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Thread: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

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    Default Walking in the night - improving the observing skills



    Hello all,

    well trained observing skills at the eyepiece are the Alpha and Omega for hunting the faint nebulae and galaxies, with whatever aperture you may have on your telescope or binoculars.

    Stephen James O'Meara has described in Sky&Telescope, June 2004, p.82 - 83, a very good technique how to train the averted vision, and how to find that magic 'hot arc' with the 'sweet spot' in the peripheral vision, which may allow you to fix the very faint deep sky objects, or details inside.
    His secret reads: make a walk in the night.

    Well before reading O'Meara's article in 2004, I have found out during our night walks through the forest connecting our village with the next one, that my ability to see the deep sky objects in the skies above the trees during the walk has considerably increased.
    It is pretty simple, when walking at night, the dark adapted vision is activated to the highest level to avoid the obstacles.
    Also quite interesting is, that the head is slightly swinging left/right, up/down, during the walk. This movement of the head, and the rapid flicker of the eyes helps to recognize the low contrast objects on the way. When observing at the eyepiece, we tap on the OTA to find the faint fuzzy, as the dark adapted visual perception becomes alerted by moving objects.

    Before getting started, and during the breaks in the observing session, I always make a short walk in the backyard, plus some short excercise to increase the circulation of blood.

    So, don't forget a walk in the night, and clear skies,

    Best,

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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    I like taking walks with my wife at twilight, while my scope is cooling down. She has to keep me on the path, because my eyes are constantly on the skies. I find it fun and an interesting challenge to see how early I can spot planets or bright stars in the slowly-darkening skies. Perhaps this helps to train my brain to detect fainter objects at the eyepiece - I really can't say. But I do enjoy it, regardless.

    It's also fun to see how many stars I can detect in the Pleiades with the naked eye this time of year. I've only really seen six, but I'd like to think that with more experience, I might be able to make out Celaeno and Asterope, and perhaps Pleione. Maybe I need more experience splitting tight doubles first.
    Last edited by starlogborg; 01-12-2017 at 10:59 PM. Reason: typos

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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    Thanks for the tip JG. The only walks I take are outside where the scope is and inside where I left the stuff. Otherwise I will stumble with direct lights. But, next time I go with the Binos to a dark spot I will try your advice.
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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    An excellent tip JG, and it is something I have enjoyed doing for years though I never considered it as a benifit with the telescope before.
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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    Thanks for the article and advice, JG.

    Sage wisdom, indeed, my friend.
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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    That's a great concept!

    I often 'stumble' around in the dark sort of half walking half tripping. But I work my way out of the house across the deck down some steps or the reverse with no light other than the star light.

    Although tonight it seemed like everything was lit up like daylight.... Oh yea.. Moon
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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    Totally agree with you my friend. I find it interesting that when many people look into their backyard at night they comment how dark it is back there. But to my eye it is quite bright. Our hobby gives one a totally different perspective on what is truly dark and what is not. I know for my part, after my eyes have settled as deeply into dark adaptation as they can for the environment, I can easily walk around my backyard without a problem due to the sky glow of my typically Bortle 5 sky. When at the dark site, which is typically Bortle 2 to 3, I can also walk around because of the light from the profusion of stars.

    I've read of one of the great astronomers of the 18th century who would sit in a dark room all afternoon until nightfall to prepare for observing. I don't recall if it was Herschel, Messier or someone else. The trick of oxygen loading, or breathing deeply for 15 seconds or so before going to the eyepiece will feed more oxygen to the brain in preparation for the observation. That would be similar to doing some exercises. I know some espouse wearing the red goggles when one observes in a light polluted area. You are supposed to keep them on at all times except when looking through the eyepiece. Supposedly it will help maintain the level of dark adaptation attainable given the brighter environment. However, I am not certain how valid that thinking is.

    As for walks, I agree, taking walks during the nighttime is a wonderful way for your eyes to adapt. It is leisurely and gives one time to scan the sky looking for naked eye DSOs, watch meteors or the occasional satellite passage. However, like Tom, I have been known to wander off course a bit while looking up!
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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    Thanks all for the comments.

    The first and the last time I have seen the Great Orion Nebula revealing a pale greenish color to unaided eyes,
    it has been many years ago when hiking through the snow fields with a big bag on my back to a chalet at night.
    The 300 height meters to hike, and the crystal clear dark skies, have made the difference.

    Clear skies, and keep walking at night,

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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    Sometimes I will walk into the woods by my house (pitch black) and look up through an opening in the canopy to better view M33 or other dim objects with the naked eye. Walking through open country at night without a flashlight is something I have done on occasion since my Boy Scout days--it quickly cures a young boy's fear of the dark... The stars do illuminate the landscape, but the forest remains dark--at least in the natural world. I would guess that in this age of ever-increasing light pollution the vast majority of folks in developed countries would not need a flashlight at night, because it never gets truly dark.
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    Default Re: Walking in the night - improving the observing skills

    I envy those who have dark woods to walk through. You are very lucky. I am many miles from anything you would call woods or dark. When I was a boy there were still some orange orchards around. But, even those are long gone.

    Don
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