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General Astronomy => General Astronomy & Observing => Topic started by: skelevchasul on December 24, 2017, 01:29:21 AM

Title: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: skelevchasul on December 24, 2017, 01:29:21 AM
Just how many ways are there to locate goals?  What's your favorite?

As a newcomer, one of my greatest concerns was to be sure I'd be able to find things.  I had some success with celebrity hopping with binoculars but once I got my very first telescope I selected a GoTo bracket.  I am very happy with my decision.  But I've since learned other techniques.So I had been wondering as to just how many ways there are to find goals and interested in what people like best.

Here's What I know of so far:

<strong>GoTo</strong> -- fully computerized such as locating and tracking.

<strong>PushTo </strong>-- Computerized aid in finding targets but no tracking

<strong>Star Hopping</strong> -- Start in a bright star then go there and proceed and you should be on it.  (like turn by turn directions in your car) Usually exercised in a paper chart or with a computer software to work out the measures of the hop.  If it is possible to see the guide stars and affirming patterns that this should do the job nicely.

<strong>Setting circles within an equatorial mount</strong> -- Uses Right Ascension and Declination coordinate system that is unique to astronomy -- may read coordinates from a paper graph then use the setting circle dials on the telescope to point the scope.

<strong>Altitude and Azimuth</strong> -- Height above zero angle along with a degree angle from North.  I've tried this using an angle gauge for the elevation component.  I believe this is worked with a real time program on computer or phone to supply the coordinates as these change constantly.

These are the ones that I know of.  Are there others?I have used:

GoTo -- Meade ETX 80 and ETX 125 -- Love it!

PushTo -- Orion Intelliscope- Love it!

Star Hopping -- Most success with binoculars and bright goals.  Less so with my telescopes in the majority of my light polluted skies as I can not see lots of the stars I'd love to see in order to do the hop or to observe the pattern that would affirm I am in the ideal location.

AltAz coordinates -- Tried this recently with an electronic angle gauge for the elevation.  Employed Star hopping to approximate azimuth position.  Don't tried with a compass or an azimuth degree gauge on the extent.

Never attempted setting circle dials in an EQ mount.

Are there others?

Which do you use?

Which would you enjoy?
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: bauradoubpay on December 24, 2017, 05:44:33 AM
On my imaging rig: Automatic arrangement with plate solving.

On the dob: Star hopping!
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Michael Zamora on December 24, 2017, 10:52:36 AM
Quote
<strong>On my imaging rig: Automated sequence with plate solving.  </strong>

About the dob: Star hopping!

That is a new one to me.  I'm not into AP.  Can you explain this method?   Is it only for AP or may visual men and women use it too?
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: settmagganen on December 28, 2017, 03:21:21 AM
Push-to does not necessarily mean no tracking. It just means that the motor parts and the object location are not tied together. Like encoders+computer on a GP mount or G-11/GM-8.
Star-hopping just means you work your way to an object by using nearby stars to get closer and closer to it.
There is also scanning, where you put in a WF eyepiece then start moving back and forth in an area shifting a little each time until you find it. That's one I may have developed/invented myself back in the late 1950's. You can also use star-hopping to get to the area you plan to scan.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Troy Furlong on December 28, 2017, 03:51:50 AM
Mostly GOTO. Used to star hop but getting old and lazy. My favorite way with my dob is to use Argo-Navis DSC system. I can set it to show me all of the galaxies or other objects in a particular constellation. Much less moving around.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: mosretouless on December 29, 2017, 01:12:07 AM
For destination observing I use GoTo, for celestial walkabouts I like to star-hop. Sometimes I combine the two using Sky Safari via SkyFi.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Greg Fleming on January 03, 2018, 12:42:09 PM
I personally love Go-To, its very convenient and makes it so easy to observe. I know this method kind of takes away from the "hunt" but there are times where you just want to point the scope at something right away instead of star hopping there and not waste any time.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Bryan Sonian on January 04, 2018, 01:55:27 PM
I use all of those options, depending on which rig I'm using.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: aftilicomp on January 08, 2018, 12:44:00 AM
Quote
Quote

On my imaging rig: Automated sequence with plate solving.

On the dob: Star hopping!

