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Thread: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

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    Default Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)



    Hey guys, I have booked camping trips for the entire summer (thank god my wife loves to camp) to some dark sites during new moons and really want to 'step it up' a notch. I have been trying my hand at star hopping and have been *slightly* successful so far (no setting circles yet so, going old school).

    Now, I thought it would be good for myself (and a lot of others) to get some input from the people here that have some experience (aka, anybody but me ).

    Question, tell me the best way to star hop to one specific object (anything). To get started, Bryan recently posted an easy path to M81 & m82 (along with several others...Michael, Ray, JG and several others). If you could explain to another person, how to star hop to one specific object, what would it be and, how would you get there?

    M81/82
    start with the Big Dipper's two bowl stars, Phecda (or Phad in Stellarium) and Dubhe. Draw a line between these two, and follow this line beyond Dubhe about the same distance out as between these two stars. If you get to the star d UMa, back up toward Dubhe just a hair, and you should pick up these two fuzzies.
    --Bladekeeper (aka, Bryan)

    Thanks for any input on this! I think it would be of great help to myself and many others starting out in this!
    Last edited by omeek; 05-10-2015 at 09:30 AM.
    -Oliver

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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    Well, this is my experience, and it may or may not reflect that of others.

    So, when I started off with this business all those many long months ago in July/August of 2014, I was using a little 60mm Meade refractor with it's glorious .965" eyepieces on a shaky alt/az tripod. I didn't manage a whole lot with this scope, but it was what I had and I didn't know any better. It wasn't too long before I went to the internet to seek guidance, and quickly stumbled across this forum. Trying to squeeze the most juice out of this little scope, my very first post and question here was to ask about barlows for this machine to improve the view.

    The forum said "don't bother" because that scope can't handle it. The forum said you need to get a better piece of hardware. Binoculars were mentioned frequently. Get Stellarium, the forum said. You know what, the forum was right on all counts.

    So I got my binoculars and I downloaded Stellarium and I had clouds for days of course. During this cloudy time, I perused and I studied Stellarium, and I became electronically familiar with the summertime constellations. I did this a lot. When I engage in a hobby, I don't goof around. If you're gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.

    With my nice 10x50 binos and Stellarium on my laptop in night vision mode, every clear evening that I had I'd be outside, lying on my back in my yard, or sitting in a lawn chair, scanning the skies. I could easily identify the summer constellations because of the time spent studying Stellarium and my planisphere (this one: The Night Sky 30°-40° (Large; North Latitude) Also, I did a lot of reading. Fortunately my local library had the books "Nightwatch" and "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide". These were excellent resources for me.

    And I read about Charles Messier and his catalog of not-comets. I've always had a fascination with other galaxies and I wanted to see them. I'd read that Andromeda (M31) was in optimal viewing position during the northern hemisphere autumn and early winter. I read where a lot of inexperienced folks were having trouble finding it and it was tough to nail down. That all sounded intimidating. It was still summer though, and Perseus and Andromeda (the constellation) were still low in the east, but Scorpius and Sagittarius, and Serpens and Scutum, and Ophiuchus and Hercules, and Cygnus and Lyra, and Vulpecula and Sagitta, and many others were hanging around with their share of Messier objects available in my binoculars.

    Well, this Messier catalog has a lot of stuff in it, and it will last me a good few years of hunting to get all 110 of these objects observed. Might as well get started. I had no clue about visual magnitude and surface brightness, but I wanted to see something. I wanted a globular cluster. M22 in Sagittarius. Let's have go at that, I says to myself last summer.

    Messier 22 - Globular Cluster in Sagittarius - Looking at Stellarium, I noticed that the bulk of Sagittarius resembled a tea pot, with the spout pointing to the right, above my southern horizon. I knew that M22 was to the left of the peak star of the teapot. I could easily spot this star, Kaus Borealis, naked eye. So I centered that star in my binos, and moved left. And left, and left. Nothing. Try again. Nothing. Dang it. I finally thought, well, I can see some other stars there, so lets follow along these, like a road map, until I can get to M22's position. Center Kaus Borealis. Ok. Move over to that next brighter star. Ok. There should be 3 there, like an upside down triangle. Ok got it. Move a bit to the left. Ok. Do you see the glob? Why yes, yes I do. Whoo hoo! My first glob!

