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Beginner's Observation Journal

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#1 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 07:05 AM

Hi,

 

I'm starting this topic as a beginner who is trying to learn the night sky and to write down my observations as I progress hopefully.

 

I also hope that more experienced members (if they are reading this)  will jump to help me with my dilemmas and doubts, to give some insights and advices.

 

I'm also hoping that other beginners will join to share their observation and findings.

 

As a real beginner, I have issues with finding targets other than Jupiter and Saturn through my Dobson finderscope.

I have read many forum posts on how to look for some targets, how to recognize asterism and patterns but whenever I look through the finderscope or even binoculars I was lost. With the naked eye, I know a few constellations and asterisms.

 

After I finish my Jupiter session I usually try to point the telescope at some familiar star like Vega or Deneb but

I just can't identify them through the finderscope. So many bright stars around and they all look the same.

So lately, I switched from Dobson to my binoculars.  The idea was to easier locate targets in the wider FOV.

 

But I still have issues. Even the low power binoculars as my Leupold BX-1 8x42 show thousands of stars when I'm able to see just a few of them naked eye.
But I started noticing some progress as I started from scratch.

 

I dedicated a few nights just to get familiar with the constellations, looked at them naked eye trying to figure out shapes and relative positions of stars.
I'm using  Star Walk 2, Sky Safari and some other apps on my phone and Stellarium on my laptop to get familiar with constellation positions.

 

I'm using my southern balcony with a not obstructed view to the south, fair view to the east and limited view to the west.

I'm also not able to look at the Zenith due to house roof. My west balcony has a nice view to the west but not high up the sky ( around 40°-45° up) and part of the northeast. From my northern side of the house, there are plenty of streetlights obstructing the view to the North.

 

I should be under Bortle 4 or 5 sky. I'm also searching for a nearby location I could use with no streetlights.

 

Last night, (20th August 2019) I went to my southern balcony, the sky was very clear, with no Moon so far, great visibility.

My goal for the night was modest, to split up Albireo in Cygnus and that's it.

So, I'm on the balcony, looking at the sky naked eye, there is Jupiter, there is Saturn. Took a look up the sky, there is Altair,

had to lean over the fence to see Deneb and Vega.

So, back to safety, Sadr is visible without leaning over, I'm going toward the ''head'' and there is Albireo. I grab my binoculars but I can't find Albireo now, millions of stars out there in bino view. This is not good.  

 

Tried to point spotting scope there but the weird angle of the spotting scope makes it much more complicated to aim. 

I played with Celestron for 15-20 minutes and then I left it. No use.

 

Albireo was very high in the sky. Even with binos, my neck started to hurt so I give up on Albireo.

 

I put some blankets over the fence to cover up some light from my neighbour's house and I just lied down, put a pillow under my head and started to watch that available part of the sky with the naked eye. After a while, more and more stars appeared. Now I can see whole Aquila easily, Delphinus also. I think I can even see Sagitta.

 

More to the west are some bright stars, couldn't recognize what is it. So, I started Star Walk 2 app and I found that's Ophiuchus.

Found some stars right to it, checked phone app and that is Serpens Caput. Very clear and visible stars.

 

I was impressed by how many stars I can see with the naked eye. No Moon yet.

Now I'm zooming more around some major stars in asterism on Star Walk app, some small stars appeared.

 

 

I'm trying to find some easily recognizable shape at a zoom level in Star Walk that will match my binoculars zoom level, I memorized relative positions and I'm looking for that in the binoculars. I'm also trying to make use of my binoculars FOV  as a tool to measure distance.

 

My Leupold has 6.1° field of view (FOV). When I'm, watching at the three stars in the head of Aquila ( Alshain, Altair and Tarazed) they almost filled up all my binocular view.

 

 

So I assume they are like 5°- 5.5° in length. Then I'm trying to estimate distance between Altair and middle star in Aquila, the delta Aquila, and let's say it is double the distance from Alshain and Tarazed, some 10°, then I'm going to almost twice the distance of my binocular view and then searching for a familiar shape that I found on Star Walk app.

And then it worked. 

 

I tried that to every major star in Aquila and it worked. Not so fast in the beginning but better and better as I get used to it.

Every time I tried to identify the star I was checking phone app to be sure that nearby star pattern match.

Then I looked away with binoculars and tried to go back to identify target star. It worked. That makes me smile.

