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Tips on using Phone apps as guides to the sky....

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#1 Chester0711

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 08:18 AM

In my initial journey with my Orion XT8, I am starting to understand the importance of the sky viewing apps that we have at our disposal. Sky Safari has provided me a great guide to the skies, but I am wondering if any of you have some best practices for aligning what you see in the app with your scope? 

Do you buy mounts for your scopes to mount the phone and then point and aim? Are these worthless? 

One of the issues/kind of cool things I am running into is the fact that the naked eye, in bortle 7 with average transparency , only sees a fraction of what I see when I look into my scope. I look into the scope and it is a sea of small twinkling stars. This however can make things a touch confusing and a few times I have.... gotten lost?

Last night I think I finally found Andromeda, however it was the slightest of smudges, so faint that I passed it twice en route, and there is no way I can be sure, as when I looked at my app I noticed there are a few other little things that could be smudges too in that area? When I looked up with my phone on my app....the alignment was definitely in the area, but it could have been other stuff.

Anyhow, just wondering , short of a "goto" mount, techniques others have used for aligning the app with the telescope......



#2 jeffreym

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 08:36 AM

Sky Safari pro allows you to input your telescope equipment so there is an eyepiece circle on the screen the same as what you are viewing at the eyepiece. 

 

You can adjust the star magnitude to equal what you are actually seeing in a finder or on a chart.

 

You can flip the view to the same orientation you are seeing at the eyepiece.

 

Star hopping is a talent that gets easier with practice.  It is sometimes frustrating to start with, go slow and confirm the star patterns you are seeing one step at a time.  If you are not using a 50mm RACI finder at this point you might want to get one as it will make your star hopping much easier.  Hop to the object using the finder, you may or may not see the object there.  Have your lowest power eyepiece in the scope and the object should be visible or very close by.

Have fun!

Jeff


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#3 rhetfield

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 08:36 AM

For me, I find that the apps are better on the bigger screen of a tablet.  Also that it helps to have the FOV circles for my eyepieces displayed.  Playing around with settings to narrow the objects to those you can expect to see with your scope helps.  Using the night vision setting also helps.

 

Note that with the fires out west that smoke has made it all the way to the east coast.  That obscures a lot of stuff.  Recently, the smoke in my bortle 7 skies obscured all but Vega, Jupiter, and Venus.  Even the sun had a hard time penetrating in the morning.

 

Look at this thread for degree circles for how to find stuff easy

 

https://www.cloudyni...degree-circles/


Edited by rhetfield, 18 September 2020 - 08:38 AM.

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#4 Tangerman

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 08:42 AM

Sky Safari Plus will also let you put in your equipment and it will display circles of what you should be able to see. Extremely useful when I'm star hopping using a 9x50 RACI finder. Others will probably recommend using a Telrad as a finder, and then you can look along it to see where your telescope is pointed in the sky and compare it to your charts.


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#5 ShaulaB

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 10:32 AM

Believe it or not, amateur astronomers were using Dobsonian telescopes before smartphones or apps were available. Or even invented! Instead of microchips, people used their own brain cells to learn the sky. Lots of people have done it. No advanced degrees are necessary, just motivation to learn. Paper maps were the only way to go for many years.

 

It does take time and practice to get good at star hopping. Over maybe a year of getting out often will help an observer become proficient. In our current age, instant gratification seems normal. Push a button and something happens. Magic. Often though, it is kind of relaxing for me to use as little technology as possible. We all have our preferences.

 

What I have seen with some beginners using GoTo mounts is problems with troubleshooting if the mount does not perform properly. Lots of posts here at CN address this. Folks are not sure if the mount has a problem, or if they themselves are not "doing it right." This leads to frustration and maybe giving up on astro altogether. 

 

I use Sky Safari Plus on a tablet to run a GoTo mount. Also, before the virus, I used the app on my phone to show visitors at Outreach sessions where the telescope was looking in the sky. Technology has made life much easier for some purposes.