    I think I did this over and over that night, and I think I hustled everyone out of the house to show them, unaware of the difficulty of telling others where to locate something. Haha. My son spotted it naked eye and made me jealous.

    So on and on I went, looking at stars in Stellarium, and looking at stars in my binoculars, and following little pathways I could see through the binos. Find the star in the sky, look down at Stellarium for the next one. Relocate my first star in the binos and move to the next one. Back to Stellarium. Back up with my binos to my first star and follow my path again. Over and over and over. Then I'd reach my target and check that one off my list.

    Key here: Over and over and over. Star hopping with binoculars is tough. Unlike a scope where you nudge to the next star and the scope stays there, with binoculars you have to start at the head of the trail and work your way back every time you look away. Every stinking time.

    Result: I got really good at it. In addition to over and over and over, there is also hours and hours and hours. I got a bit tired of lying on the hard concrete of my drive way, and the grass was starting to become wet with dew. I went to Wal-Mart and got a nice inflatable pool lounger with arms. I'd flop that down in the grass and lay on it. Put my laptop on my lap, and start digging into the sky. This way, I found 46 Messier objects (the brighter stuff that I could find in my binos). A lot of these, no matter how I studied and star hopped, I simply could not see. Also, I didn't get a lot of detail with these objects, but I could see them. Over and over and hours and hours.

    These constellations are burned into my brain. I can see them when I close my eyes. I know them like the back roads of home.

    I had some success, and I had a lot of failure. I needed a scope with some aperture. I studied and I read. I poured over this forum and Cloudy Nights. I wanted a dob. I wanted a nice 4.5 inch one, because that would be the one that would be the most palatable to my wife, expense-wise. She looked at them, and wondered why I didn't go with the 6 or 8 inch. Huh? Ok, how about the 8? I ended up with the 12". She's a good wife.

    So blah, blah, blah, got my dob and became adjusted to the backwards and upside down view and how to star hop with it. I had new constellations to learn and new Messier objects to track down. And I did it.

    All my rambling here gets me to this point. To locate a particular object, find a bright named star that is easily naked eye visible as your starting point. I start with my binos and do a quick familiarization of the area in my head. Go to your favorite star atlas (I have Interstellarum and the Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas) or Stellarium and identify the next star from the bright one toward your intended target. Move the scope to that star. Find the next one. And so on and so forth until you get to your target.

    Will you get it the first time? Maybe. Probably not. Start all over again and work your down back along that trail. Do it again. Do it again. Success! Make notes and write down your path. Re-observe this target the next time out by following your trail.

    Sometimes you are trying to find something that doesn't have any guide stars around it. These take a jumping off the cliff approach and you have to leap off a ledge and hope you run into something. Watch for asterisms, or a particular arrangement of stars, such as a wavy line, or three stars forming a triangle, or a trapezoid, something that you can match up with the atlas or Stellarium. This helps to keep you on track.

    And most importantly, don't be afraid of star hopping. It just takes practice and practice. The more you do it, the better you get and the easier it becomes. I'm not as fast as a goto scope, usually, but sometimes I'm faster.

    I'm not afraid of it. I've had a whole lot of success, and with each success you build confidence and you just grab the scope and go to it. Sometimes you get your butt kicked and get frustrated. All part of the game.

    I like star hopping. It's part of the fun to me. I enjoy the hunt. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea. Other folks would rather spend the time actually looking at the target and enjoying it and that's awesome too! These are all facets of the enjoyment of the hobby.

    If anyone has a specific target in mind, let me know and I'll lay out my pathway to it. I've got most of them (that I've observed) in my notes and will be happy to share.

    Bottom line is, spend the time at the scope, spend the time becoming acquainted with your target and your constellation. And just do it. You didn't learn to ride a bike on the first try, but once you got it down, you stopped falling off.
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    Bryan
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    Eyepieces: GSO Superview 30mm; ES 70° 25mm; ES 82º Series; GSO 9mm Plössl; Zhumell Z Series 5mm; Vite Aspherics 23mm, 10mm, 4mm; Orion Expanse 20mm, 9mm; BCO 10mm
    Binoculars: Pentax PCF WP II 10x50, Bresser Corvette 10x50, Bresser Hunter 16x50 and 8x40, Garrett Gemini 12x60 LW, Gordon 10x50
    Observing: Herschel Tallies: H1 = 400/400 H2 = 292/400 H3 = 185/300; 2,537 observations of 1,562 objects; Led Zeppelin


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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    Hi Oliver,

    Bryan did a right fine treatment of the subject. I won't try to improve on that. But, I notice you have an XT8i. Are you not having success with the Intelliscope? Also, I can sure recommend the Telrad for non-DSC navigation. You used one of those yet?

