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RA/Dec or Az/Alt?

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#26 rhetfield

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 07:50 AM

I'm starting to see the advantages of RA/Dec,, but still figuring it out.

 

I'm thinking about putting degree circles on my scope and considering an outer 16" 360° azimuth circle and an inner 15" 24hr right ascension circle on the scope base. Printing them both on the same 18x24 sheet, counter-clockwise numbers, both zeros at the same point. Then laminating them. I read the last 5pgs of the degree circle thread and scanned some of the other pages.

 

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

 

Would that be correct? Az and RA on the same sheet? CCW? Both 0's at the same spot?

 

Or is it bass-ackwards to do this at all, and do one or the other, or do them on separate sheets?

 

Thanks.

Your signature lists your scope as a tabletop dob.  That is an alt/az mount so you would use the alt/az system with it.  Ra and Dec would not work on it.  It does not move in the right manner.  If you mounted the tube on an EQ mount, then you would use RA/Dec.  EQ mounts move in crazy angles to follow the movement of the skies.  They are primarily designed for long exposure photography and keep the image from rotating in the eyepiece.  RA/Dec was intended to be a coordinate system that relates the stars to each other so that the coordinates of the stars printed in the paper star charts would not change and have to be updated every second.  Alt/Az coordinates for any star change every second throughout the night - something that the computer apps and GOTO scopes are very good at keeping track of.  Luckily, the coordinates change slowly enough that you can dial in a number into your degree circles and still find the object 20 seconds later in your 25mm eyepiece.



#27 gnowellsct

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 08:56 AM

Ra and dec tell people anywhere in the world where to look for an object in the sky. The coordinates are permanent on human time scales.

There are permanent databases of RA and dec coordinates.

A permanent database of alt as coordinates is impossible because it changes not only with place but with time. In order to calculate an object's position in altitude and azimuth a computer needs the underlying ra and debt coordinates and then mix adjustment for date time and location, which generates the alt az readout. There are other coordinate systems such as galactic coordinates but they are not of much use to amateur astronomers and only moderately useful to professional astronomers. If you want to point a telescope somewhere using a universal database you're going to need ra and dec.

This is true even if you have an ALT az mount. Like just about any modern major observatory.
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#28 kathyastro

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 09:05 AM

RA/dec circles will not work on a dob. 

 

Even if they somehow did, printing both on one sheet will not work.  Like a stopped (24 hr) clock, it would be right only once a day.  The azimuth scale is fixed, but the RA scale needs to move with the sky.



#29 CRAZYeye29325

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 11:36 AM

Your signature lists your scope as a tabletop dob.  That is an alt/az mount so you would use the alt/az system with it.  Ra and Dec would not work on it.  It does not move in the right manner.  If you mounted the tube on an EQ mount, then you would use RA/Dec.  

 

 

This is true even if you have an ALT az mount. Like just about any modern major observatory.

 

 

RA/dec circles will not work on a dob. 

 

Even if they somehow did, printing both on one sheet will not work.  Like a stopped (24 hr) clock, it would be right only once a day.  The azimuth scale is fixed, but the RA scale needs to move with the sky.

 

Ahhhh!!! (I'm starting to...) Understood, whew, dodged that bullet.

 

THANKS!!!



#30 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 03:18 PM

You may find some of the information on celestial coordinates presented at the following links useful:

https://skyandtelesc...al-coordinates/

 

https://space.fm/ast...oordinates.html

 

https://www.fromspac...al-coordinates/

 

http://ircamera.as.a.../LECTURE_01.HTM



#31 SteveG

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 03:40 PM

EQ mounts move in crazy angles to follow the movement of the skies.  They are primarily designed for long exposure photography and keep the image from rotating in the eyepiece. 

EQ mounts move up and down and left and right, with their base mounted at an angle that matches your latitude. It's really not crazy or complicated at all. EQ mounts were used by visual observers when I started in the hobby 30 years ago, and are still used by visual observers today.

 

The benefit of an EQ mount is that only one axis has to turn in order to keep up with the spinning of the earth. So you only need to spin (1) control knob, or better yet, you use a single-axis drive motor. There are of course negatives that come with EQ mounts, such as counterweights and the Meridian flip.


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#32 GGK

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 05:19 PM

I find RA and Dec much easier to use to identify what objects are visible now, and to plan a future viewing session in an obstructed area. Note that I don't use a computer program to plan my viewing session and I don't have a laptop controlling my mount, which definitely influences my preference.

