Print Custom Charts

Make the most of your observing time by taking along the charts you need.

Observing time is precious, particularly for DSO observers [Hack #22], many of whom must drive several hours to a dark-sky site on a new moon weekend and hope for clear skies when they arrive. Many DSO observers have half a dozen or fewer opportunities per year to observe under optimum conditions, so it’s critical to make the most of that limited observing time.

The best way to do that is to be prepared before you set up your scope. Know which objects you plan to observe, and know exactly how you’re going to find them. By “exactly” we mean not just knowing the general location of the object, but having a detailed plan, including Telrad [Hack #53] and finder circles plotted and, if necessary, a detailed star hop [Hack #21] worked out.

Many observers, including experienced ones, make the mistake of hauling their star atlases and a notebook computer to the observing site, intending to use those resources to locate objects on-the-fly. While you can do it that way—and we would certainly never be without star atlases and our note-book computer—it’s not the best use of your observing time. With everything pre-planned, we can usually locate one of our target objects in a minute or two at most. If we have to figure out how to locate the object as we go along, it may take as much as half an hour to locate the object through trial and error and then to verify that we’ve in fact located ...

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