    Clear skies!

    Bob
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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    Star hopping requires a looooooot of patience and practice, especially in the beginning and you may not always find your target first try. In a nutshell, like in Bryan's (Bladekeeper) excellent post, I use Stellarium at lot and try to find the nearest naked eye nearest my target and then aim my scope in that direction. I always start out with a low power lens and take it from there using Stellarium as my guide. With time and practice I've gotten pretty good at this to the point I rarely ever use a finder scope any more. I confess, in my early days of star hopping, besides Stellarium, I used a lot of swear words to help me find my target

    Oliver, I notice you have the Orion XT8i Dobsonian, that's the IntelliScope version of the XT8 - should that be helping you find your targets?

    Be patient and good luck
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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonsfire View Post
    Yeah, David Fuller is cool. I've watched a lot of his videos. Great stuff! Thanks for the link, Neil!
    Bryan
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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    I subscribe to "Eyes on the Sky" - excellent!
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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    Well, this is my experience...
    Yeap, that what it is....I found myself inside your story :P

    I made my jump from Binoculars to an equatorial mount The first nights I regretted to choose an EQ mount....I just wanted to do up-down right-left as I did my Binos but this stupid thing did not let me do it...why??? Have to go back and read and read... polar aligment, equatorial movements...but still could not see what I wanted to see, so as crazy I just moved the scope around, close to a zone I though there should be something while I was keeping my eye on the eyepiece. I must confess that way I found my first messiers and Omega cluster and that lead me to the necessity of sketching...what I saw I sketched and then, compared with Stellarium to know what was that. But soon I wanted to put the things in order and challenge myself to see dimmer objects....then I learned to star-hop: follow the tracks. I learned to use the equatorial gris in Stellarium and also the flip scene until I got my firsts results...wow, that was something good and I liked. This days I miss my scope and all that i have is my Binos, but even with them star hopping is the way to do it and hopefully at the end of this year I will go back to a telescope and a "stupid" EQ mount


    I think with your telescope you should use the alt-azimuthal grid with the same flip scene. But in the future, when you want a Equatorial mount, do not make the same mistake I did and the one that almost make me break my mount....don't try to go up and down NEVER
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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    I'm not a starhopper,.,but I bought the "Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders" by Robert and Barbara Thompson,.It has starhops to many many targets.,,as well as B+W pics of them,.,a great guide suggested by J.G..,It was priced about $17 if I remember right.,,it would be a great start to the fine art of starhopping.,,good luck,.,and may your skies be clear on you camping trips.,O+O
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    Default Re: Star hopping n00b, help me (and everyone else) out! :)

    Star-hopping is just an acquired skill as Bryan says. The more you do it, the better you get at it. It really helps to have a good atlas like the PSA to start out. I was fortunate in that I had some star-hopping experience as a teenager with my 8" Dob, so it didn't take me long to get back to it once I returned to the hobby.

    It usually takes me less than 5 minutes to find a target, whereas when I started out sometimes it would take a half hour and other times I just struck out.

    Learning to find patterns in the stars is very helpful. For example, there is a nice array of stars near M101 which are visible in the binoculars and finder. I always use this asterism to track down M101, which is not always visible in the binos. It's fortunately plotted in the PSA so it is not too hard to find.

    Countless other objects are identifiable because of these patterns of stars, another one being M104 in Virgo.

    The challenge might be when you go out to darker skies getting lost in a sea of stars, so try to bring some binos with you on your camping trip. As you gain experience, you can even use DSO's as starting points for star-hopping, for example the galaxies in the bowl of the big dipper, lined up as they are. I also did the same thing with Makarian's chain.

    So the main thing you need is a little bit of patience and perseverance to build your skills.

    It's really kind of an art that supplements visual astronomy, as opposed to GOTO, which I don't expect I will ever need.
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