Sitting on Earth and spinning due east through space is just like driving on land headed due east. I am moving, only one coordinate is changing, and I want my friends' addresses to stay constant so I can find them without a computer model.

Only my local Right Ascension coordinate is changing, which is just my Local Sidereal Time (LST). Today I use the SIDEREAL App on my iPhone to know my LST. My north / south location (Dec) is constant, and that's just my 26.5 degree latitude. All the fixed addresses I want to visit can be found on the many published lists -- Messier, NGC, Best of , etc.

As I write this, it's just about 5 pm EDT and my LST is about 13:00. So if I want to set up tonight at 10 pm (5 hours from now) and observe for 2 hours, my LST, which is the RA of my meridian and zenith, will range from 18h00m to 20h00m LST during my viewing session. Zenith for me will then be 18h00m RA / +26d30s Dec. when I start and 20h00m RA / +26d30s Dec when I quit.

Checking out the unobstructed rectangular view next to my garage using the SKYVIEW phone App, I see that the coordinate range of open sky goes from -47 degrees Dec (south) to the horizon (north), and LST minus 2 hours RA (west) to LST plus 3 hours RA (east).

So from 10 pm to midnight tonight, I can see objects from 16h00m to 23h00m RA within the Dec range noted above. To choose my DSO targets, I simply pick those in view from a big DSO list sorted by RA. I need to start viewing the 16h00m RA objects first, of course, because they're about to go behind an obstruction, and objects nearing 23h00m RA won't be visible until the end of the session.

I'd like to note the following:
- My real unobstructed view map is actually much more detailed than a rectangle. I know my RA range based on LST at every 10 degrees Declination. I spent an hour one day using the SKYVIEW app to map it.
- The SKYVIEW phone app with the augmented reality screen showing what I'm looking at with overlaid RA and Dec coordinates has made this so much easier.
- The SIDEREAL phone app telling me my current Sidereal time has removed the need to estimate using a Planisphere.
- And finally, since Earth rotates 366 times in 365 days, LST and solar clock time slowly drift apart, so if planning what to view a month from now, I need to make that adjustment. I don't worry about that when planning less than a week away.

Hopefully what I wrote above will actually make sense and be useful to someone. I've been doing it for so long that it's 2nd nature, but very hard to write down.

Gary

Edited by GGK, 13 August 2021 - 06:30 PM.

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#33 aeajr

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 07:31 PM

Those who tend to be deep into astronomy will likely use RA/DEC which is an astronomy specific frame of reference.

 

Those who are using equatorial mounts might be more likely to use RA/DEC because that is the reference frame of an EQ mount.

 

The rest of us re more likely to use AltAz as that is the frame of reference of everyday life.

 

I use AltAz to find things in the sky.

 

 

Using an angle gauge to help find targets – AltAz coordinates
https://www.cloudyni...y/#entry8120838

 

Seven Ways To Find Things In the Sky
https://www.cloudyni...e-there-others/


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#34 gmiller123456

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Posted 13 August 2021 - 08:02 PM

Ahhhh!!! (I'm starting to...) Understood, whew, dodged that bullet.

 

Good, now let me add a little more confusion ;)  For nearby objects, like the moon or satellites, the RA/Dec will change significantly with your location.  Two people observing the moon on opposite sides of the Earth (e.g. North pole and South pole) will have RA/Dec coordinates about 2 degrees different from each other, that's four times the diameter of the moon.

 

You'll also notice that Stellarium gives two different RA/Dec coordinates, one called J2000, the other called "of date".  This is due to the fact that the Earth wobbles as it spins and RA/Dec coordinates do change slightly with time.  But the differences are not usually significant for amateurs.



#35 CRAZYeye29325

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Posted 14 August 2021 - 02:32 AM

For nearby objects, like the moon or satellites, the RA/Dec will change significantly with your location.  

 

You'll also notice that Stellarium gives two different RA/Dec coordinates, one called J2000, the other called "of date". 

 

 

Gotcha! Thanks!



#36 GGK

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Posted 14 August 2021 - 08:17 AM

Those who tend to be deep into astronomy will likely use RA/DEC which is an astronomy specific frame of reference.

 

Those who are using equatorial mounts might be more likely to use RA/DEC because that is the reference frame of an EQ mount.

