Wednesday, September 28, 2005

20050927.2100 - Pleiades at TotL

I posted a report on the Yahoo group we call "gomsa". Both Charlie and I posted online reports of observing 13 stars of the Pleiades. I consider this a remarkable event for urban astronomers in Central Park. I was so amazed by our first count that after packing our gear, I mentioned to Charlie I wanted to count again to confirm our observation. In fact, we did two more times, once from TotL as mentioned and the third time from a spot on the sidewalk, north of the Metropolitan Museum, which leads into/out of the park.

By my count, we saw a total of 13 stars over the 3 times. Some only appeared once to me but, I counted them. The link above leads to the report and under the Files section of the group, I posted a chart with details of each of the stars.

Charlie's report, which he posted on his starsights blog, speaks of seeing 11 stars. In my gomsa report, I title the post with 13 and only specifically mention 12, but the total count of pleiad descriptions and the chart correctly represent my experience.

In all, this is an exceptional evening, one of those rare ones. In fact, we even blew park curfew, leaving around 2:15am. After the Pleiades, we tried for the Coat Hanger. On equally exceptional evenings, I can detect 2 or 3 of its stars. I suppose that these are the ones in the handle. On this night though the cluster was much too low in the horizon blocked by the trees. Sagitta was visible just above the trees to manhattan-West, leaning a bit to the South.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

a word or two... or maybe more... on resources

[Editing in process.]
This post will discuss my more common resources in my astronomical toolbox.

When I first started observing, my primary atlases were paperback books. It was either the Peterson Field guide, on rare occasions Norton's, and sometimes sketches I prepared. These books served well for the experience I had at that time. I had none and my observing sessions were not too rich. Really at that time I was just getting to learn the sky - constellatioons that is. And these atlases were fine for the task. This dates back to sometime around September 2003 where I observed occasionally from various areas of southern Central Park, particularly Heckscher softball fields, the soutwest quadrant of Central Park. This was off the beaten path.

The first constellation I learned which served me to get my bearings was Aries. Later I would see Taurus and then a big blank part of the sky where Pisces should have been. Over time I would learn and see the entire parade of the zodiac.dutifully march across our NY skies. Mine eyes were not as acute as they are now so I am seeing some constellations fopr the first time even now. Examples of this are Capricornus, Aquarius, even Camelopardalis.

Getting back to resources -->

Today, the Palm Tungsten T3 serves me in the field. Two of my observing partners use a Palm and have the same software loaded. Not only could I not participate in their synchronicity, unless I peered over their shoulder, but I was also disadvantaged. My field atlas by Erich Karkoschka, one which I like very much, left a bit to be desired as they navigated across the sky much quicker than I could flip pages and they could search more efficiently than I could by referring to the index or struggling in memory. They coul dadjust magnitude and field of view which more closely related to what they were seeing in their eyepieces. Further, holding the flashlight in my teeth or having to remove-n-replace the clip-on lamp was more off a hassle.

So the T3 was purchased and then I loaded PleiadAtlas by Brian Tung and Planetarium for the Palm by Andreas Hofer. A short time later, since I am the consumer, I pruchased Astromist by Cyrille Thieullet. Each one deserves it own review but I'll provide a few brief remarks as they are part of my toolbox, as much as my bins & scopes and books.

Without a doubt, PleiadAtlas is my primary starhopping tool. My experience agrees with Brian's tagline, "The Pocket Star Atlas for the Serious Observer". The interface felt a little kludgy at first. It lacks the automatic redraws and jazz that most planetarium programs have. After getting over this and learning how to interface with the program, I now religiously use this program for my starhopping. Punching in objects to locate is very easy and it comes with a variety of catalogs including Barnard, Collinder, King, Melotte, Stock, and Trumpler. With the exeption of Barnard, the other catalogs enable to search for other open clusters not listed in NGC. Like other usefiul resources that i hope to describe - one absolutely gets a BANG for their bucks.

Planetarium for the Palm (PftP) and Astromist are more traditional software planetarium programs. I interface with both but with different objectives. If I was asked to suggest or rate one over the other, thatr would be PftP. In fact, one could not go wrong with PleiadAtlas and PftP loaded on the Palm.

PftP displays information in two great ways. One is called Compass view and the other is Sky. Without going into too much detail here, I ust the Compass view as my what's up in the sky and sort of like a timepiece. It's the watch I would like on my wrist. Andreas has left no stones un touched, in the sense of user experience.

[To be cont'd]