Software
 
   
     
     

Observing the night sky is a very enjoyable hobby. For me, the stillness of a clear night can make a busy and stressful work day seem many miles away. The essence for me is to get out and my observing is assisted in the form of planning & recording. Planning and recording each session, not only gives you a record of what has been done in the past, but what to go looking for. For me the actual observing would be a bit pointless. I know other people who never know what they have seen and never plan when they go out to observe and they have the best of times. I need the 'thrill of the hunt' and the 'reflections' that records provide.

I currently use two programs for Planning and Logging. These are

Astroplanner    http://www.ilangainc.com/astroplanner
Skymap Pro      http://www.skymap.com

Astroplanner is a recent program in my stable. It now is my workhorse and ties seamlessly into my observing planning and recording. Astroplanner allows me to plan my observing sessions and then to upload these plans directly to the Argo Navis. Easy, all done very quickly. Once I return from a night at the scope, I log my observations in Astroplanner and then Astroplanner generates a HTML web page for me to upload to this website. A bit of data entry, but Astroplanner streamlines this, reducing the amount of tweaking within my HTML editor, Dreamweaver. This just is just fantastic.

 

Astroplanner v1.6.1
I cannot be without this software, in is so ingrained into my planning and logging.
     

Astroplanner has effectively, taken over from Skymap Pro which has been my workhorse for nearly ten years. Skymap Pro, now in it's 11th version, has given me the ability to log all observations and recall the observations on a later data for any object I have observed since 1st December 1999. That’s 8 years of observations. However, this data is now imported into Astroplanner now means that I have ceased completely logging in Skymap Pro, and as of June 2008, I exclusively log in Astroplanner after logging in both programs for nearly 9 months.

However, Skymap is still invaluable. It gives me excellent charts that, I still seem to prefer over Astroplanner. I have infrequently used the Laptop at the telescope, and I have used Skymap Pro for this purpose. If I use the computer, I will hook it up to the Argo Navis and have a crosshair on the screen, informing me where the telescope is pointing. Pretty Cool. Great for a group of people to see what’s happing. I still cannot be without Skymap Pro.

     

Skymap Pro v11
Still a real Favourite of mine, not as pretty as some programs but very functional

     

In the years before my DSCs, I used to take the Laptop with me every time I observed, but now I use my Argo Navis and use Uranometria 2000 v2, if I need them. It’s nice to have a choice, to either take the Laptop, or just use the Argo Navis with my Uranometria charts to back me up.

I am pretty careful when it comes to backing up as my log is the single biggest collection of data I have and backups can be found in more than a couple of places. I have a desktop and a laptop and also store this information on a Server with Duplication/RAID and upload the data to Amazon S3s Data Services using Jungle Disk.

Once I start observing, I record what I see into a Dictaphone, to give me the information I need regarding the observed object. Speaking into a Dictaphone is far easier than logging an object on the laptop and entering the data as you go, however it does mean some data entry at a later date. I have learned that I tend to see more as I describe an object as I am actually looking at it. The Dictaphone also records the time each observation was made, ideal for logging objects later.

 
 
Uranometria 2000 v2 Charts
Well and truely at home in my observing kit,
along with my eyepieces and Argo Navis
 
 
Updated 5th June 2008