1977 - Easier to see than normal.
  • NGC 1579 - This one was hard to find. 
  • NGC 2976 - Small, relatively dim galaxy near M81/82.
  • NGC 2959 - Extremely small, barely nonstellar galaxy, but quite bright. Need to try higher power to see NGC 2961 next time.

I finished observing right around moonrise, mainly just because the frost was driving me insane. I need a dew heater.


Edited by Augustus, 26 December 2018 - 10:14 PM.

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#2 John Miele

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Posted 26 December 2018 - 11:05 PM

Hi Augustus,

 

Good for you! The H400 is a worthy visual quest. I'm somewhat embarrassed that it took me about 6 years to complete my H400 but it was very satisfying. Looking back at your logs and in your case voice recordings will be a lot of fun when you are older and you remember back to doing this. Good luck and CS!...John


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#3 herschelobjects

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Posted 27 December 2018 - 08:03 AM

I've decided to organize my Herschel 400-observing efforts into a singular thread.

 

This all began with the completion of the Messier catalog in September 2018 followed by the completion of my 20" Dob a month later. Since completing the 20" I've been undergoing a (semi-) concentrated effort to observe all of the Herschel 400 objects. As of tonight I am at 109/400 objects.

 

I'm not the most focused observer, so I tend to go off-course a lot. Expect to see a lot of Caldwells, Abells, and just NGC objects that don't belong to any other observing list. Thus, I've put the H400 objects starting on night #6 in bold font and the rest in regular.

 

I just obtained a voice recorder and will be using it for all sessions following tonight, so expect more in the way of notes soon.

 

I live in the suburbs. The NELM is 5, maybe 5.25 on a really excellent night. I have dumb neighbors who turn their lights on constantly even though I've informed them of my hobby. Oh, and there are trees everywhere. So far I've yet to take my scope to a dark site.

 

Unless otherwise noted, I use my homemade 20" f/4.5 Dob with a spray-silvered primary, with a Paracorr I and 20mm Lunt XWA for low power, 9mm Lunt for high power, and 5mm William Optics XWA for very high power. I also have a 14mm ES82 which I use sparingly and will probably replace with a 13mm Lunt in the coming months. I exclusively use a Telrad to find objects.

 

So it begins.

 

Night 1:

 

https://www.cloudyni...12#entry8942736

 

Night 2:

 

https://www.cloudyni...-moon-and-cold/

 

Night 3:

 

https://www.cloudyni...me-high-clouds/

 

Night 4:

 

https://www.cloudyni...erschels-to-go/

 

Night 5:

 

https://www.cloudyni...galaxy-tonight/

 

Night 6 - 12/26/18:

 

Weather: Passing, fast-moving clouds. Damp. Frost became a problem later in the session on the eyepieces.

 

Transparency: 8/10.

 

Seeing: 3/5.

 

NELM: 5

  • M15 - Nice resolution at high power. Didn't look for Pease 1.
  • NGC 253 - I conclusively identified the Sculptor Galaxy - it turns out it's way east of where I thought it was. The core is bright, and the disk slowly tapers off into invisibility. 

Paused for about an hour for dinner.

  • M42 - Dark lanes stand out nicely.
  • NGC 1977 - Easier to see than normal.
  • NGC 1579 - This one was hard to find. 
  • NGC 2976 - Small, relatively dim galaxy near M81/82.
  • NGC 2959 - Extremely small, barely nonstellar galaxy, but quite bright. Need to try higher power to see NGC 2961 next time.

I finished observing right around moonrise, mainly just because the frost was driving me insane. I need a dew heater.

Just a note, though you are probably aware of this already, that NGC1977 and NGC1579 are Herschel objects as well, just not part of the AL’s Herschel 400 list. As you pursue the “400”, remember that there are often fainter Herschel objects nearby (occasionally even in the same field). You’ll appreciate this more a couple of years down the road when you’re done with the “400” and decide to observe the entire Herschel catalogue...