 

The rest of us re more likely to use AltAz as that is the frame of reference of everyday life.

 

I use AltAz to find things in the sky.

 

 

Using an angle gauge to help find targets – AltAz coordinates
https://www.cloudyni...y/#entry8120838

 

Seven Ways To Find Things In the Sky
https://www.cloudyni...e-there-others/

aeajr,

I’m asking this because I’ve recently purchased a small AZ-GTi GoTo Alt/Az mount and refractor for travel and hiking. GoTo works great, but if the batteries die, I need to be able to find things in Alt-Az push-to. 

 

Using an inclinometer and estimating AZ is easy enough once I know where to look.  But that’s my biggest question — how do I know the Alt-Az coordinates since they’re always changing?  Is there a way other than a phone app when no computer is available. 

 

I read through the other posts you linked and it was good info, thanks. 
 

In a September 2020 post, you asked if people using EQ mounts use the setting circles. The setting circles on my CG5 mount are mostly useless, so I don’t.

 

My GEM has geared slow motion controls. One turn on the RA knob is 00h10m RA movement.  One turn on the Dec knob is 2.5 degrees Dec movement. 
 

To find an object, I simply center a bright star with known coordinates, then count the knob turns to get to the new coordinates. And from there to the next. If I choose a bright star near the initial target, polar alignment is not critical, so I usually just polar align using a compass and inclinometer. 

This knob turn counting method works pretty good, but has the same challenges as other methods- knowing what to look for once you arrive, and dealing with Earth’s rotation. 


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#37 aeajr

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Posted 14 August 2021 - 04:06 PM

aeajr,

I’m asking this because I’ve recently purchased a small AZ-GTi GoTo Alt/Az mount and refractor for travel and hiking. GoTo works great, but if the batteries die, I need to be able to find things in Alt-Az push-to. 

 

Using an inclinometer and estimating AZ is easy enough once I know where to look.  But that’s my biggest question — how do I know the Alt-Az coordinates since they’re always changing?  Is there a way other than a phone app when no computer is available. 

 

I read through the other posts you linked and it was good info, thanks. 
 

In a September 2020 post, you asked if people using EQ mounts use the setting circles. The setting circles on my CG5 mount are mostly useless, so I don’t.

 

My GEM has geared slow motion controls. One turn on the RA knob is 00h10m RA movement.  One turn on the Dec knob is 2.5 degrees Dec movement. 
 

To find an object, I simply center a bright star with known coordinates, then count the knob turns to get to the new coordinates. And from there to the next. If I choose a bright star near the initial target, polar alignment is not critical, so I usually just polar align using a compass and inclinometer. 

This knob turn counting method works pretty good, but has the same challenges as other methods- knowing what to look for once you arrive, and dealing with Earth’s rotation. 

Edit:  Reread your post and changed my response.   Sorry for missing your question about no computer.

 

You can print out a table of AltAz coordinates at 5 minute intervals for every object you want to observe.  Seems kinda last century but you can do it.  You can do that at this site. I did it once just to try it but can't think of a reason to do that. 

https://tonightssky.com/MainPage.php

 

 

Why would you have a problem having a phone, tablet, or laptop with you?  Just remember to charge it.  Other than that I can't think of where the problem might be. You don't need phone or internet service. 

 

Why would you not have your smartphone with you?


Edited by aeajr, 15 August 2021 - 08:22 AM.


#38 belliott4488

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Posted 16 August 2021 - 03:54 PM

Edit:  Reread your post and changed my response.   Sorry for missing your question about no computer.

 

You can print out a table of AltAz coordinates at 5 minute intervals for every object you want to observe.  Seems kinda last century but you can do it.  You can do that at this site. I did it once just to try it but can't think of a reason to do that. 

https://tonightssky.com/MainPage.php

 

 

Why would you have a problem having a phone, tablet, or laptop with you?  Just remember to charge it.  Other than that I can't think of where the problem might be. You don't need phone or internet service. 

 

Why would you not have your smartphone with you?

Oh, you kids with your fancy electronics! tongue2.gif 

 

The only reason I lug my laptop along with me is that my current mount uses a camera for polar alignment, but it bugs me that I have to bring it just for that. With the mount I used before, I didn't need a laptop, cell phone, or any other peripheral electronics, and I enjoyed the simplicity. There's something very satisfying about being able to operate with just your smarts and charts.

