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Software to log observations for AL programs

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#1 Ken Olson

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Posted 01 September 2019 - 10:54 PM

Moving to Arizona in few months (Chino Valley). I want to start some ASTRONOMICAL LEAGUE observing programs. I was thinking of using software to record my observations. Is this a good idea or are paper logs better? 


Would SkySafari 6 work well for planning and logging? I would be using a Samsung TabS2 or  Win10 laptop. 


I just purchased a used 12.5" DOB for the observing programs. 



#2 sg6



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Posted 02 September 2019 - 02:05 AM

Do not know about Skysafari for planning and logging. Planning maybe but doubt that any logging will be sufficent. It was I would say not intended for logging.


Software is nice but unsure of ant specific, I suppose that what you log and I log would not be the same so something flexible. Software tends to be "You enter this and this and .... as in a bit fixed.


Could you write an app or know someone to do something. I actually guess you need a data base approach. I have no idea how to go about it although I suppose I should - is there an idiots guide to starting and writing an app ?


Paper is likely the more flexible, an easy approach is one page per object. You can also scribble anything down on paper at any time - Got Skunked!!!!. Another advantage is no need for power, and you can throiw a book on the ground or drop it and all you might get is a messy book.


Some tablets do writing to text, you probably need that. Would assume the Writing to text allows titled entries - thinking along M42 as a title then your notes. Then you edit or add to entry M42 etc.


Paper then next day transfer to a PC is likely going to be the route, although paper may be a tablet writing to text. But 2 mediums are "safer", called Backup lol.gif lol.gif


Would expect a sort of recording app somewhere, likely free.


Another is what is expected? Paper for records and reports is still primary, it is also nice to have a hand written (scribbled) record some time afterwards:

#3 obrazell



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Posted 02 September 2019 - 02:45 AM

Despite the non arrival of SkyTools 4 I would recommend SkyTools 3 for both planning and logging. It is probably the most sophisticated program out there. Otherwise you have programs like Deep-Sky Planner and Astroiplanner that will both allow you to log and plan observations.



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#4 Tempus


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Posted 02 September 2019 - 08:06 AM

The only downside to using an app for logging would be if you are doing any AL programs that require a sketch of the object to accompany the log entry.  Aside from that, I prefer ST-3 over everything. 

#5 S.Boerner



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Posted 02 September 2019 - 02:25 PM

I've used both Excel and SkySafari 6 (SS) to log my data for about 30 AL observing programs.  My current flow uses SS at the scope and then transferring everything to Excel the next morning over coffee.


I will mention that I've either found or created SkyLists for SS for the AL programs that I do.  That makes moving from object to object and note taking with SS easier.  Logging with SS makes some things very easy...it autofills date and time, it has provisions for seeing and transparency, if you've configured it adding your equipment, and after adding the info to the log  the object can be hidden to remove it from the rest of the objects on the list.  The bad part is adding descriptive comments and that's not SS's fault.  It relies on the device so you either have to type it on the small screen keyboard or try voice to text.  For me, neither of those do well with lots of errors.  I've even tried it with an OTG cable and keyboard but then I need a table.  One of the reasons I transfer everything to Excel is that I can still remember what the gibberish that was converted from voice is.  After a couple of days I can't.  There's also an issue of getting the data out of SS.  I think a csv file can be exported from the online thing but it might be a paid option. 


So why Excel (or other spreadsheet)?  First, many of the programs already have the objects in spreadsheet format....names, RA/Dec, size, etc.  It is a simple matter to add more columns for what else is required.  Another benefit is that with a spreadsheet you can sort by any column you want and hide any columns or rows you don't need.  Sorting really helps me plan for the night.  Once your are done you can re-sort to match the AL's order and then get it to any format you want for the final document you send to the program's coordinator.  Personally, I turn it all into a web page and send the coordinator the URL  As an example here's the URL to my log for the Galileo program I did with binoculars:

I decided to do it that way because when I started actively working on AL programs in 2012 I was the club's webmaster.  I figured that one of the reasons why more people didn't work on observing programs was because that didn't know what and how to log.  Posting my logs online has helped others get started.  If you have a curiosity to see more of my logs it isn't too hard to guess what to do to the URL to see the main page.


If the AL furnishes the object list in Excel format it isn't too difficult to convert it into a SS SkyList as long as all the objects are in SS's database.  I've run in to some problems particularly on double star related programs.  A second problem is that what the AL wants to call an object isn't always SS's primary name.  That means that if the AL calls something "X" then while that name might be in the SS database and SS can find it, SS would rather call something "Y".  Eventually you get used to that. 


When the AL only furnishes the list in a PDF document I bite the bullet and convert it to Excel.  Most of the time I'm able to copy/paste with some hard proofing along the way. 


Some will say that the light from your laptop or tablet/phone will ruin night vision.  I turn down the brightness and use a red screen.  Other than a few on the H400 it hasn't been an issue.


Feel free to post to me if you have any more questions...


lol.gif I may be starting on Two-in-the-View tonight

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#6 krahling


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Posted 02 September 2019 - 08:02 PM

I also use Sky Safari for logging AL observations.  However, I second S.Boerner's comment regarding double stars.  It's a challenge matching what the AL Binocular Double Star list to Sky Safari objects as the intended objects are two entirely separate stars in Sky Safari - this is especially the case with apparent double stars as opposed to "true" double stars.  

#7 dmdouglass


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Posted 03 September 2019 - 11:10 AM

The AL website and pages for the observing programs usually have both PDF and EXCEL downloads for the various programs. I have completed 26 of them, and i do just about all of them the same as far as documentation.  I "start" with the EXCEL download, and bring that into my own spreadsheet.  You can see most of them here:




The AL programs are obvious.  EVAC is the East Valley Astronomy Club here in Arizona, of which i am a member.

Anyway, there is a LINK to the far right for each program, which will take you to a spreadsheet.


As mentioned above in this thread, there is usually a requirement of a "sketch" or and "image".  I image all of my observations.  And in the spreadsheet, there is a a LINK to the observation sheet, which contains the image, and other important information.


If you put 100 different observers, each working on the same AL program, into a single room, and compare all of their various methods of recording their observation, and eventually reporting to the AL, you will probably find at least 99 different "ways" of doing it.  Each person will do it they way they are comfortable with.  The "trick"... is to make sure you have all the information that the individual program requires, in a convenient "package" for the program administrator to view.


To the original poster... Ken Olson.  Chino Valley is a bit removed from the Tempe-Mesa-Gilbert area (home of EVAC), but hey... its still Arizona.  You should enjoy some good clear skies up there. Welcome to Arizona!

#8 Ken Olson

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 12:15 AM

Thanks for all the suggestions. They will be a lot of help when I get to Arizona.  Ken Olson. 

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