Great thread. It's interesting to read the different techniques people use to find things. I can point the scope and land on or close to some frequently visited objects but when going after faint ones I have to start at a known location and carefully star hop to the place where the object is located. That's the only way for me to be sure I have chance of seeing the object. Then I can try everything I know to tease it out. Maybe higher magnification, a filter, shifting the place where it should be to different places in the eyepiece so I'm using different parts of my retina. There have been times I'm there for a 1/2 hour and suddenly I see the object and I really can't explain why. I love that moment when I get to the right spot and I everything matches up just right. It's like a puzzle coming together. Even if I can't see the object there's something satisfying about knowing I made it to the right place in such a vast universe.
I used goto for over a year and just punched in targets and logged a lot of objects. When I started star hopping I realized I was missing out on some beautiful sections of sky. If there were no objects there I had no reason to look there. With star hopping I start at a star and the hop takes me through a part of the sky I wouldn't have seen with interesting star fields, asterisms, brightly colored stars. I really enjoy that aspect of it as much as finding the object.
I think that's why I enjoy chasing comets. Even if they're faint barely detectable fuzzy spots, they take me through a part of the sky I may not have seen as I follow them from night to night.
With goto if I couldn't see an object I'd have to reverse star hop anyway to make sure I'm in the right place before giving up. Look for a nearby star on a chart and see if I can find my way to it to confirm the position. Either way having a detailed chart is necessary.
The other technique I use is sort of a variation of star hopping, object hopping. I do this a lot with binoculars or a small refractor. An example would be starting and M8 the Lagoon Nebula and working my way up the Milky Way stopping at M20, M22, M24, M25, M17, M16. Another example with a larger scope would be working my way through the Virgo cluster going from one galaxy to another using the layout and shapes of the galaxies to identify each other. Once you have identified one you can use it to find the others. If they're too far apart you have to do some star hopping to get to the next one.
Then there's just luck. Once as I was setting up my scope at a dark site and I put the eyepiece in, focused and there was a globular cluster dead center. Now I had to figure out which one I was looking at. By looking at the sky and seeing where the scope was pointed relative to Antares I figured out it was probably M10 and I was able to confirm it by locating M12 right next to it. So one way or another I always wind up doing some star hopping so I know where I'm pointing the scope. To me that's the key to seeing difficult objects.
Recently I was viewing M33 with my 72mm refractor. Finding it wasn't hard but I wanted to try for NGC 604 - H II region inside the galaxy. I don't think Goto, setting circles or anything else would have helped here. I needed a detailed chart and I had to follow the stars to exactly where it's located. Once there It looked like a faint star right next to a foreground star. It was just on the edge of detection and came and went with averted vision. I was able to go back and confirm it with a larger scope the next night. Not as much of a challenge as it no longer looked stellar but I was thrilled to confirm that I saw it in the smaller scope.
So for me just pointing the scope isn't as effective (or enjoyable) as a slow deliberate star hop that puts me in exactly the right place. I guess I enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Edited by NYJohn S, 01 September 2020 - 12:11 PM.