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#4 Augustus

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Posted 29 December 2018 - 10:12 PM

Night 7 - 12/29/18:

 

Weather: Lots of high clouds, humid.

 

Transparency: 3/10.

Seeing: Didn't check.

 

NELM: 5.25 or so

 

I decided to use my Skymaster 15x70 binoculars and knock off a few open clusters, as the periodic clouds earlier in the evening made me question hauling out the 20". Unfortunately, the weather was not on my side. High clouds quickly rolled in and my eye lenses fogged up. I spent about half an hour observing.

 

Tonight marks the first time I used my new Orion AstroGoggles. These things really do work! I was significantly more dark adapted than I normally am, fainter stars than usual were visible with the naked eye, and I could just barely see the winter Milky Way overhead. 

 

  • M42 - Excellent (for binoculars).
  • NGC 1981 - Very prominent, a very nice binocular object (rather boring in the telescope).
  • M31 - Pretty good, didn't check for dust lane.
  • M32 
  • NGC 2204 - Pretty sure I saw this next to Mirzam, but clouds intervened before I could double-check. Going to count it as seen but I will probably re-examine it in the future.
  • OS CMa and HIP 34589 make a pretty pairing. I was trying to find NGC 2360 next to them but clouds were in the way.
  • NGC 2281 - Not-super-obvious open cluster.
  • NGC 3184 - While scanning around Ursa Major, I stumbled upon Tania Australis and Borealis, and noticed some sort of fuzzy above Tania Australis. At the time I thought nothing of it. Turns out I saw NGC 3184! This galaxy seems ripe for a follow-up with the 20", as it's easy to find. 

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#5 Feidb

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Posted 30 December 2018 - 12:39 AM

I actually finished the 400 a few years ago but have yet to submit to the AL and I'm the coordinator for my club!

 

One of these days...

 

I'm almost done with the 400-2 as well.



#6 Tony Flanders

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Posted 30 December 2018 - 06:32 AM

I decided to use my Skymaster 15x70 binoculars and knock off a few open clusters, as the periodic clouds earlier in the evening made me question hauling out the 20". Unfortunately, the weather was not on my side. High clouds quickly rolled in and my eye lenses fogged up. I spent about half an hour observing.

Good idea! As you discovered in the case of NGC 1647, a cluster that looks great through binoculars can be dull through a telescope, especially a scope as big as yours.
 
If I were in your situation, I'd probably try to observe each object through both instruments, except for objects where it's 100% obvious that they're too faint for binoculars.

Among other things, the telescope will serve as a cross-check that what you saw through the binos was real, not an optical illusion or artifact of your imagination. That's always a problem when observing near the limit.
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#7 Augustus

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Posted 01 January 2019 - 09:56 PM

Night 8 - 1/1/19:

 

Weather: Lots of low to high clouds plaguing the entire session, it became overcast at the end. Contrails stuck around for an obnoxiously long time. Extremely windy, with gusts over 30 mph. 

 

Transparency: 2/10

 

Seeing: 2/5

 

NELM: 4.75

 

Tonight I had a friend over and thus was limited as to what I could observe - nothing too dim. So I didn't really bag any new objects. I did get to try out my new Celestron OIII filter, though.

 

Double Cluster, M45, M103 - Good as usual.

 

M31 - Dust lane visible, as was M32 nearby.

 

M110 - I don't think I've observed this since March. Semi-bright and diffuse.

 

NGC 772 - Visible with direct vision... barely. Couldn't see NGC 770.

 

M1 - Some cobweb structure visible with the new OIII filter.

 

NGC 2264 - I've observed the cluster here before, but tonight I was able to bag the Fox Fur Nebula (Sharpless 273) and Cone Nebula (H. V. 27). The Fox Fur Nebula was faintly visible with the OIII filter as an overall glow surrounding the cluster while the Cone was just visible as a dark smudge.

