Saturday, March 21, 2009

What to look at ?

My oh my! That's a big question. I am always looking forward to my next turn at the ocular (eyepiece). I have grand plans for the night but seldom get it done. Now for some like me it's all good. My problems is I will be gazing at say... the Swan Nebula M17 and spend hours on that thing using every filter I own, every eyepiece I have with me, and even swap in a barlow. Do not ask me why I used the barlow on a DSO (Deep Space Object)... I will then sweep the area around said wonder looking for "stuff"and after what seems like a few minutes, I look up at my watch and it reads 5:30 AM! Well crap that was fun but unproductive. Hey sometimes I am totally OK with that. I might have had a list in my head that I wanted to see that night but went up in smoke the second I see something amazing in the eyepiece.On the other hand there are those who are agenda driven folks. They make out a list using the sky software or Celestron touring feature or any of a dozen different programs out there or grab there favorite star atlas and pick a region and write down a list of objects to gander at. They set up the scope and proceed to knock them off one by one till they throw up the touchdown sign Done!!! Sure, they look at all of those bits of heaven but did they drink it in, use averted vision ( looking to the right or left of an object to see finer detail of the target), sketch it? The bottom line is did they have fun and get fulfillment from the run? If that is a Yes then there ya go, another satisfied customer!!! Most folks stand their ground somewhere in the middle. Shoot that is where I want to be. To make that happen I have learned to make a list of objects in a certain area of the sky. I use an Atlas or a chart or sometimes a application on my Computer. I still love to pour over a Map (on paper) Old school Man! I make a list of ten or so items that will be observed on that night. Some will be challenging to find some will be just show stoppers I might try to add to my Hershel list or the Hickson compact group list of objects found. As maps go, I always take my Orion Deepmap 600. It is 33" X 21". The map is easy to read and gives enough objects to look at for just about anyone. The map is also reasonably priced. As atlases go, there are many to choose from. For the beginner just starting out in the world of Astronomy I would pick the Cambridge Star Atlas 2000 field addition. You might want a more better one down the road but this one will carry you far and well. Now as for applications for the computer, Cartes Du Ciel is my pick. Number one, the program is free. It can drive most goto scopes out there via ASCOM drivers. Yeah I know... If it is free, how good could it be? Very good is the answer. The controls are pretty straight forward. I have only good things to say about it. Now, If you just have to spend money on an app. pick Starry Night Pro or Pro Plus You will not regret it. It will do just about anything you need except grill a steak for you! There are thousands of reviews on this application so you do not need another in depth one from me. Check it out. Look at all the features it has to offer you. Then, throw down the cash. It will grow with you. You might want to start astrophotography one day. In the beginning phase of all this, I would stick to the first three. All of that for under a hundred. The Cambridge star atlas field addition is a tad expensive but worth it. I know lots of folks that get the loose leaf maps version and do very well with them for way more cheaper. Now all that said, there are many choices out there and we all have our faves to be sure. Those are mine. I think they are solid and not too expensive for you as I know you are eyeballing that Ethos !!!
Clear skies and good seeing too!!!

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