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#6 stoest

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 10:57 AM

I also find it much easier to use a pad than a phone screen. Be sure and set brightness down, put on the red filter and turn the white point down to where it's barely readable to help preserve dark adaption. I got a holder for the pad that has both a shoulder and hand strap, that way I can look at the screen and then let it go to the shoulder strap support when I'm done, I found that was way better than having to set it down and then having to move and pick it back up every time I wanted to check something.



#7 sg6

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 01:37 PM

Believe it or not, amateur astronomers were using Dobsonian telescopes before smartphones or apps were available. Or even invented! Instead of microchips, people used their own brain cells to learn the sky. Lots of people have done it. No advanced degrees are necessary, just motivation to learn. Paper maps were the only way to go for many years.

Sir, surely you jest.

Astronomy before smart phones or apps, everyone knows that is not possible.

Actually anything before apps seems to be considered impossible.

And you are getting as jaded as I am at times.

 

Back to reality - I agree. At least with the proviso that about 1 in 3 seem to think there could be nothing before apps came into existance.

Used to work with someone who if he didn't have an "app" for it I am sure his wife was in for an uneventful night. shocked.gif

 

Skysafari is basically an electronic book. Scroll around Skysafari or turn the pages of a book and you will get a picture of the relevant bit of the sky. And a book doesn't need power, and with the light pollution you don't these days need a torch for a book either.

 

Use Skysafari to just learn which stars form which constellation, book does the same. And then find out what objects is, or may be, in that constellation, again book will do the same.

 

Maybe the idea that you need an app is what is holding you back. Get out there just spend the time becoming familair with the scope and the sky. Unfortunately learning is a part (big part) of getting a dobsonian. Didn't they tell you that before you purchased one?


Edited by sg6, 18 September 2020 - 01:38 PM.


#8 Peter140

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 09:27 PM

My experience of using a phone app is restricted to one I wrote years ago for a push to equatorial mount with a couple of stick on accelerometers. However, from what I've read the great thing about apps that use the sensors in the phone is that they introduce people to a wonderful range of objects without wasting precious cloud free time. I think their accuracy may be limited to how well the phone is aligned with the telescope and I imagine finding obscure faint objects that require minutes of exposure time would require a fair bit of care. But it does sound like a good way to become familiar with the night sky 

 

The phone app I developed uses two bluetooth accelerometers one for declination one for hour angle and a visible star as a local reference. Because gravity is the fundamental reference there's no need for star alignment or altitude adjustments for polar alignment. Just point the telescope north (or south for Australians like me).

 

Pointer accuracy VYS.PNG


Edited by Peter140, 18 September 2020 - 09:38 PM.

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#9 Napp

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 09:40 PM

If you are truly in Bortle 7 skies I doubt you will see the other two smudges - M32 and M110.  Actually, M32 might look like a star.  M110 has a low surface brightness.  In that kind of sky you will be better served looking for star clusters and double stars.  Nebulae with the exception of M42 will be difficult to impossible.  The same is true for most galaxies.



#10 hcf

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 12:52 AM

There are a variety of aids you can add to your Xt8 to make it easier to find targets.

Star hopping using a RACI and Telrad/Red Dot Finder is the most reliable system for beginners and can be a lot of fun.

 

Other than that you can add DIY aids like "Manual Setting Circles",  or "Digital Setting Circles"  or my very own "PSWAI" depending on your comfort level with DIY projects.

 

I would still recommend learning to Star Hop first.


Edited by hcf, 19 September 2020 - 01:19 AM.


#11 krokodilce

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 05:07 AM

Is the eyepiece preview possible only on SkySafari Pro or is it possible to do it in a $3 regular version? At this moment I would rather invest $40 + some amount into a new eyepiece. smile.gif



#12 Napp

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 05:34 AM

Is the eyepiece preview possible only on SkySafari Pro or is it possible to do it in a $3 regular version? At this moment I would rather invest $40 + some amount into a new eyepiece. smile.gif

I think the Plus version also has this.  Sky Safari regularly goes on sale for half price.  You might want to be patient and save some cash.