 

Mars - Sinus Meridani, Syrtis Major, and one or two other features were visible despite the Red Planet's tiny angular size.

 

Uranus - Seeing made it hard to perceive the disk, but I could see Oberon and Titania.

 

NGC 665 - Barely visible with direct vision when I put Uranus outside the field.

 

PGC 6411, PGC 6438, IC 154, IC 156 - Visible with averted vision when I put Uranus outside the field.

 

M42 - With the OIII filter, the nebula is larger than ever before, with the "wings" spreading to nearly a degree on either side.


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#8 Tony Flanders

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Posted 02 January 2019 - 05:00 PM

I am very curious to hear how this project goes. Many of the Herschel 400 are bright and easy; it includes most of the showpiece objects that aren't in the Messier catalog, such as the two halves of the Double Cluster. When Jay Freeman observed the H400 with his 55-mm refractor, he caught about half of them from his suburban backyard.

 

Likewise, when I did my first pass through the Herschel 400, using my 7-inch Dob, I observed most of them easily from my astronomy club's observing field in the outer suburbs of Boston, MA. But I did have to travel to darker skies to see some of them.

 

You're following the opposite strategy -- the natural one for a young man with telescope-making skills and no car. Instead of seeking dark skies, you're throwing a ridiculous amount of aperture at the H400. My guess is that you will cruise right through them, since the H400 doesn't include any objects with very low surface brightness. NGC 6118, often cited as the toughest H400 object, is not unlike a scaled-down version of M74, which is readily visible in bright suburban skies given sufficient aperture.


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#9 Pete W

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Posted 02 January 2019 - 06:34 PM

A very cool quest.  Have you set a time goal, such as to bag them all in one year?  Started mine in the mid 80’s with an 8” f/6 then got sidetracked in college and forgot about it.  Still have twenty to go.  With your 20” it should be smooth sailing.   Looking forward to more reports!


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#10 Augustus

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Posted 02 January 2019 - 06:53 PM

A very cool quest.  Have you set a time goal, such as to bag them all in one year? 

That is the unofficial aim, yes. 


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#11 Augustus

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 11:17 AM

Got this today:

 

h400book.JPG


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#12 brentknight

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 12:01 PM

I've been out of the hobby for quite a while, but as I've transcribed my old written notes from the late 1980's into SkyTools, I've discovered I've already seen a good chunk of these before.  I think I've got around 200 to go.  I've gotten Mark Bratton's The Complete Guide to the Herschel Objects: Sir William Herschel's Star Clusters, Nebulae and Galaxies to help me in my quest...  Good luck to you on yours!



#13 Augustus

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 12:06 AM

Night 9 - 1/5/19:

 

Weather: Very, very damp. It only stopped raining around sunset and didn't clear up until 8:00 or 9:00 PM.

 

Transparency: 7/10

 

Seeing: 4/5

 

NELM: 5

 

Tonight I took out the Criterion RV6 to knock off a couple more objects. Unless otherwise noted, all observations were done at 64x with my 20mm Lunt XWA.

 

M45 - Used to align the finder, decent.

 

M79 - Moderately bright smudge. Didn't examine at high power.

 

NGC 1964 - Elongated, slight trace of spiral arm with the 9mm Lunt.

 

NGC 2182 - Haze surrounding a bluish star.

 

NGC 2232 - Medium-sized, loose open cluster

 

NGC 2324 - Small open cluster.

 

M42 - Good as usual. OIII filter made the Trapezium and most stars nearly disappear. UHC brought back some stars at the expense of some nebulosity. 

 

NGC 2346 - Mildly obvious, dim fuzzy. About an arcminute wide.

 

NGC 3184 - Averted vision object, very dim. 

 

NGC 3179 - Averted vision object, very dim.


Edited by Augustus, 06 January 2019 - 11:21 AM.

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#14 Tim Hager

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 05:16 PM

Thanks for posting these.  As a fellow Connecticut Yankee, I find these observations inspiring.  My problem is that my back yard is surrounded by very high trees so anything lower than the celestial equator is in the trees.  I also hate traveling to observe.  If I'm traveling it's to a star party for several days.