That's a new one to me. I am not into AP. Can you describe this method?  Is it only for AP or can visual people use it too?
I use Sequence Generator pro for capturing images. One optional part you can do is integrate 'plate solving' into your sequence. Essentially the program uses the image taken to locate exactly where you are on the Equatorial grid by using a plate solving program. Once it knows your exact position, it figures out the difference between your position and the intended target, and automatically issues slew commands to get you there. This can be done over the internet, or you can download the plate solving database for your imaging scale for 'faster' lookups.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Scott Bentley on January 10, 2018, 09:08:03 AM
Goto and plate solve
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: pesorramidd on January 11, 2018, 10:02:15 AM
I use Star Hopping, but when that Pittsburgh Digital Angle Gauge arrives, I'll try Altitude/Azimuth too.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: jumphindnore on January 11, 2018, 02:25:37 PM
For the last 15 years or so, I have used a telrad along with telrad star charts for the most of the M objects, most of the time. Finding Ngc objects was a little more difficult, I finally used Saguaro Astronomy Clubs 100 Best of the Ngc's.telrad charts. Now I have a 16 inch truss with ArgoNavis, which is push-to {like orion's intelliscope} with no tracking. I still like the thrill of the hunt, and I don't use the AN all the time. Once I do a two star alignment on AN, the controller stays accurate all night long, and I just dial in what I want.

David
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Dave Matthews on January 12, 2018, 03:59:09 AM
I used to be very good at scanning and star hopping with my old Dob. As I got older, it seems my vision, patience and neck flexibility are not what they used to be. That's why I now prefer GoTo.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Adam Rice on January 13, 2018, 04:59:34 AM
Lately it's been mostly star hopping using sky charts. Once in a while I use go to method, mostly for difficult objects not near any reference star
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Todd Topcic on January 13, 2018, 06:03:41 AM
I star hop but I find that to be several different methods all lumped together. Most people
think of plotting a path from a known star to an unknown position. That takes too long for
my tastes. I've long learned the constellations and found it much faster (90% of the time)
to just triangulate the position from a star chart. Having a powerful finder scope and dark
skies helps a lot using this method. Usually I can just point my scope to the correct position
with several hundred of the easiest to find targets anyway. Finding something more obscure
for the first time is my biggest challenge. When I struggle it usually is because I'm using the
wrong magnification/exit pupil so when I go back more prepared, I find it.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: riaherrvodo on January 14, 2018, 05:27:28 AM
Great posts folks. Interesting to see how people enjoy the sky.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: quiterhardpho on January 17, 2018, 11:37:26 PM
This is an interesting topic... This is how it works for me:

- Star hopping: I started out with the C-8 and used setting circles but I didn't take me long to realize that mechanically pointing the scope at an object was not satisfying, I wanted to be able to know exactly where in the sky that object was, I wanted to be able to look up at the sky and in my mind, know exactly where that object was hidden.

I have been using electronic charts since I ran Chris Marriott's SkyMap 2.2.3 on a 486 Laptop sometime back in the 1990's. Then there was the Planetarium for the Palm running on various Palm devices including Tungstens and some Sony Clies. When Sky Safari hit the scene 6 or 7 years ago, I knew that was the future and currently I am running Sky Safari 5 Pro.

Equipment wise, it's Telrads, RACI finders, and a variety of SWA, UWA and UUWA (100 degree) eyepieces in relatively fast scopes ranging from under to three inches to over 20 inches. I do a lot of star hopping in the main eyepiece.. I enjoy observing galaxies that are at the limit of my perception, to see them, most often I have to know exactly where they are in relation to rather faint stars. Just knowing the object is centered in the field is not enough, I have to be able to "direct" my averted vision and awareness.

I am not in a hurry, I spend a lot of time looking through a telescope, more than 500 hours a year. But I find star hopping is pretty efficient for searching out multiple objects in a particular region. And, I will be 70 next year, I am still learning, still getting better, still developing my observing skills.

- GOTO: One night I was testing out my CG-5 ASGT, I had it point at NGC-2301. It pointed at NGC-2301. That's the only new to me object I have ever found using GOTO.

Digital Level: When Venus and Mercury are in their extreme crescent phases, they are low on the horizon and difficult to find in the twilight. I'll use a Craftsman digital level to locate them..

- Serendipity, the "Discovery Mode":Star hopping, PushTo, Goto, Plate solving, these are techniques one uses to locate known objects, objects that someone else has found, that you have the location for and you are just going there. But there's entirely different mode of observing.. It might be just scanning the sky with a pair of binoculars and seeing something and then wondering, "Hey, what's that?". It might just stop there or maybe a larger instrument is brought in and the object is viewed in greater detail. The object might even be identified by any number of techniques.

