The Night Sky Observers Guide: Some ways to use it
One of the things I think that happens in this hobby, is we get reference material, read and look things over and then forget that we have them. In this age of the internet it is so easy to do this and to avoid using the books we have purchased. Over 2 years ago I purchased the Night Sky Observers Guide, Volumes 1 & 2 (I chose at the time to put off volume 3 but am going to order it soon) from Scope City in Las Vegas when I was done there. After that trip to Vegas, I got the books home and read over them quite a bit . Then they went on the shelf where they have sat and until the fire, I noticed them, but didn't pull them out much, using the online site, The NGC/IC Project. That site is an incredible site, and I will continue to use it. However, after the recent fire, when I really had to look around my office and in about 5 minutes, decide what I was going to really miss, it hit me pretty hard that these two books were items that I would not only miss, but that I have under utilized.
So, I thought today, I would share one or two ways that I use these books. This isn't a review, you can find that elsewhere, and I've stated clearly that for me, these are greatly valued (enough that I stuck them in the SUV after everything was loaded when we packed up for the elocution). So, that should tell you what I think of them. Perfect, no work is and I don't hold anything to that standard. Valuable, yes, and I hope I can show why.
The main way I used these two volumes is after I am done observing, and while I am processing my sketches, I take my observation form and compare the observation form and what I wrote to how the object is described in the NSOG. For example, NGC 404, also known as Mirach's Ghost, I recorded the following down as my observation:
"Mirach's Ghost or NGC 404 is a easily seen with Mirach in the FOV (field of view). It has a bright stellar core, surrounded by a brighter diffused halo. No structure is visible. Small and round. A fun object to sketch and observe "
Here is the recorded observation for 12/14" Scope at 100x (which is similar to what I used in the XX14i with a 14mm Pentax XW):
"This is a beautiful object making a fine pair with the bright star Beta Andromedae. It is fairly bright, small, round, and slightly brighter in the center. During periods of good seeing a stellar nucleus may be glimpsed."
Okay, so why do this? I've observed enough to know recognize my objects. I use a digital voice recorder and/or write them down in the field or back at home so I have a record of what has happen. I've also observed enough to know most of my recorded observations will match up with other observations. So, again why do this? Because it allows me to compare my observation with someone else's who is using similar equipment. It does validate the observation but it also allows me to connect to the other person who made that observation. I enjoy comparing my observation to another persons. Also, there are times when I miss something that someone else saw, and that allows me to mark that item for further review to see if I can capture that same detail. I also like it because in the NGC/IC Database, the scope used often is a 17 or 17.5 reflector/dob, and if I am using a 10 inch or a 14 inch that is a different view. The NGC/IC Database has smaller scopes, but not always. The NSOG usually always has an aperture near what I am using. Even when using the 20" the 16-18" reports come close.
A few other things to remind myself more than anyone else, is the wonderful Introductions in these books. The information is extremely helpful while the tables are informative. I enjoy the tables from Stellar Spectral Types to the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram to Star Cluster Trumpler Types to Planetary Nebulae Types and Galaxy Types. All I find truly helpful. I also enjoy reading on the various types of objects from globular clusters, to variable stars, to double stars to galaxies, PN's , open clusters etc.
Next, and another section that is extremely helpful is Chapter 1, Observation of Deep-Sky Objects. The subsection on Object Visibility helps us to know the difference between a photographic magnitude and a visual magnitude. I have committed to learning and using the Visual Impressions with 12/14" Scopes found in Table 1-2 while observing as well as the visual rating guide offered in there. For anyone the section on keeping records and their two page introduction to sketching is a very good starting point. Last, go to the back and take a look at the pictures of some of those observers and astrophotographers who contributed to the work. I've meant a couple and like with a fine wine, they have certainly matured well.
In concluding, you can also use this to plan an observing session since they are by constellation. Pick a constellation that offers good viewing, then go through and pick out the objects you want to observe using the NGOG as your guide. If your into astrophotography, use each volume to identify objects you may want to photograph in a specific constellation. Often there are more than one object visually or photographically that are near each other to see. So, no matter what you do, you can use these guides to plan your next session, be it visually or photographically. Then go and view and compare notes after wards. Comparing notes is something I save or days when I cannot observe due to clouds or other commitments. Thanks to Mr. Kepple and Mr. Sumner for putting together such wonderful volumes! It was good to become reaquianted with some old friends, as books often are to me. If you have other ways you use these volumes, please feel free to leave a comment on how you use them.