E-Astronomy or Arm-Chair Astronomy for the 21st Century.
by Mark S Deprest
Printed in Reflections: June, 2009.
Hello all, over the years I have written numerous articles asking you all
to get outside and do real “at the Eyepiece” astronomy.My opinion
on this subject has not changed, I still want to see more of you “getting
out” and “looking up!”
Speaking of that, here is a little side story; A few month’s ago Doug
Scobel and his wife Deb and my wife Terri and I
were out at a social function that had nothing to do with astronomy. As
we got out of the car to go into the function we
were attending, I did, like I always do... look up to see how clear the
sky was. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed
Doug doing the same. I didn’t think any more of it until later on
when we left the function and we were walking back to
the car, and my wife noticed both Doug and myself doing it again. She noticed
us doing it again when we got to the restaurant
for coffee and dessert; it was at that point that she mentioned that both
Doug and I were hopeless cases. I had to
agree with her, I am a hopeless “Visual Astronomer” and so was
Doug. I wonder how many other amateur & professional
astronomers look up every time they walk outside.
All that aside, this article is about E-Astronomy that is astronomy related
stuff you can do at the computer. Now, this
doesn’t mean I’m going stop bugging you to get outside, but there
are a lot of very interesting astronomy related programs
and websites that you can use to keep you involved in astronomy even when
your in the house. Now on my computer
I have a dozen observational planning & logging programs, countless
lists of stuff to observe, and 3 dozen websites
that strictly deal with astronomy bookmarked in “My Favorites.”
I have a MP3 player that contains a whole section of
the New Age genre “Space Music” and 6 different “Podcasts”
that I subscribe to, which are astronomy related. I get
email alerts from “Space Weather.com” when the likelihood of
Auroras is high. The “Clear Sky Clock” sends me email
when conditions are good for visual observing. I belong to 3 “Yahoo”
groups related to comet observing, imaging and
reporting, which I get daily updates from. I also, have two remote telescope
observing/imaging systems that I purchase
telescope/imaging time from. There I think I scratched the surface a little,
I don’t know if my list is typical or not, and
that really doesn’t make any difference, my point is that there are
a lot of ways to stay active in astronomy even when the
weather doesn’t co-operate for outside observing.
The rest of this article will be filled a list and description of some
of the E-Astronomy things that are my personal
choices and why I like them.
Observational Planning & Logging Programs
- Guide 8.0 by Project Pluto—This is a “Planetarium / Charting”
type program and one of the most comprehensive on
the market today. The current version comes on 2 compact discs and is updated
regularly through Project Pluto’s
website [www.projectpluto.com]. Bill Gray is the creator of Guide and takes
an active personal interest in customer
service and satisfaction. One of the best in the business at customer service.
I love this program and have
conducted a number of talks and demo / teaching sessions on using Guide.
Current price $89.00. This program
gets 4 out of 5 stars with its only downside being a slightly high learning
- Observe v.9.4 by Doug Scobel—This is a great “Planning / Logging”
type program that uses the SAC 7.0 deep-sky
database. Yes, it was developed by our very own Doug Scobel; it is operates
in DOS and is very intuitive. It’s
simple, clean and efficient and best of all it is free! If you have any
problems with it you know the programmer
personally. This program gets 4 out of 5 stars with its only downside being
a limited database.
- Virtual Moon Atlas by Patrick Chevalley & Christian Legrand—This
is just what the title says it is a “Virtual Moon
Atlas” freeware program. It uses Clementine’s Aerographs and
Photographic overlays along with LOPAM Photographic
overlays and like I said it’s free. It is very comprehensive with
more information that even the biggest
Lunatic could ever want or use. It is easy to use and very intuitive. This
program gets 5 out of 5 stars with no
- Chartes du Ciel v.2.7 by Patrick Chevalley—This is another “Planetarium
/ Charting” type freeware program with a
huge downloaded database. It rivals Guide in its scope but lack a little
polish and it has a rather steep learning
curve. Some of its controls are a little on the clumsy side, but it is
highly accurate and very comprehensive. Once
you’ve learn its little idiosyncrasies you’ll discover that it
is very functional. A big plus is that it is free. This
program gets 3.5 out of 5 stars, a little clumsy and the learning-curve
brings it down.
- Deep Sky Planner v.4 by Knightware LLC.—This is another “Planning
/ Logging” type program that has a much
larger database (sorry Doug & Observe) to work with. It also interfaces
with Chartes du Ciel so that once you
plan your observing list you can easily make charts fro your list. This
program a very good customer service person
in its creator Phyllis Knight and she takes a personal interest in making
sure your program works for you.
The program is very easy to use, has a large database and is functionally
stable. Current price is $59.95. This
program gets 4 out of 5 stars with the only downsides be its price and
its inability to add additional databases.
Telescope & Astronomy Technical Programs
- Newt for Windows v.2.5 by Dale A Keller—This is a freeware program
for Amateur Telescope Makers (ATM) that
helps you see if your Newtonian design is going to work and can help you
optimize your design. Limited to
Newtonian design scopes but very useful. Easy to understand and simple
to use, 4 out of 5 stars.
- Comet for Windows v.1.5 by Seiichi Yoshida—I like to hunt down comets
and some of these can be pretty faint...
this freeware program allows me to plot a comet’s light curve and
help me figure out when a comet will be easiest
(brightest) to observe in the sky. It also allows me to log and graph my
observations and magnitude estimates.
This program is a real winner in my world so it gets 5 out of 5 stars.
Lists of Objects to Observe
- Catalog of Compact Galaxy Trios by Miles Paul—This is as the name
says a list of over 300 trios of galaxies that
can be seen in a small single FOV. About 150 are within the grasp of a
12 inch scope.
- Globular Clusters -118 by Mark S Deprest—I compiled this list using
Guide 8.0 and MS Excel it contain 118 observable
globular clusters. That is observable from the Northern Hemisphere and
with an 8 to 10 inch scope.
- Spirit of 33 Double Star Lists by The Spirit of 33 Group—I have 33
lists of 33 double stars. Each of the lists is for a
different Constellation and contains 33 double stars visible and splittable
in an 8 inch scope.
- The Herschel 400 and Herschel II lists by The Astronomical League—There
are different versions of these but essentially
they are two separate lists of 400 each of deep-sky objects that were discovered
or cataloged by the
Herschels. The first list of 400 are observable in an 8 to 10 inch scope
and the second list will take something a
little bigger to see them all.
- Color Contrasting Double Star List by Wayne Reed—A list of 54 color
contrasting double stars visible in 4 inch
scopes. These are some of the prettiest double stars you’ll ever see.
- S.T.A.R. list compiled by Phil Harrington from various sources—The
Small Telescope Asterism Roster list is for
wide fields of view and contains things like the Coathanger, Little Sagitta,
Davis’s Dog and Star-Gate. These are
chance alignment groups of stars that form recognizable patterns in the
sky. As the name implies these can be
seen with a small telescope 65mm and up with a wide field of view.
I think this is enough for the first part of this article and next month
I’ll provide a small list of websites I like and why,
and a few more eclectic astronomy related things like “Space Music”,
Podcasts and Remote Astronomy & Astrophotography.
If you would like more info on any of the things in this article, you can
“Google Search” any of the titles listed above. I hope you liked
this little glimpse into my “E-Astronomy” world.
Copyright © 2013, the University Lowbrow Astronomers. (The University Lowbrow Astronomers are an amateur astronomy club based in Ann Arbor, Michigan).
This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
This page revised Sunday, March 9, 2014 4:30 PM.
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