Such a serendipitous discovery might happen during a star hop.. Or it might happen when one is just wandering around, looking to see what there is to see. Objects found this way are somehow extra special, they are the result of careful attention at the eyepiece.. The Hickson 68 galaxy cluster is a favorite and one that was the result of serendipity. NGC6445, a mag 10.9 planetary and NGC 6440, a mag 9.2 Globular near M23 are within about 1/3 degree of each other and were a lucky find.. The list of objects I have stumbled across is a long but it is something I enjoy..

Jon
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Cesar Rojas on January 18, 2018, 02:54:28 AM
Quote
How many ways are there to locate targets? What is your favorite?

As a newbie, one of my greatest concerns was to be sure I would be able to find things. I had some success with star hopping with binoculars but when I got my first telescope I selected a GoTo mount. I am very happy with my decision. But I have since learned other techniques.So I was wondering as to how many ways there are to find targets and interested in what people like best.

Here is what I know of so far:

GoTo – fully computerized including finding and tracking.

PushTo – Computerized help in finding targets but no tracking

Star Hopping – Start at a bright star then go there and go there and you should be on it. (like turn by turn directions in your car) Usually worked out on a paper chart or with a computer program to work out the steps of the hop. If you can see the guide stars and confirming patterns this should work well.

Setting circles on an equatorial mount – Uses Right Ascension and Declination coordinate system that is unique to astronomy – can read coordinates from a paper chart then use the setting circle dials on the telescope to point the scope.

Altitude and Azimuth – Height above zero angle and a degree angle from North. I have tried this using an angle gauge for the altitude component. I think this is best worked with a real time program on computer or phone to provide the coordinates as these change constantly.

Those are the ones I know of. Are there others?I have used:

GoTo – Meade ETX 80 and ETX 125 – Love it!

PushTo – Orion Intelliscope- Love it!

Star Hopping – Most success with binoculars and bright targets. Less so with my telescopes in most of my very light polluted sky as I can't see many of the stars I would like to see in order to do the hop or to see the pattern that would confirm I am in the right place.

AltAz coordinates – Tried this recently using a digital angle gauge for the altitude. Used Star hopping to approximate azimuth position. Have not tried using a compass or an azimuth degree gauge on the scope.

Never tried setting circle dials on an EQ mount.

Are there others?

Which do you use?

Which do you like?

Psionics.

- Jim
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Ryan Wilton on January 18, 2018, 03:59:02 AM
My favorite?

Star hopping with a plain vanilla six inch dob using a rigel quickfinder, 26mm Super Plossl, and a DeepMap 600.

I love my Questar. I love my robo-scope and its premium optics. But for just plain fun give me a simple dob and a clear night.

Fred
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: kondcongrese on January 18, 2018, 04:54:19 AM
I scream at the sky....but then, I'm an old man....sometimes it even works.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Joe Hall on January 18, 2018, 06:12:18 AM
Mainly goto, half the reason being scopes are all relatively small, 102mm is the biggest and that sort of excludes the faint hard to locate ones.
Also there are sufficent objects that I suspect I will not run out of them and therefore have to go bigger.

In the list you missed out "Blind Luck".  as in what the heck is that ???
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: trualolalun on January 18, 2018, 06:41:42 AM
Several people have mentioned the,serendipitous discovery, random hit, blind luck or similar terms. You are right, I left that out. Maybe I should add it.

I have had nights were I grab my Orion XT8i, leave the computer off, grab my 38 mm for a 31.5/2.2 degree FOV and just go exploring, scanning, a cosmic walk in the park. If I find something interesting I will linger on it. I might even jump to the 25 mm or the zoom to investigate more deeply. But usually when I am exploring like that I stay with the low power wide eyepieces and just wander.

I never thought of it as a way to find things but I guess it is. I have found many interesting things that way. Some I later applied an NGC or an M number, to but most were just interesting.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: coachroninil on January 18, 2018, 07:47:18 AM
Star-hopping is actually a smorgasbord of techniques, encompassing pretty much everything that does not rely on any mechanical or electronic aid. At the simplest end, for targets that are visible to the unaided eye, you just point the telescope at them using your finder, whatever that might be, and start observing. That's a mighty important technique, since naked-eye-visible targets, ranging from the Moon and planets to bright double stars to bright deep-sky objects, still form a pretty big fraction of all my observing. I am sure that almost everybody who has responded here uses this technique a lot, too.

Next up in complexity, for objects that I have observed frequently, I just point the telescope at the place in the sky where I know the object is to be found. In reasonable skies, I can find about half the Messier objects either this way or by the first method mentioned above.