 

Of course, I'm as lazy and the next guy - probably lazier - so yes, I do have a go-to mount and enjoy the convenience. I'm also looking into auto-guiding for AP, so yeah - I'll be fully computerized before too long. But it's by choice, not because I have to!! laugh.gif



#39 aeajr

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 08:35 AM

Oh, you kids with your fancy electronics! tongue2.gif

 

The only reason I lug my laptop along with me is that my current mount uses a camera for polar alignment, but it bugs me that I have to bring it just for that. With the mount I used before, I didn't need a laptop, cell phone, or any other peripheral electronics, and I enjoyed the simplicity. There's something very satisfying about being able to operate with just your smarts and charts.

 

Of course, I'm as lazy and the next guy - probably lazier - so yes, I do have a go-to mount and enjoy the convenience. I'm also looking into auto-guiding for AP, so yeah - I'll be fully computerized before too long. But it's by choice, not because I have to!! laugh.gif

Everything in this hobby is by choice, not because you have to.  It is a hobby, not a job or a career. 

 

 

Telescopes, paper charts, computers, smartphones, eyepieces, these are all tools.  Like the wrenches and screwdrivers I have in my tool box from when I was a backyard mechanic.  I tend to go to the ones that I know and trust and don't necessarily have or use the latest gadgets.   

 

Same goes for my astronomy equipment. I started in astronomy about 6 years ago at a time when GoTo mounts are common and the computer technology is fairly reliable.  So using computers with astronomy seems natural to me. 

 

I grew up with technology as I had an almost 40 year career in technology sales, so it is as natural for me to use a GoTo/PushTo mount, laptop or smartphone.  Paper charts and star hopping are wonderful but I have never taken to them.  They offer some great experiences, but not experiences I am looking for.

 

Same goes for my RC flying hobby.  I started that almost 20  years ago just as ready built model planes, ready to fly models with electric motors were becoming good.   Building a plane from a wood kit and popping a liquid fuel engine on the nose is something that I have done but not something that I care to do.  I am a flyer much more than a builder and all electric.  I do most of my building in the form of repair and maintenance.  I fly electric and pure gliders mostly. 

 

So, enjoy the hobby any way you like.  If we had a chance to observe together I would enjoy learning from you, and would hope I could share something too. But I would have no desire to change you or how you enjoy the hobby. 


Edited by aeajr, 17 August 2021 - 08:59 AM.

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#40 belliott4488

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 11:06 AM

Everything in this hobby is by choice, not because you have to.  It is a hobby, not a job or a career. 

 

...

So, enjoy the hobby any way you like.  If we had a chance to observe together I would enjoy learning from you, and would hope I could share something too. But I would have no desire to change you or how you enjoy the hobby. 

Amen to that! smile.gif This is way too complicated an endeavor for there to be any single "right way" to do things. It's all about doing what we enjoy in whatever way works for us.

 

I was really only responding to your question, "Why would you have a problem having a phone, tablet, or laptop with you?" - there could be reasons!

 

Honestly, though, I think this can quickly turn into the latest version of that old, tired, (and frankly pointless) debate over whether technology causes people to lose basic skills. I was a kid when electronic pocket calculators first came on the scene, and there were tons of objections to kids using them because they'd lose the ability to do basic arithmetic. The kids, of course, responded, "So what? I've got a calculator." They were both right.

 

When I first returned to amateur astronomy last year I was surprised to learn about "Go-to" mounts. I thought it removed one of the things I liked most about astronomy, namely navigating the skies by using star charts and setting circles on an EQ mount. At first I resisted the "new way", but then I realized that insisting on doing things the old way was (literally) equivalent to a sailor insisting on navigating across the ocean using a sextant. Yes, it's fun to learn, but wouldn't it make more sense just to use your GPS?

 

Of course, sailors do still learn to navigate with a sextant (I think), since that could be a life-saving skill if their batteries fail. I doubt anyone has died because the batteries failed on his go-to mount. Probably he just got more sleep that night than he would have otherwise. wink.gif


Edited by belliott4488, 17 August 2021 - 11:07 AM.


#41 GGK

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 11:13 AM

Edit:  Reread your post and changed my response.   Sorry for missing your question about no computer.