 

Nevertheless, since I'm finally going to semi-retire this year so I'll have much more time to observe.  My goal is to do as many Messier objects with binoculars and my 6" Dob as I can this year.  Please keep the reports coming!


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#15 Augustus

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 07:00 PM

Night 10 - 1/6/19:

 

Weather: Gale-force winds, sometimes gusting over 30 miles per hour.

 

Seeing: 3/5

 

NELM: 5

 

Took out the RV6 again - I didn't want to fall off my ladder because of the wind - and had a short, 90-minute session. Neighbors' light, which is motion-activated, kept getting triggered by the winds. I went in because of a combination of this and my hands getting cold.

 

West Veil Nebula - Could just see with the OIII filter.

 

NGC 1807 & 1817 - Nice little pairing. 1817 has far more stars.

 

NGC 1664 - Missed it initially because it didn't even look like much of a cluster.

 

NGC 1582 - Nice S-shaped cluster.

 

NGC 1528 & 1545 - Another nice pair, 1528 far richer than 1545.

 

NGC 1513 - Stumbled upon by accident.

 

NGC 1502

 

NGC 253 - Dim-ish core, some elongation visible. Maybe a dust lane?

 

Mars - I could actually see Syrtis Major.

 

My problem is that my back yard is surrounded by very high trees so anything lower than the celestial equator is in the trees. 

Except for a narrow (10-15 degree) window to the south I have more or less the same situation.


Edited by Augustus, 06 January 2019 - 08:12 PM.

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#16 Augustus

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 10:07 AM

Night 11 - 1/10/19:

 

Weather: Very cold with intermittent high winds.

 

Transparency: 9/10

 

Seeing: 3/5

 

NELM: 5

 

Took out the RV6 again because of wind and I wasn't sure if I'd be out for long.

 

NGC 2169 - Small open cluster. Glad I didn't hunt for it in binos because I wouldn't be able to spot it. Parallelogram-shaped with maybe a dozen stars.

 

NGC 2194 - Averted vision fuzzy, more like a globular than an open cluster. Maybe some resolution. O'Meara says it's impressive in larger scopes so I might check it out tonight with the 20".

 

NGC 2126 - Sparse grouping around a yellow-orange star, fuzzy component in the middle. Easy to find because there's a miniature Kemble's Cascade below it.

 

NGC 1444 - Brightest star, HIP 17877 A, has a nice 10th-magnitude companion. Sparse cluster.

 

NGC 2186 - Another rather disappointing open cluster. Handful of stars.

 

NGC 2742 - Small, dim, just to the right of an 11th-magnitude star. Barely visible with direct vision. 

 

NGC 2768 - Relatively large, not very bright, featureless.


Edited by Augustus, 11 January 2019 - 10:15 AM.

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#17 deepwoods1

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 07:57 PM

Awesome goals! Get R’ done while you are young!


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#18 Augustus

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 07:29 PM

Night 12 - 1/10/19:

 

Weather: Very cold, but not much wind.

 

Transparency: 8/10.

 

Seeing: 4/5.

 

NELM: 4.5

  • NGC 7448 - Not very bright, maybe a slight hint of outer disk? In a terrible spot for viewing as I couldn't quite use the ladder nor stand flat-footed.
  • NGC 7217 - Quite bright, unmistakable.
  • Moon - Craterlet in Plato visible.
  • Mars - Mare Cimmerium, ice cap, maybe one or two other details visible. Lots of ghosting (this has always been a problem but I wasn't sure what it was) probably due to unevenly applied coating.
  • NGC 584 & 586 - 584 very bright, 586 barely visible at all.
  • NGC 720 - Moderately bright elliptical. 
  • M42 - Obvious green cast.

I went in after about two hours of observing because these really high ice clouds, which are normally harmless, rolled in and they scatter moonlight everywhere, making deep-sky observation futile.