Then there's the "geometric method" outlined by Pennington in The All-Year Messier Marathon, which works best with a red-circle finder, ranging all the way up to painstakingly stepping field to field through the eyepiece of the main telescope, matching up detailed star charts to what you see through the eyepiece.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: deschwobbmettgod on January 20, 2018, 08:46:12 PM
There are several techniques with equatorial mounts that stop short of full-fledged setting circles. One is to use the setting circles to offset from a known nearby naked-eye star. That doesn't require a truly precise polar alignment, as using setting circles from scratch does.

Another is the right-ascension sweep, where you find a nearby star with the same declination, and just sweep along in RA until the object appears.

A related method, which works for any undriven scope, is to find a nearby bright star with the same declination but lower RA, and then wait until the object drifts into the field of view.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: viogreetnifi on January 20, 2018, 09:54:33 PM
A popular technique for people with scopes too big to fit easily with Go To is to buy a small, cheap Go To scope such as your ETX-80 and mount a laser pointer on it. You use Go To to locate the object with the small scope, then sight on the laser-pointer beam using the big scope.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: erenlinra on January 21, 2018, 07:25:37 AM
Quote
There are several techniques with equatorial mounts that stop short of full-fledged setting circles. One is to use the setting circles to offset from a known nearby naked-eye star. That doesn't require a truly precise polar alignment, as using setting circles from scratch does.

Another is the right-ascension sweep, where you find a nearby star with the same declination, and just sweep along in RA until the object appears.

A related method, which works for any undriven scope, is to find a nearby bright star with the same declination but lower RA, and then wait until the object drifts into the field of view.


Similar techniques are possible with alt-az mounts and a electronic star chart. It requires finding a star with the same altitude or azimuth as the object of interest and then just moving to the object in the proper mode. Of course doing as the night progresses, a new star must be located.

Stuff like this works but I find that star hopping with an electronic chart that shows me the correctly oriented sky view is relatively simple and straight forward.

One little technique I use when star hopping: I align the finder cross hairs with the altitude and azimuth axes of the scope. With an RACI finder that is mounted so the eyepiece is either horizontal or vertical, this is natural. But if the finder is mounted so the eyepiece is at an angle as is commonly the case with a Dobsonian, what seems like up-down and right-left in the finder rotated. With a finder with a removable eyepiece, aligning the cross hairs is easily done, it's the last step of the finder alignment. I just pick a star and raise and lower the scope while rotating the eyepiece until the star travels parallel to the cross hair. With a fixed eyepiece finder, I actually loosen the eyepiece and rotate it, hoping it won't later move.

When the cross hairs of the finder are aligned with the altitude and azimuth axes of the electronic chart, it makes pointing the scope relative to the star field much easier. With one cross hair on one star and the other cross hair on a second star (or relative to a second star), there is no guess work involved.

Jon
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: slotiniphin on January 26, 2018, 12:41:01 AM
Wow! Lots of good info here!

My location exercises are typically a mix of "star hoping" (no, I didn't misspell it, as in "hoping" I can see something ) and triangulation. The Telrad® and RACI usually get me where I need to go, using a combo of planisphere, S&amp;T Jumbo Atlas, and SS5+. I also have ALT/AZ degree circle/digi angle gauge assistance on my 10 inch. With the LP problem I contend with, I knew I would need all the help I could muster. There have only been a couple of things I went after that I failed to locate, and I was never sure why... every method I tried told me I was on it, but I could not "see" what I was after... prime example is M13 in Hercules. I can only see a couple stars naked eye there, so I resort to the Dob's az circle and angle gauge with coordinates from SS5+. I have verified the accuracy of my set up, it will take me to any target I choose... except this one... well, I am sure I have been on it, I just can't see it... not even a blurry blob...

I may try some of the other methods mentioned here...

Happy hunting!

CB
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Jasper Banks on January 30, 2018, 01:52:28 AM
Quote
A popular technique for people with scopes too big to fit easily with Go To is to buy a small, cheap Go To scope such as your ETX-80 and mount a laser pointer on it. You use Go To to locate the object with the small scope, then sight on the laser-pointer beam using the big scope.

Yes, we call her "Sybil" after Deiphobe from Virgil. She guides us through the Overworld.

- Jim
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Danny Rodriguez on January 30, 2018, 04:24:07 AM
None of the above. My favorite is when the object is in plain sight, and I just aim the scope at it. No hopping, no alignment process, and no searching for a needle in a haystack. There's actually a lot of objects that fit this criteria, moreso when you're under dark sky.