 

Then I use that to identify  Ras Alhague, Ras Algheti, Cebalrai, Sabik, Yed Posterior in Ophiuchus even they were surrounded by so many stars. I randomly look at a completely different part of the sky with binos then I tried to go back slowly and find where I am and it worked, I recognize Cebalrai. Then I went back again on Aquila and I repeated knowledge on Tarazed, Alshain, δAquila, both Deneb el Okab, λAquila, 12 Aquila. I was elated it is working.

 

Then Sagitta and Delphinus. Check !

 

 

I found very interesting star formation some 5 degres right from Sagitta and some 7-8 stars above Deneb el Okab.

It was shaped like FC Arsenal logo, old canon on wheels. ( Vulpecula 4,5 and 7 ).

 

I was doing this for almost two hours, lying on my back, going for new stars and shapes then going back to Aquila, Sagita, Ophiuchus, Serpens Caput and Delphinus with my Leupold.

It worked like a charm. I was so happy.

 

Then I noticed that the bottom three stars in Ophiuchus disappeared together with some other stars.

 

I looked over the fence to the East and Moon was up there and washed pretty much a big part of the night sky.

 

I also noticed one bright star on the East, checked StarWalk, that was Enif, part of Pegasus. Checked Pegasus asterism stars and one star name pop up, Alpheratz.

I recognized that name Alpheratz from a research a few nights ago when I was trying to remember all the stars from Andromeda asterism.

 

Because Moon was very bright I wanted to call it a night and go to bed but....

Andromeda was very bright even the Moon was bright and close.  I decided to take one last look at the stars, I went up from Mirach to the miAndromeda and then to the vAndromeda AND THEN BAM!

 

I'm looking at the M31 Andromeda galaxy for the first time ever !!

My heart is pounding! So excited!

 

It looks like grey smudge. My Leupold FOV is 6.1 and M31 was like 1/10th to 1/6th of my view so I think that 's something from 0.5 to 1° in size. I know that it should be around 3° but that's probably due to Moon and poor visibility. I'm not sure.

 

Tried again to see it through Celestron Ultima but can't point it there.

Grab Leupold again and in 10 seconds there it was again in my view.

So excited !

 

This is promising.

 

Once the Moon is out, I'll try to look at it with my Dobson.

 

This is my best observing night so far.

 

CS !


Edited by Hellingen, 21 August 2019 - 11:26 AM.

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#2 DHEB

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 07:14 AM

Hello @Hellingen,

 

Every astronomer has struggled at the beginning with finding objects. It is normal. The sky is a big place and it just takes time to become acquainted with it. There is no shortcut. Spend a lot time under the stars and the accumulated practice will bear fruit. Use star atlases like Stellarium and Sky Safari, or paper ones if you prefer them like Pocket Sky Atlas. Keep observing and enjoying, you are doing well.

 

Good luck!


Edited by DHEB, 21 August 2019 - 07:15 AM.

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#3 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 07:20 AM

Hello @Hellingen,

 

Every astronomer has struggled at the beginning with finding objects. It is normal. The sky is a big place and it just takes time to become acquainted with it. There is no shortcut. Spend a lot time under the stars and the accumulated practice will bear fruit. Use star atlases like Stellarium and Sky Safari, or paper ones if you prefer them like Pocket Sky Atlas. Keep observing and enjoying, you are doing well.

 

Good luck!

 

Thank you. I've also ordered 4-5 most recommended books here in Forum. I want to learn. 

I'd like to find some better, darker site nearby with no obstructions to the night sky and us it as much as possible. 

 

Clear Skies !


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#4 spereira

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 10:28 AM

Just a hint:  Your opening post is very dense text.  Breaking things up into paragraphs with a one line space in between may help a bit with the read-ability.  Just my thought about presentation format, your content is great!

 

smp


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#5 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 11:08 AM

Just a hint:  Your opening post is very dense text.  Breaking things up into paragraphs with a one line space in between may help a bit with the read-ability.  Just my thought about presentation format, your content is great!

 

smp

Much appreciated ! 


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#6 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 11:18 AM

 

 

I found very interesting star formation some 5 degres right from Sagitta and some 7-8 stars above Deneb el Okab.

It was shaped like FC Arsenal logo, old canon on wheels. ( Vulpecula 4,5 and 7)

 

 

 

 

I've just found that this interesting formation is also known as The Coat Hanger.   grin.gif grin.gif grin.gif


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#7 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 12:40 PM

Collinder 399, which is also known as Brocchi's Cluster as well as the Coathanger, was believed to be a true open cluster for quite some time.   It is now known to be merely an asterism. 

