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My first TSP and easing into Star Hopping

PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 12:21 pm
by bram-weisman
I've been into Astronomy since 2003. I like GOTO for tracking, and for finding objects between sucker holes when doing outreach (until last year, most of my observing was at outreach). My first night at TSP, I wanted to "man up" and do nothing but starhopping. It wasn't easy. Then I decided it was more important for me to see a great number of objects in great TSP detail while I had the opportunity, so star hopping went on the back burner. The poor weather was a big factor in this decision.

But for the smaller, dimmer objects, a certain amount of star hopping may be required. GOTO might get you close, but you really need to pay attention to the field and verify that you are looking at what you think. It became quite routine for me to start with my 17.3mm EP, make a little adjustment to match the chart (Skytools EP simulations are great), then increase the magnification and repeat if necessary. I'd say this is the second half of star hopping. Managed to knock out 13 Markarian galaxies one mediocre night and looked at a few old favorites along the way. I probably could have been more productive if I had quite on a few tricky objects rather than spending 45 minutes and still not finding them.

On the last and best night of TSP, I finished my Markarians, and then decided to work on the other list (In Living Color) and resolved myself to having another go at pure star hopping. I knocked out quite a few with ease. I used the Telescope view in Skytools to first match the naked eye (Telrad) view, then the finder and finally the eyepiece (again sometimes cycling through EP increasing magnification). As I did this, I tried to pay attention to the constellation name, and this time spent will surely help burn the constellation into my memory. Most memorable in this regard was surely Coma Berenices, because I must have spent 30 minutes on the wrong piece of sky, struggling to match the EP view. I finally went back to the naked eye view and zoomed out to see the bigger picture and discovered I was about 5 degrees off. Coma Berenices is a very subtle constellation, compared to it's bigger neighbors with brighter primary stars.

I'll never knock GOTO. Setting up and verifying your GOTO alignment is a skill in it's own right. Kudos to those who can do it. A pitfall of GOTO scope "tours" is that the computer in the handset knows nothing of your sky brightness and will happily slew to an object that you cannot see unless you are in a really dark location. I don't think the mfg care to adjust the tours to make them appropriate for the aperture, either. So for me SkyTools has been the single best investment in my observing routine, whether using GOTO or star hopping.

Finally, I saw some incredible objects at TSP. The Veil Nebula is mind blowing in beauty and vastness. I would have probably never attempted it in my driveway in Katy, but now I have. It was impressive how much of it I could see, and I will add it to my list of favorites for outreach. But the view at TSP was so superior. I hope to not miss another TSP and plan to do Oki-Tex each year as well.

- Bram Weisman

Re: My first TSP and easing into Star Hopping

PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 1:28 pm
by steve-munsey
Excellent post Bram!!!!
I can't wait to hear from you and Mark about your TSP adventures the next time we meet at GBP.

Re: My first TSP and easing into Star Hopping

PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 6:41 pm
by mark-ferraz
Yeah and thank you Bram for being my partner in crime for a long rainy week, along with many other fine folks. TSP is 1/2 sky 1/2 old home week for me. Felt good to be home...

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