Friday, September 26, 2008

what's up now?

I must admit that I have been struggling with this for a while...

I know, I know. I should plan ahead. But sometimes, the mood strikes me, the skies suddenly clear, I recall don't have to work the next morning. I impulsively decide that I'm going to do some star gazing. Last minute. Let's go. Hurry! Hurry harder!

planning applications
  • AstroPlanner
  • Deep-Sky
  • Deepsky
  • SkyTools2
I've looked at a few astronomy session planning softwares. There are a number of them out there. The one I perhaps the most experience with is AstroPlanner for Windows. But, with all of these "full" applications, I have often found myself overwhelmed. Not just with the act of learning a new software application. But with the volume of suggestions, targets, things one might look at.

As an aside, I don't like that for many of these applications, you cannot try-before-you-buy.

As a result, I have foregone using a particular application. When there is a star party coming up, or a trip to a dark sky site, I've assembled my own planning sheet. It includes info about planets, satellite flyovers, etc. I consult a variety of sources and use a number of tools to perhaps my 2-page report. But it takes a while, a couple of hours, to do it properly.

So, lately, I've been wondering about online, web-based options. Can I just quickly look up something on the internet and have it tell me about some good targets tonight? I have seen some of sites in my travels before. But I thought I'd finally collate all these sources. Here we go. In no particular order.

Sky & Telescope magazineSpecifically their This Week's Sky At A Glance page. Mentions on a day by day basis for about a week's time what's going on. Diagrams and maps. Palatable but brief. They also have an Almanac which will tell you, for your location, what the rise, transit, and set times are for the Sun, Moon, and nearby planets. Uses JavaScript.

Astronomy magazine
They have a bunch of tools, most of which require Java, to show the currently visible planets. On their home page, the Tonight's Sky, includes a ticker noting interesting events. Their StarDome is a mini-planisphere type program.

CalSky web site
The Celestial Observer appears to be a very powerful tool to present what is visible overhead. You can create a profile so it remembers your location. Supports email alerts.

Tonight's Sky web site
An easy-to-use tool. The Tonight's Sky page prompts you to enter your location, click the items in the check list for what you want to observe, what equipment you'll be using, and it builds a list. Supports printing.

I think I need to sink my teeth into CalSky. It looks really powerful...

Happy planning!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out to Astronomy magazine's web sit, Just thought I'd direct you to our weekly observing podcast. It's a quick way to find out what objects are visible in the sky...especially useful when you have one of your "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!" moments. Thanks, again.