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Astronomy Hacks

Book Description

Why use the traditional approach to study the stars when you can turn computers, handheld devices, and telescopes into out-of-this-world stargazing tools? Whether you're a first timer or an advanced hobbyist, you'll find Astronomy Hacks both useful and fun. From upgrading your optical finder to photographing stars, this book is the perfect cosmic companion.This handy field guide covers the basics of observing, and what you need to know about tweaking, tuning, adjusting, and tricking out a 'scope. Expect priceless tips and tools for using a Dobsonian Telescope, the large-aperture telescope you can inexpensively build in your garage. Get advice on protocols involved with using electronics including in dark places without ruining the party.Astronomy Hacks begins the space exploration by getting you set up with the right equipment for observing and admiring the stars in an urban setting. Along for the trip are first rate tips for making most of observations. The hacks show you how to:

  • Dark-Adapt Your Notebook Computer
  • Choose the Best Binocular
  • Clean Your Eyepieces and Lenses Safely
  • Upgrade Your Optical Finder
  • Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment
The O'Reilly Hacks series has reclaimed the term "hacking" to mean innovating, unearthing, and creating shortcuts, gizmos, and gears. With these hacks, you don't dream it-you do it--and Astronomy Hacks brings space dreams to life. The book is essential for anyone who wants to get the most out of an evening under the stars and have memorable celestial adventures.

