I like this new tool....a lot

I like this new tool....a lot

Postby edward-fraini » Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:58 pm

At the last Amateur presentation Don Selle spoke to the value of having a work flow to improve the efficiency of our observing. He also shared a new tool for doing that, AstroPlanner. I took his message to heart and decided to formalize what I do. A lot of my observing time is ad hoc either driven by opportunity, sky condition, or following an Astronomy League Program. Often this leads to jumping all around the sky. But I always try to have something challenging that might only take an hour or so of the evening. This is the part I like plan for ahead of time. For me step one is to focus on one group of objects like planetary Nebula or in this case for next trip I picked galaxies. To facilitate star hopping I like to build a plan around objects that little movement around the sky. It is much easier to star hop if you have a group of objects that are plus/minus 30 min in RA and similarly close in Dec.
Step 1 in my plan is to select a constellation I know will be in a good viewing area. Using a large DOB means for me that the choice constellation will be about 45 to 60 Degree altitude. This puts me well above 2X air mass but not so high that I have to spend a lot of time on a ladder. For my next outing I have chosen Ursa Major, specifically I want to explore what might be inside the cup of the Big Dipper. Translation is that I will want to look for challenge objects between 11 - 12 hours RA and 52 – 62 deg Dec.
Step 2 is to pull out the reference material; you can use a lot of different software’s to manage this step. I still refer primarily to “Burnham’s Celestial Handbook”. It is organized by constellations and has object tables sorted by RA so that makes it easy to find what I am looking for. My second data filter is magnitude. For my eyes I have to use all the tricks to see objects between 10 and 11 Magnitude with a typical Columbus sky. This gives us a list of seven objects clustered close to gather in my target zone. They are: NGC’s 3610, 3613, 3642, 3690, 3898, 3982, 3998. A number of them are Herschel objects which I will log for that program.
Step 3 I mark the locations on my sky charts with erasable markers so they will be easy to see in the field.

Confession! The above is my old way. Enter the functionality of AstroPlanner.

Here is the sequence inside AstroPlanner and my new work flow.
1. Click on File/New or Control n
2. Select “new plan with no objects” then “OK” (may just open a new plan and not ask this question)
3. Click on the “Search Catalogue/s”
4. Select catalog (I picked Herschel 1)
5. Set search parameters for RA/Dec/Mag/Type/Constellation (a trick here is to NOT select a specific scope if you want to control the Mag range)
6. After objects are found click on “Add All”
7. Cycle back to 3 to add objects from a separate catalog and then instead of “Add All” click on “Add non duplicates”
This new tool helps me prepare much more efficiently. One last trick, I have discovered that if you are on the Field of View Tab you can use “Control/Shift/C” to select a constellation to view, then center as desired by right clicking on a star or object and selecting “Center on Cursor”. This aids in star hoping and to some degree mimic’s the strength of SkyTools for finding your objects.

Clear Skies-

Ed F
Posts: 166
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:34 am

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