 

You can print out a table of AltAz coordinates at 5 minute intervals for every object you want to observe.  Seems kinda last century but you can do it.  You can do that at this site. I did it once just to try it but can't think of a reason to do that. 

https://tonightssky.com/MainPage.php

 

 

Why would you have a problem having a phone, tablet, or laptop with you?  Just remember to charge it.  Other than that I can't think of where the problem might be. You don't need phone or internet service. 

 

Why would you not have your smartphone with you?

I looked at the Tonight's Sky App early on and it looks like it would be very helpful if I needed to learn what will be visible at my observing time.  However, I don't pick the targets ahead of time, so wouldn't know what to print anyway.  The calculated Alt-Az coordinates must be based on target RA and Dec, plus my location and time, but I don't know the math behind it.

 

Regarding not wanting to use a laptop or phone --

 

I use the Alt-Az mount as grab and go, travel, hiking, etc., so need to keep equipment down to a minimum - basically the scope and mount, a hip-pouch with a few eye pieces, and a folding camp stool if I feel like carrying it.  A laptop doesn't fit in the package.  Even if just staying around my house like I did last night, I move the scope and mount around to see different clear areas of sky.  Front of the house, back of the house, neighbor's front yard across the street, etc.  If I was carrying a laptop with me, I'd just end up stepping on it sooner or later.  If I'm setting up the bigger scope in a fixed location, I'm using GoTo and use the mount software to take me to the objects that I select.

 

The phone screen tends to mess up my dark adapted vision and prevents me from seeing as much as possible. I know this is a personal thing that does not apply to many people. When using the GoTo phone app with the screen dimmed enough that it doesn't blast my eyes, it's very difficult to read anything but the main buttons.  I can see enough to know I'm pressing the correct arrow or that I selected M13, for example, but I can't read the details about M13. I've read comments from some people who view with one eye and read with the other, but I view with both eyes - each eye sees different details for some reason.

 

Lastly, it's just a personal want or preference.  When I select a manual mount, it's because I want to use a mount without all the computer assist hardware.  Kind of peaceful for a change and forces me to slow down.  It's why I like the CG5.  Quick and easy manual mount - just not very portable.  My small Alt-Az mount has GoTo capability, so if I need to use a computer to find objects anyway, I'll probably just power up the GoTo.



#42 PNW

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 11:43 AM

On the practical side, my front yard has tree's with gaps between them. I use Alt-Az because I know where the tree's and gaps are.


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#43 aeajr

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 11:44 AM

snip..

 

Lastly, it's just a personal want or preference.  When I select a manual mount, it's because I want to use a mount without all the computer assist hardware.  Kind of peaceful for a change and forces me to slow down.  It's why I like the CG5.  Quick and easy manual mount - just not very portable.  My small Alt-Az mount has GoTo capability, so if I need to use a computer to find objects anyway, I'll probably just power up the GoTo.

If you have a GoTo mount you have no need for a phone or computer to provide real time AltAz coordinates. 


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#44 Tony Flanders

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 02:57 PM

If you have a GoTo mount you have no need for a phone or computer to provide real time AltAz coordinates.


Right. That's because the computer is hidden away from you, inside the GoTo controller.

#45 Tony Flanders

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 03:04 PM

Using an inclinometer and estimating AZ is easy enough once I know where to look.  But that’s my biggest question — how do I know the Alt-Az coordinates since they’re always changing?  Is there a way other than a phone app when no computer is available.


Sure, it's a simple spherical co-ordinate transform. If you bring a large amount of paper and a pencil, plus a set of trig tables, then you can do the math all on your own. Or if it's not too high-tech, use a slide rule.
 

But if you want to stay in the spirit of low tech, why not learn to star-hop like the rest of us manual alt-az mount users? It's much easier and more natural.


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#46 GGK

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Posted 17 August 2021 - 03:48 PM

Sure, it's a simple spherical co-ordinate transform. If you bring a large amount of paper and a pencil, plus a set of trig tables, then you can do the math all on your own. Or if it's not too high-tech, use a slide rule.
 

But if you want to stay in the spirit of low tech, why not learn to star-hop like the rest of us manual alt-az mount users? It's much easier and more natural.

Hey, although I'm at the beginning of the calculator generation, I think I might have a pocket circular slide rule somewhere!. After 23 years in the hobby, I'm still just a beginner at actual star hopping, but will have fun improving those skills.  




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