After that, I'm liking my go-to with StarSense auto-align. It takes under a minute, just enough time to sip a drink, stretch, check your observing list etc. It's just so much more civilized. I'm not sure if I'd ever give a name to a telescope, but I may name my go-to system. Maybe Jeeves or Alfred?
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Jeff Ramirez on January 31, 2018, 03:10:17 AM
I started out with a cheap refractor so star hopping was my only option then. I then upgraded to a 6" Newtonian with setting circles. From there I got a 10" dob with push to encoders. I got my 8" LX200 with goto a few years later. Last year I deforked the LX200 and got an Atlas. I love goto. The kids love watching the scope move itself when I do public observing and often goto is the only way I can find things in my increasingly brightening suburban skies. However, when at a dark site, I'll often use the goto rig for AP and break out the dob for visual. The encoders bit the dust a while ago and I've since converted it to a truss so star hopping is the way to go with it. I actually prefer star hopping as it provides a greater reward factor when I find things and it helps me remember where they are. Plus I often run into things along the way that would have been missed if I used goto.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Andre Stubblefield on January 31, 2018, 01:12:47 PM
Depends on where I am:

At an observing site I use a red-dot finder to get to a bright star. Then I use star maps and a 9x50 corrected image finder to locate the object (or where the object should be). The 9x50 is probably my favorite piece of astro gear I've bought. It makes starhopping a total pleasure.

In my backyard (in the perma-daylight of Chicago), I use setting circles. If I didn't have them I'd probably be hunting for a push-to system.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: fibcapoti on February 02, 2018, 03:21:56 PM
A combination of right-angle sweeps (RA &amp; Dec) and star-hopping.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Christopher Buchanan on February 02, 2018, 06:57:17 PM
I have a nice GOTO mount and will use it when the object is in the database. BUT - I am a double star/variable star observer and most of the objects I am looking for are NOT in any manufacturer's database.

So I mostly use R.A./DEC coordinates to find my objects. The "fun" begins when I dig into an older book (Burnham or Couteau) and get coordinates from an early epoch. Then I have to use interpolation, plus my skills learned at the TLAR Institute, and maybe even a SWAG to adjust them to today's skies.

Fortunately, after I figure out a set of numbers to try, the A-P hand paddle makes it easy to key them in. Then I push the button and .... Hope.  I have been successful much more often than not and that is what keeps this hobby fun and exciting.

Cheers,

Ron
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: James Bagby on February 03, 2018, 06:38:16 AM
Quote
There are several techniques with equatorial mounts that stop short of full-fledged setting circles. One is to use the setting circles to offset from a known nearby naked-eye star. That doesn't require a truly precise polar alignment, as using setting circles from scratch does.

Another is the right-ascension sweep, where you find a nearby star with the same declination, and just sweep along in RA until the object appears.

A related method, which works for any undriven scope, is to find a nearby bright star with the same declination but lower RA, and then wait until the object drifts into the field of view.

I first learned of the "strip method" reading Scotty's Deep Sky Wonders column in S&amp;T. It's effective, but can take patience. After 40 years of stargazing, I'm still a star hopper. Though I totally get the use of go-to, I have more fun star hopping.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: Nick Ellis on February 03, 2018, 01:13:39 PM
Goto all the way! I even use Starsense. My observing time is rare and precious. I focus on developing my observing skill.
I'll play the star hopping rally game later on once I buy my second scope, which will be a smaller grab and go setup but also a nice one for open star clusters, asterisms and planets (no appearture fever for me, I plan to go between my 8" sct  and a 4" apo refractor on manual mounth).
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: aththrilnalo on February 08, 2018, 06:47:19 PM
I'm strictly a starhopper. I've only got one scope, a C8, and I've been using it for a long time, and I've optimized it (for me) to make starhopping easy. I've got a red dot pointer strictly to easily aim my finder scope. My finder scope is a nice 50mm RACI one, making it easy to nail down my "jumping off star." An extremely rough polar alignment gives the sky an "up &amp; down" and "sideways" in my low power eyepiece, and I can measure off eyepiece FOVs with little acetate circles on the Uranometria 2000. It rarely takes me more than a few minutes to land on the correct spot. After that though, I can spend a considerable amount of time trying to get a difficult object to confidently register on my aging retina.
 Marty
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: manreistilles on February 09, 2018, 01:26:38 AM
Select target in Pocket Sky Atlas, point Telrad at the spot, enjoy.
Title: Re: What is your favorite method for finding your targets?
Post by: JosephBC on May 27, 2018, 11:23:36 AM
find yourself and find out what you love most and where you spend time most.