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How do you track your observations?

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#26 RazvanUnderStars

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Posted 15 July 2021 - 03:54 PM

Whatever the preferred tool, one factor to consider is the long term availability of the software and the data captured in it. There are few programs with a lifetime measured in decades (due to human and technology reasons), so those observers who care about their observing logs should think about how they handle this (eg print on paper, export in a structured format or migrate to another tool if possible).



#27 lphilpot

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Posted 15 July 2021 - 04:33 PM

That's theoretically an advantage of packages that support the OAL (Open Astronomy Log) standard. It's about as close as there is to a standard astronomy log format, which is of course not the same necessarily as a standard data format in general. OAL isn't widely supported but AFAIK the alternatives are even less. I think Deep Sky Planner supports it and maybe a couple of others. Other than something like OAL, you're down to being dependent on the developer once again to emit some kind of usable data (unless you care to parse XML, HTML, binary or whatever format on your own... not me!!).



#28 Steve Cox

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 08:02 AM

Have you used Sky Tools? I took a look at their web site, and I was thinking about buying the visual observing version.

Sky Tools is hands down the very best logging and planning software for me, with AstroPlanner coming in second.



#29 Oscar56

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 05:06 PM

I use SkyTools on my PC laptop for recording observations and SkySafari at my scope for starhopping. 
 

I have multiple observing lists on SkySafari. In order to record a single observation I need to record it in each of the lists for which it appears. That is a pain.  

 

Whereas in SkyTools you record the single observation and it is saved in the root database. If your object appears in more than one list then that observation will now show up in all lists. 



#30 BrettG

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 05:55 PM

I use SkyTools on my PC laptop for recording observations and SkySafari at my scope for starhopping. 
 

I have multiple observing lists on SkySafari. In order to record a single observation I need to record it in each of the lists for which it appears. That is a pain.  

 

Whereas in SkyTools you record the single observation and it is saved in the root database. If your object appears in more than one list then that observation will now show up in all lists. 

According to Pedro - this is being added in SS 7.

 

https://www.cloudyni...ved/?p=11211549



#31 Oscar56

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 06:05 PM

According to Pedro - this is being added in SS 7.

 

https://www.cloudyni...ved/?p=11211549

Excellent. But is there any timeline for SS7?


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#32 BrettG

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 08:34 PM

Excellent. But is there any timeline for SS7?

Not that I've seen.  Sadly.

 

Hopefully soon.  :)



#33 GaryShaw

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Posted 18 July 2021 - 09:08 AM

I have a related question:

 

I use and appreciate SS6 a lot but their databases do not include many of the stars I need to find and image for my variable star analyses program. Instead, I have to manually input RA and Dec data from my mount’s hand control.  Also, the hand control only allows saving 3-4 ‘custom objects’ to be set up that way.  It would be great to be able to create 8-10 custom user- defined objects that could be set up in an Observing List and displayed for easy observation planning - and for telescope ‘Goto’s’. 
 

It seems unlikely that SS7 and beyond will never provide this functionality so I’m wondering whether any of you who, collectively, seem to use a wide range of planning applications, have come across an application that would allow for the functionality I mention above.

 

Many thanks for any thoughts you can offer.

Cheers

Gary


Edited by GaryShaw, 18 July 2021 - 03:24 PM.


#34 Bobo666

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Posted 18 July 2021 - 10:02 AM

Sky Tools will certainly do what you want, and a lot more. For that you obviously pay a lot more as well.



#35 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 08:36 AM

That's theoretically an advantage of packages that support the OAL (Open Astronomy Log) standard. It's about as close as there is to a standard astronomy log format, which is of course not the same necessarily as a standard data format in general. OAL isn't widely supported but AFAIK the alternatives are even less. I think Deep Sky Planner supports it and maybe a couple of others. Other than something like OAL, you're down to being dependent on the developer once again to emit some kind of usable data (unless you care to parse XML, HTML, binary or whatever format on your own... not me!!).

I'm pleased to see someone appreciates our efforts. During my work in evolving our humble idea into a standard, I also tried to convince the author of SkyTools to support OAL. He did not see any use for it in SkyTools. This is sad, because I have basically stopped the development of Eye&Telescope, one of the planning, charting and logging programs that make use of OAL. Those days in the past we were competitors. I have retired from this competition, devoting my lesiure time to everything but programming. Maybe there are enough SkyTools users to convince it's author that supporting OAL is not the worst idea.

To be honest - while competing with SkyTools, I could have implemented a log import function from SkyTools to Eye&Telescope. But why declare war? I'd not liked to see it vice versa. As Paul Rodman (author of AstroPlanner) once wrote to me: we are all going down the same road.

By the way, Eye&Telescope is free now.


Edited by Thomas Pfleger, 22 July 2021 - 08:40 AM.


#36 mpickering

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 08:45 AM

For now I am writing my observation notes in a text file and maintaining my target list in an Excel spreadsheet.  I am thinking of writing an app to help organize that to suit my style.  Working on another app right now to capture telescope and eyepiece information for quick magnification calculations.  I can do it mentally easily enough but I am sure some folks would like a night-mode app on their phone where they can select/enter their scope, catalog their eyepieces and get a list of magnifications for each quickly.  The same approach to a database for that can easily be done to build an observing log app.  But each person's needs are different.  Some folks like intense details, others just want a way to write notes.  Some want targets from a Stellarium type view, others want to be able to search or enter it in their own formats.