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#19 deepwoods1

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 07:47 PM

I assume this was with your 20”? Those high clouds rolled in before the sun set up in northern Ct. 


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#20 Augustus

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 07:51 PM

I assume this was with your 20”? Those high clouds rolled in before the sun set up in northern Ct. 

Yep, with the 20".

 

Aw, bummer. 



#21 Augustus

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 10:39 PM

Night 13 - 1/28/19:

 

Weather: Cold, damp, not windy.

 

Transparency: 9/10.

 

Seeing: 3/5

 

Limiting magnitude: ~4.8

 

First session with the 20" in a while. Weather has been dismal. 

 

M42 - BEAUTIFUL with my new Levenhuk H-Beta. Extends the most I've ever seen.

 

Horsehead - Much more obvious than last time thanks to the H-beta.

 

NGC 2445

 

NGC 2775 - Moderately visible. Could just see nearby NGC 2773 and 2777.

 

NGC 3254 - With 9mm Lunt galaxy is somewhat obvious. Supernova is around ~14th mag.

 

M105 - Observed by accident.

 

Leo Triplet - Observed it when it was very low but recognizable.

 

Leo Quartet - Good, NGC 3189 shows a dust lane.

 

M97 - Barely visible without OIII filter, quite nice and big with it. Obvious darkening towards center.

 

M41 - Haven't seen this in a scope in a while. Pretty.

 

M46 - Quite good.

 

NGC 2438 - Invisible without OIII. Quite big and bright with OIII.


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#22 Pete W

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:53 AM

Nice diverse list...all that’s missing is a glob!  


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#23 Augustus

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Posted 30 January 2019 - 05:56 PM

Way too windy and cold tonight to observe, but I went through my old observations and found 5 previously-unrecorded H400s - including the Eyes in Virgo.



#24 Bernie Poskus

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Posted 02 February 2019 - 04:10 PM

Got this today:

 

attachicon.gif h400book.JPG

I got this book to help me on my quest to do the Herschel 400's.  I was disappointed.  Many of the pictures were useless (shouldn't even have included some of them, they were so bad), the object descriptions seemed sparse, and the navigation aids (primarily small charts) were useless.  About a third to a half-way through my work on the Herschel 400s, I stopped using it and indeed, didn't even bring it into the field with me.  The only interesting thing about this book is O'Meara's suggested observing routes, i.e., "since you are at this particular object, upon completion, move to this nearby object".

 

For the record, my two best aids in finishing were SkyTools (the FOV displays customized for my scope, eyepiece, and even the particular conditions that night can't be beat for helping identify faint fuzzies) and the Night Sky Observer's Guide (its pictures, verbal descriptions and sketches are very helpful).

 

I would be curious to know if others felt helped by the book, and whether it was worth it.  I was overall disappointed, especially since I really liked the author's Messier and Caldwell guides.


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#25 Augustus

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Posted 02 February 2019 - 04:53 PM

I got this book to help me on my quest to do the Herschel 400's. I was disappointed. Many of the pictures were useless (shouldn't even have included some of them, they were so bad), the object descriptions seemed sparse, and the navigation aids (primarily small charts) were useless. About a third to a half-way through my work on the Herschel 400s, I stopped using it and indeed, didn't even bring it into the field with me. The only interesting thing about this book is O'Meara's suggested observing routes, i.e., "since you are at this particular object, upon completion, move to this nearby object".

For the record, my two best aids in finishing were SkyTools (the FOV displays customized for my scope, eyepiece, and even the particular conditions that night can't be beat for helping identify faint fuzzies) and the Night Sky Observer's Guide (its pictures, verbal descriptions and sketches are very helpful).

I would be curious to know if others felt helped by the book, and whether it was worth it. I was overall disappointed, especially since I really liked the author's Messier and Caldwell guides.


I agree. I’m probably gonna sell the book, I find it utterly useless.


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