However, there is a true open cluster at the eastern end of the Coathanger, the somewhat faint and powdery NGC 6802, which can be seen at the far right of Cr 399 in the image posted at http://astrodoc.ca/coathanger/
 

There's more on NGC 6802 at https://freestarcharts.com/vulpecula and http://www.kopernik....chive/n6802.htm

 

Dave Mitsky


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#8 Special Ed

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 01:47 PM

Hellingen,

 

It sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of the constellations and can identify many bright stars in them.  What you need (besides the binoculars or finderscope) is a Telrad or Rigel QwikFinder.  These do not magnify but rather have an illuminated reticle that helps you put your scope right on the chosen target.

 

 https://www.astronom...scope_types=715

 

 http://rigel.datacor...quikfinder.html

 

Good luck!


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#9 csa/montana

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 01:54 PM

First of all, welcome to CN!  Glad to have you join us.

 

Thanks for such a great post, very interesting, and well done! waytogo.gif 


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#10 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 03:17 PM

If you haven't seen it already, you may want to have a look at my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287

 

Dave Mitsk


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#11 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 03:39 PM

Hellingen,

 

It sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of the constellations and can identify many bright stars in them.  What you need (besides the binoculars or finderscope) is a Telrad or Rigel QwikFinder.  These do not magnify but rather have an illuminated reticle that helps you put your scope right on the chosen target.

 

 https://www.astronom...scope_types=715

 

 http://rigel.datacor...quikfinder.html

 

Good luck!

I've already ordered Telrad from astroshop.eu and can't wait it to arrive. 


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#12 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 03:48 PM

If you haven't seen it already, you may want to have a look at my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287

 

Dave Mitsk

I've read and replied to that 5 days ago. Very useful . Actually that's where I learned how to find M31. cool.gif

I'll be coming back to that article every now and then during my hunt for a new targets.

Many thanks !



#13 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 03:50 PM

First of all, welcome to CN!  Glad to have you join us.

 

Thanks for such a great post, very interesting, and well done! waytogo.gif

Many thanks ! I learned a lot from this community. 



#14 Hellingen

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 04:18 PM

I didn't have much time tonight for observation. 

I sneak out around 22:00h.

 

Just wanted to go again through the last night's observations. 

 

I noticed that the sky was very polluted low on eastern horizon

Maybe because the Moon is about to rise.

 

Anyway, I found again M31 Andromeda through my Leupold but this time 

I managed to find it on my Celestron spotting scope too. For me, there was no notable difference in view between Leupold and Celestron.

The view was pretty dim and not sharp in both. I couldn't see any details, just the grey smudge. 

 

I can't point my 250mm Dobson from my balcony to this direction but I'd like to see M31 through it soon. 

I need to find some proper location as soon as possible.

 

Clear Skies!



#15 dhawn

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 10:34 PM

Thank you for posting your thoughts and observations. You are experiencing many of the same things I did as I started out, and it's great to hear that you are having some positive experiences. For me, there were many nights that were frustrating and it took time to figure everything out. Keep up the good work!


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#16 Napp

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 10:42 PM

Some free downloadable Messier objects finder charts with Telrad fields around objects. Really helps with locating objects.

 

http://avila.star-sh...ssierTelrad.htm


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#17 Hellingen

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 01:22 AM

Some free downloadable Messier objects finder charts with Telrad fields around objects. Really helps with locating objects.

 

http://avila.star-sh...ssierTelrad.htm

This is Treasure ! Tnx !



#18 IMB

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 12:09 AM

<...> I tried that to every major star in Aquila and it worked. Not so fast in the beginning but better and better as I get used to it. Every time I tried to identify the star I was checking phone app to be sure that nearby star pattern match. Then I looked away with binoculars and tried to go back to identify target star. It worked. That makes me smile.

 

Then I use that to identify  Ras Alhague, Ras Algheti, Cebalrai, Sabik, Yed Posterior in Ophiuchus even they were surrounded by so many stars. I randomly look at a completely different part of the sky with binos then I tried to go back slowly and find where I am and it worked, I recognize Cebalrai. Then I went back again on Aquila and I repeated knowledge on Tarazed, Alshain, δAquila, both Deneb el Okab, λAquila, 12 Aquila. I was elated it is working.

 

Then Sagitta and Delphinus. Check !

 

I found very interesting star formation some 5 degres right from Sagitta and some 7-8 stars above Deneb el Okab. It was shaped like FC Arsenal logo, old canon on wheels. ( Vulpecula 4,5 and 7 ). <...>

Thank you very much for your post. I recognize my struggles at the beginning of my path in the hobby when I tried to do astronomical observations with 10x50 binoculars. There are so many stars, and it's so easy to get lost! I think that your detailed descriptions how you worked through various issues you encountered are very helpful to many beginners.

