I was reading Uncle Rod's blog (highly recommend it) and the current entry discusses how to use a planisphere. I learned the constellations on a planisphere, and to be quite honest, I still use a planisphere from time to time when needed. I recommend if you are unsure how to use one, go over to Uncle Rod's blog and check out that entry.
However, his blog raised a very important question in my mind. In there he talks about how he had some of his novice astronomy students out and they were using the Edmund's Scientific Planisphere. However, some students on their smart cell phones had such programs such as Distant Suns, StarMapPro, Sky Safari and they go to the constellation or the visual object/star in the constellation faster then their peers using the planisphere. Uncle Rod brings out in his blog post that "I therefore conclude cell phones are at least on the verge of becoming the 21st century’s planispheres."
So my question is, what type of observer are you? Do you use paper/plastic planisphere's, star atlases, and books to help in your search in the universe or are you a modern electronic observer, using your smart cell phone, an iTouch or iPad or other such device to bring the universe to you? I know I am more of a planisphere and atlas type of guy, but I have used my laptop when I was doing the Messier to run Starry Night Pro 6 to give me more in depth maps in the field of the objects I was hunting (until I got some atlas that went deep). I didn't like the drain it took on the battery on the lap top (I ran the laptop without a generator or inverter so I wore that battery out and had to replace it). I have a battery that I can use to charge my inverter and an inverter and a Black & Decker Electromate 400 so I could use a laptop but find I don't want to use any of my two laptops in the field due to dust, dirt and grime issues. I may need to rethink this though as I use on in the observatory for the 20". Or does a push to or goto system relegate this to being meaningless and visual astronomy is simply on the way out, to be replaced by imaging because of excessive light pollution and because that technology is needed for amateurs to participate in the bulk of scientific discoveries and studies?
I have a poll over on the left and would welcome your participation on this and any comments you may have. It will be very interesting to see how this hobby is going to change over the next 30 to 100 years.
My weather continues to be snow and clouds, clouds and snow. So in cruising around the NASA site I noticed that NASA's Solar NanoSail is viewable for the next month or so until it falls and burns up in the atmosphere in either April or May. NASA has teamed up with SpaceWeather.com for a contest where the best image taken of the NanoSail wins $500 for the grand prise (and it's CASH!), $300 for first prize and $100 for second prize. This could be a fun way to earn some extra astro-equipment spending money! Here's the link to the contest rules and how to submit photos. Here's the gallery of what's been submitted so far. The contest link has several links for tracking so here are two direct links: Live Real Time Map of Sail on GoogleMap. List of visible passes.
So if you participate in the quest of the best image, or simply do as I'll do and look for the NanoSail's solar flares, hopefully we have the weather conditions to allow for this. Should be fun to watch with the weather's permission.