 

Always curious as to what people are looking for.  While a novice astronomer, I am an expert developer and it always fun to merge work and hobby together.

 

Matt


Edited by mpickering, 22 July 2021 - 08:46 AM.


#37 lphilpot

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 08:45 AM

I can definitely understand the value in intellectual property, particularly when it (helps) put food on the table. I get it. But I don't understand an insular stance of non-compliance / non-interoperability if it's feasible to accommodate such. However, I'm in my shoes, not anyone else's so I'm sure I'm not seeing the entire picture.


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#38 obrazell

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 10:46 AM

I think the problem is far more fundemental than just supporintg a format. All programs would have to recognise the same way that objects were defined and the same way of defining them. You only have to look at the issue of using hsitorically correct NGC/IC numbers or not. The amount of work that any software writer would have to do to try and parse the object defintions to fit their own way of doing it would be massive. As Thomas noted Paul did not include it in AstroPlanner either so it is not just a disagreement between the OAL founders and Greg. I think a lot of those discussions played out in the CN forums a long time ago.The reality was it was just Deep_Sky Planner and E&T that supported it and I am sure that an export from one to the other in the OAL format would not have gone smoothly. It was a nice idea but like most standards needed far more work than could be done by one or two people.



#39 lphilpot

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 10:56 AM

Agreed - Good points and that's why I wrote, "if it's feasible". There would undoubtedly be a lot of normalization required on each back-end in order to come to a common, workable format. But for now, OAL is about as close as anyone has come to a standard, realistically achievable or not (arguably because no one else has tried?).

 

Now, exporting to a commonly used output (not content) format such as text, CSV, etc., is a different matter, generally much easier to implement. Kind of, "here's your data, use it as you will". SkyTools effectively can do that, IIRC (I've not tried in a while). At that point it's the user's responsibility to manage the conversion. But there's still possibly the matter of IP, if applicable.



#40 blakesphere

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 01:00 PM

If you're gonna code your own system, you might take a look at this:

 

https://github.com/o...penastronomylog

 

OpenAstronomyLog is a free and open XML schema definition for all kinds of astronomical observations. Software that supports this schema enables an observer to share observations with other observers or move observations among software products.



#41 blakesphere

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 01:24 PM

OK. 

 

This is maybe a little weird.

 

I have a rich hybrid system.

 

At the 'scope, typed notes, usually into the computer running SkyTools. Audio voice recorder, Sony, running for the evening. Transcription the next day, audio files backed up. I have a digital pen as well. Worst comes to worst, pencil and paper.

 

All my log notes go to blogger. Yes, it's publicly visible I write it primarily for me. Searchable, accessible anywhere.

 

As I post the log notes and images and sketches, I MARK items observed properly or formally with the SkyTools LOG indicator. That automatically assigns the date, time, instrument, conditions, etc. I make sure all that's correct but I, in general, never enter log notes here. You can. But for me, that's what the blog is for. The SkyTools log system is searchable and can be viewed by different means, say by instrument, by location. That's very informative.

 

Later, when I'm building a new observing plan in SkyTools, I can see what I have viewed previously vs what's new or what I need to look at again.

 

I also manage life list files in web pages. These are stored on my personal web server in a companion web site, interlinked with the blog. These are evergreen pages. From the life list entry, I can get to the evening and see the detailed notes and graphics. This is vital, for example, for my double star observations with some 1700 records.

 

It really works for me. But I recognise that's a lot of steps.

 

I know how to code and I use relational databases so I appreciate what's happening behind the scenes in SkyTools.

 

The "planner" astronomy apps like SkyTools, AstroPlanner, and Deep Sky Planner all came at this a good way, with planning and logging as hand and glove activities. The "planetarium" apps are trying to add planning features and lists and logging, now, but they're coming at it from a different direction, with (my impression) mixed results.


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#42 Bobo666

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 10:37 PM


The "planner" astronomy apps like SkyTools, AstroPlanner, and Deep Sky Planner all came at this a good way, with planning and logging as hand and glove activities. The "planetarium" apps are trying to add planning features and lists and logging, now, but they're coming at it from a different direction, with (my impression) mixed results.

I was hoping for some of the opposite, whereby the "planner" apps (specifically ST) might like to add some more planetarium style features, making it more appealing to those who don't see much need for planning. Apparently this idea is considered sacrilege against the planning gods by some, but I see it as a missed opportunity. The maps in ST render so beautifully, the best I've ever seen in a s/w app. Shame to treat them just as an add on.



#43 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 23 July 2021 - 04:38 AM

The reality was it was just Deep_Sky Planner and E&T that supported it and I am sure that an export from one to the other in the OAL format would not have gone smoothly. It was a nice idea but like most standards needed far more work than could be done by one or two people.

This is an incomplete picture. SkySafari works on OAL compatibility and there is deepskylog.org. Also ObservationManager implements the standard. In fact OM was the first ever software to achieve this. The format was not developed by two people (Phyllis and me) but by a team of up to seven persons.

Why are you sure "that an export from one to the other in the OAL format would not have gone smoothly."? Have you tried it?
 


Edited by Thomas Pfleger, 23 July 2021 - 04:39 AM.


#44 obrazell

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Posted 23 July 2021 - 06:58 AM

Hi Thmas

  yes I have tried exporting from one program and reading it in to Deep-Sky Planner and I spent half my time trying to make the various different ways of dealing with Hickson and Abell galaxy clusters work, let alone issues with NGC objects.

 

Owen


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