 

I'd like to suggest the following technique for locating stars with the binoculars. First, get the azimuth right by placing the star between the tubes of the binoculars. Then just move the binoculars up and down - you will hit it. A similar technique works for telescopes on alt-az mounts.

 

The asterism in Vulpecula that you've found is known as the Coathanger, Cr 399, or Brocchi's Cluster. It's a great binocular object.

 

For a list of binocular targets I'd like to suggest Binocular Highlights by Gary Seronik. This book guided me in my first binocular sessions.


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#19 IMB

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 12:29 AM


<...> Anyway, I found again M31 Andromeda through my Leupold but this time 

I managed to find it on my Celestron spotting scope too. For me, there was no notable difference in view between Leupold and Celestron. The view was pretty dim and not sharp in both. I couldn't see any details, just the grey smudge.  <...>

Galaxies are called faint fuzzies for a reason! I don't think you can observe any structure in the Andromeda Galaxy with your instruments from your location. (Very) large instruments under dark skies can reveal dark lanes, globular clusters, and hydrogen areas. What can be done with a small instrument is to see Andromeda's companion galaxies, M32 and M110. M32 is quite bright, so it's easier to locate, but it's small. Under low power is almost star-like. Look very carefully for a slightly fat star. M110 has a low surface brightness, and as a result, it requires dark skies to see it.

 

Under dark skies, M31 and its companions are stunning in binoculars. It will fill the entire 6-degree field of view.


Edited by IMB, 24 August 2019 - 10:52 AM.

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#20 Hellingen

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 12:56 AM

 

 

I'd like to suggest the following technique for locating stars with the binoculars. First, get the azimuth right by placing the star between the tubes of the binoculars. Then just move the binoculars up and down - you will hit it. A similar technique works for telescopes on alt-az mounts.

 

 

 

I would definitively try this on next occasion. Many thanks!



#21 Hellingen

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 01:15 AM

Thank You IMB !

I'll look for the book. 

 

Last couple nights were cloudy, wanted to look at M31 with my dobson but that will have to wait. 

I'm really hooked on binoculars right now.

I'm thinking  about buying bigger binoculars for those quick sessions, Orion Giant View 20x80 ED, like this one: 

 

https://www.astrosho...view-ed/p,60882

 

Thinking this one will complement my Leupold 8x42. What do you think about this idea ?

 

Clear Skies !


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#22 IMB

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 01:47 AM


<...> I'm thinking  about buying bigger binoculars for those quick sessions, Orion Giant View 20x80 ED, like this one: 

 

https://www.astrosho...view-ed/p,60882

 

Thinking this one will complement my Leupold 8x42. What do you think about this idea ? <...>

I've described my experience with 20x80 binoculars in this post. It was negative. I think you might benefit from 10x50 binoculars like Orion Resolux 10x50 or APM 10x50. It's still comfortable to hold these binoculars in hands, but if desired, they can mounted on a photo tripod. There are other options in all price ranges.


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#23 Hellingen

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 03:02 AM

I've described my experience with 20x80 binoculars in this post. It was negative. I think you might benefit from 10x50 binoculars like Orion Resolux 10x50 or APM 10x50. It's still comfortable to hold these binoculars in hands, but if desired, they can mounted on a photo tripod. There are other options in all price ranges.

You just shook my world with that post. 

 

With same budget as for 20x80 I can go with this one ED APO: 

https://www.astrosho...pro-ota/p,56994

 

I need to think this over. Looks like great advice. 

 

As always, thank you very much for that. 



#24 csa/montana

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 09:57 AM

20x80 binoculars are huge!  With a support of some kind, it would be very difficult to handhold them to keep the view steady, and without tiring your arms quickly.  There are good support binocular systems on the market; but that will add to the cost.


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#25 Napp

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 10:17 AM

You just shook my world with that post. 

 

With same budget as for 20x80 I can go with this one ED APO: 

https://www.astrosho...pro-ota/p,56994

 

I need to think this over. Looks like great advice. 

 

As always, thank you very much for that. 

As posted above it is almost impossible to handhold large binoculars.  They have to be supported.  Tripods are limiting as they do not allow looking at objects high in the sky.  You would need to consider a parallelogram to be able to point anywhere in the sky.  Buying a parallelogram can be expensive.  Building one can be very inexpensive.  


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