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#13 brentknight

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 07:46 AM

Is the eyepiece preview possible only on SkySafari Pro or is it possible to do it in a $3 regular version? At this moment I would rather invest $40 + some amount into a new eyepiece. smile.gif

One of the challenges for the new astronomer...figuring out what to buy next!.  Eyepieces definitely seem like the most fun and useful, but there are other essentials you should consider.  Among them is a good atlas (paper or electronic) and it doesn't need to be the most expensive to start with.  I've found that a good music stand goes a long way towards making the atlas more useful.  With it's adjustable height and easy portability, you can have it right where you need it...


Edited by brentknight, 19 September 2020 - 08:01 AM.

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#14 krokodilce

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 08:02 AM

One of the challenges for the new astronomer...figuring out what to buy nex!.  Eyepieces definitely seem like the most fun and useful, but there are other essentials you should consider.  Among them is a good atlas (paper or electronic) and it doesn't need to be the most expensive to start with.  I've found that a good music stand goes a long way towards making the atlas more useful.  With it's adjustable height and easy portability, you can have it right where you need it...

Haha, you're definitely right, so many options even beside eyepieces, filters, collimator, new finderscope etc.

 

Having a stand for atlas is really a great idea tho, I think I have some stands that might fit the need, thanks for sharing.


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#15 Eddgie

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 08:19 AM

First, you can adjust the amount of stars shown on the display in Sky Safari using a slider.  By lowering the number of stars you see, you can and this might allow you to better match your display to the stars you can see. 

To use this function, go to Settings > Stars.   When you get to the Stars panel, the top box says "Magnitude Limit".  If you tap this box, you will get a map screen with a slider at the bottom.  Here, you can use the slider to show more or fewer stars so that your display shows you more or less the stars you can actually see with the naked eye.  Sometimes if you have too many stars, it can be kind of confusing.  You will still see fainter stars as you zoom, but having only the stars you can actually see in the sky can sometimes make it easier.  I recommend that you experiment a bit to see if this helps.

 

Next, others have already recommended a Telrad and this is indeed a nice tool when combined with the Telrad overlay in the Sky Safari app.  With practice you can get pretty good with the Telrad.  For example using the Telrad, M57 is a snap to find but once again, if you have too many stars, it can kind of distract or confuse your ability to set the Telrad. 

 

Manual azimuth circle with a digital angle reader have been used by many but this would require a level scope for the best result.

 

If you really like astronomy, I think it is worth investing in a DSC setup.  This will run you about $400, but the nice thing about this kind of setup is that if you ever decide to move to a different telescope, the encoders and logic can be re-utilized, though it might be necessary to buy new brackets.   These are superb systems though, and nothing increases your productivity like digital setting circles.  The Nexus II is WiFi, so you can actually use your phone to aim the telescope.

 

Practice is of course the best thing.  The more you star hop, the better you get at it. 



#16 Eddgie

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Posted 19 September 2020 - 08:36 AM

And of course, your finder is a great tool, and that is why it is called a finder. 

 

Set Sky Safari to show the field of view of your finder scope.  You really want this to be as accurate as possible but taking just a default value is probably OK.   Once you have the field of view circle for your finder set up in Sky Safari, you can then start moving the display and zooming in to see conspicuous stars that would be between your hop off star and your destination. Using your finder, you would jump from the start star to the next set of stars that you can identify in both Sky Safari and your finder and before you know it, you will be at your target.  Practice is the key here. 

 

To set up your finder field on Sky Safari, fine the "Observer" button at the bottom (I think it is a default button). From here, set "Scope Display".  Create a custom field of view with the size of the field of your finder.  Make sure this box is checked.

 

At the bottom, you have the option of drawing Crosshairs and I recommend that and Cardinal Directions.   Note that there is a box here for the Telrad if you have one.  The Telrad has reticles at 4 degrees, 2 degrees, and half a degree and this is why they work well for finding things.  Some people prefer a Telrad over a regular finder and on some scopes I do too, but on Dobs the tend to be un-ergonic to me.  RACI finders are a little easier to use I think, but you can get used to that.  Stepping off the field of the finder or using field stars to make your jumps.   




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