Table of Contents

  1. Astronomy Hacks
  2. Copyright
  3. Credits
    1. About the Authors
    2. Contributors
    3. Acknowledgments
  4. Preface
    1. Why Astronomy Hacks?
    2. How This Book Is Organized
      1. Conventions
    3. How to Contact Us
    4. Got a Hack?
      1. Safari Enabled
  5. 1. Getting Started
    1. Hacks 1–10
    2. Don’t Give Up
    3. Join an Astronomy Club
    4. Safety First
    5. Stay Warm
      1. Avoid Alcohol
      2. Dress in Layers
      3. Keep Your Head and Neck Warm
      4. Keep Your Feet Warm
      5. Keep Your Hands Warm
      6. Drink Plenty of Warm Fluids
      7. Screen Yourself from the Wind
      8. Use Supplemental Heat Sources
    6. Don’t Violate Observing Site Etiquette
      1. Don’t Show a White Light After Dark
      2. Arrive Before Dark
      3. Plan Ahead When You Park
      4. Avoid Using Headlights After Dusk
      5. Dark Adapt Your Vehicle
      6. Don’t Crowd Others
      7. Be Careful in the Dark
      8. Ask Before You Touch
      9. Use Headphones for Music
      10. Have Consideration for Others If You Smoke
      11. Avoid Alcohol
      12. Leave Young Children and Pets at Home
      13. Don’t Be a Moocher
      14. Have Consideration for Others’ Time
      15. Don’t Criticize Others’ Equipment
      16. Police Up Your Trash Before You Leave
      17. Never Leave One Vehicle Alone
      18. Do a White-Light Check If You Are the Last to Leave
    7. Be Prepared
      1. Backpacking Kit
      2. Car Kit
      3. Airline-Portable Kit
    8. Measure Your Entrance Pupil Size
    9. Choose the Best Binocular
      1. Key Binocular Characteristics
      2. Recommended Binoculars
    10. Choose the Best General-Purpose Telescope
      1. Scope Characteristics
      2. Scope Types
        1. Refractors.
        2. Dobsonian reflectors.
        3. Equatorially mounted reflectors.
        4. Catadioptrics.
      3. Choosing a Telescope
    11. Equip Yourself for Urban Observing
      1. Excellent Choices
      2. Bad Choices
  6. 2. Observing Hacks
    1. Hacks 11–32
    2. See in the Dark
      1. Vision Modes
      2. Night Vision Fallacies
        1. Dark adaptation is all-or-nothing
        2. Pupil diameter is critical to dark adaptation
        3. A dim green light is the best choice for preserving night vision
        4. A bright red light destroys night vision
    3. Protect Your Night Vision from Local Lights
    4. Describe the Brightness of an Object
      1. Types of Magnitude
      2. Magnitude Ranges
      3. Variable Magnitudes
        1. Variable stars
        2. Solar system objects
      4. Visibility by Magnitude and Instrument
      5. Surface Brightness
    5. Identify Stars by Name
    6. Identify Stars by Catalog Designations
      1. The Bayer Catalog
      2. The Flamsteed Catalog
      3. Modern Stellar Catalogs
      4. Specialty Catalogs
    7. Know Your Constellations
    8. Understand Celestial Coordinate Systems
      1. Horizontal Coordinates
      2. Equatorial Coordinates
      3. Other Coordinate Systems
    9. Print Custom Charts
    10. Keep Your Charts at the Eyepiece
    11. Locate Objects Geometrically
    12. Learn to Star Hop
    13. Learn to See DSOs
      1. Learn Patience and Persistence
      2. Observe from a Dark Site
      3. Observe Objects When They Are High
      4. Dark Adapt Fully
      5. Use the Largest Instrument Available
      6. Use Averted Vision
      7. Keep Both Eyes Open
      8. Absorb Photons
      9. Tap the Tube
      10. Use Different Magnifications and Fields of View
      11. Focus Carefully
      12. Defocus Slightly to Locate Tiny Objects
      13. Use Nebula Filters to Increase Contrast
      14. Keep Looking
    14. Observe Shallow-Space Objects
      1. Things That Go Zip
      2. Things That Go Zoom and Phizz
      3. Things That Go DOH-DEE-DOH
    15. Slow Down, You Move Too Fast, You’ve Got to Make the Evening Last
      1. Look It Over and Under, Up and Down
      2. You’ll See More with Your Eyes
      3. New Ways of Seeing
    16. Learn Urban Observing Skills
      1. Urban Observing Targets
      2. Urban Observing Tips
    17. Sweep Constellations
    18. Maintain an Observing Notebook
      1. Creating and Using Observing Logs
    19. Develop an Organized Logging System
    20. Plan and Prepare for a Messier Marathon
      1. Planning Your Messier Marathon
        1. Choose a date
        2. Choose your observing site
        3. Develop your own sequence and schedule
      2. Preparing for Your Messier Marathon
        1. One-year lead-up
        2. One-month lead-up
        3. One-week lead-up
        4. One-day lead-up
    21. Run a Messier Marathon
      1. Final Preparations (Afternoon–19:30)
      2. Group 1: Early Evening Objects (19:30–20:30)
      3. Group 2: MidEvening Objects (20:30–21:00)
      4. Break (21:00–21:30)
      5. Group 3: Late Evening Objects (21:30–Midnight)
      6. Nap (Midnight–02:00)
      7. Group 4: Early Morning Objects (02:00–04:00)
      8. Group 5: Final Objects (04:00–Dawn)
    22. Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment
    23. Discover and Name a New Planet
  7. 3. Scope Hacks
    1. Hacks 33–43
    2. Center-Spot Your Mirror
    3. Clean Your Primary Mirror
    4. Eliminate Astigmatism
    5. Eliminate Diffraction Spikes and Increase Contrast
    6. Build a Film Can Collimating Tool
    7. Tune Your Newtonian Reflector for Maximum Performance
    8. Collimate Your Primary Mirror Quickly and Accurately
    9. Star-Collimate Your Scope
    10. Counterweight a Dobsonian Scope
    11. Improve Dobsonian Motions with Milk Jug Washers
    12. Upgrade Your Dobsonian Bearings
  8. 4. Accessory Hacks
    1. Hacks 44–65
    2. Dark Adapt Your Notebook Computer
    3. Dark Adapt Your Vehicle
    4. Use a Barlow
    5. Determine Actual Barlow Magnification
    6. See More of the Sky
    7. Optimize Your Eyepiece Collection
      1. Eyepiece Characteristics
      2. Real-World Eyepieces
      3. Choosing an Eyepiece Set
    8. Chart Your Eyepiece Characteristics
    9. View Dim Objects in the Same Field as a Very Bright Object
    10. Clean Your Eyepieces and Lenses Safely
    11. Install a Unit-Power Finder
      1. Red-Dot Finders
      2. Bulls-Eye Finders
      3. Mounting a Unit-Power Finder
    12. Upgrade Your Optical Finder
    13. Align Your Finder
    14. Determine Your Optical Finder’s Field of View
    15. Determine Your True Field of View
      1. Drift Testing in Detail
      2. Drift Testing Your Finder
    16. Enhance Lunar and Planetary Contrast and Detail
      1. Enhancing Color Contrast
      2. Dimming the Image
    17. Enhance Nebular Contrast and Detail
      1. Dimming Background Skyglow
      2. Enhancing Nebular Contrast
      3. Blocking All But a Specified Wavelength
      4. Choosing Nebula Filters
      5. Specialty Filters
    18. Please Be Seated
    19. Stash Your Gear in a Photographer’s Vest or Fanny Pack
    20. Use a Voice Recorder for Logging
    21. Build or Buy an Equatorial Platform
    22. Make Your Computer Work for You
      1. Windows Planetarium Programs
      2. Linux and Mac OS X Planetarium Programs
    23. Astronomy Software in the Palm of Your Hand
      1. Features of Planetarium
        1. Views.
        2. Databases.
        3. Session planning.
        4. Log entries.
      2. Locating Objects Manually with Planetarium
      3. Using Planetarium with Manual Setting Circles
      4. Other Uses
      5. Bottom Line
  9. Index
  10. About the Authors
  11. Colophon
  12. Copyright