Tuesday, 31 December 2013

I just bought: 'The Cambridge Star Atlas' by Wil Tirion

Have just purchased "The Cambridge Star Atlas". Reviews in Amazon are excellent and highly recommend this atlas for naked observing, binoculars and small telescopes. Ideal for me.

Although I am using Stellarium to plan star hops ahead of my observing session I think that this atlas will allow me to be a bit more spontaneous when in the field. Another tool to add to my essential beginners kit.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Observation log template

Below I have provided an attachment to a sample observation log template that I have created in Microsoft Word. I have combined different ideas gathered from various internet searches. I use this template to plan my observations ahead of a session and also to record information during the session.

You can download the template and use it as it is or modify the template for your own needs.

About the Template:
  • The top section of the template is where you can log the basic details of your observation. This section is created as an MS Word table so you could easily populate it when opened in Word or just print it out and populate it manually when you are out observing. The section has cells to record basic information of your observation like the object you are observing, the date and time of the observation, location, equipment used and comments. 
  • The bottom section is where you can provide screen-prints from a planetarium software with steps of the star-hop to your chosen object (or target). Stellarium is a free planetarium program that I use to create my star-hop screen-prints ahead of my observing session. I create a wide view of the part of the sky were the object is and then use the ocular functionality to generate views as expected through my binoculars. Hopefully the example provided in the template demonstrates my intended use for this section. (Tip: the settings in Stellarium allow you to save images of the view in negative to a folder of your choice by simply typing CTRL+S)

Thursday, 26 December 2013

My beginner's kit is coming together

Here's a list of my beginner's Astronomy kit with a picture of some from the list. 

  • Meade 10x50 Binocular with case
  • The Practical Astronomy (Book)
  • Philip's Stargazing With Binoculars (Book)
  • Red hand held torch
  • Red head torch
  • Flask
  • Walking boots (with wiggle room)
  • Benny hat
  • Fingerless Gloves
  • Thermal socks
  • Warm jumper with under layers (ie, long johns)
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Folder for Stellarium printouts
  • Notepad and pens
  • Extra torch batteries
  • Fold away camping chair
  • Fold away camping table
  • Charged phone (very important if you are observing alone)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

My first post

Spent the morning in the library reading recently ordered ’Philip’s Stargazing With Binoculars’. A must for any keen beginner to astronomy. Certainly if you are planning to purchase your first binoculars. The book explains the various benefits of different sizes of binocular and what to look out for when making your purchase. I, on the other hand was a bit impatient and had bought my binoculars already; a £40 10x50 Meade binocular from Amazon. However, Meade did come well recommended in terms of optics. Only time will tell if I was too hasty.

After reading the book I am keen to find out more about image stabilisation binoculars. A bit on the pricey side but the technology seems pretty sound and reviews speak of amazing viewing you can get. I think I will put a posting out to HantsAstro to see what the group think of IS binoculars. Will come back with the input I gather.  

Lastly, I read the Binocular Observer’s Year section of the book to see what the December sky in the northern hemisphere has to offer. Some good ideas captured here. I've pulled together an evenings observing that will include observing the half or quarter moon (this will also be a good opportunity to test my binoculars to see if I get any optical defects, for example, flares coming from the Moon when moving around the field of view). Also planned for the session are the following, the star fields of the Milky Way in and around the Perseus constellation, the Pleiades, M34, Kembles cascade and NGC 663. I will plan my session in Stellarium and get out to one of the sites I’ve been looking into. I’ll post my logs once a clear evening comes up.