13 December 2016

Fun with Globulars

Given the time of year, one might wonder why a post about globular cluster observing comes now. There are 2 good reasons. First, it's a good time to plan observing projects that start in a few months. Secondly, I've done a bit of research lately on the Terzan globulars. There is confusion in the astronomical community about the identification of some of these objects. I believe I have this sorted now - results available in the Plan Library. But I digress, slightly...

Globular Cluster M 22 - Photo by Mark Lang
Observing globular clusters can be a very interesting pursuit. If you observe carefully, you'll notice that they all appear just a bit different. Not only in size and star colors, but notably in how many stars you can resolve, and the pattern of concentration. You can also observe globulars in neighboring galaxies.

Deep-Sky Planner provides a number of resources to help. You can search various catalogs in the database, and you can download several plans from the Plan Library that contain specialized lists of globular cluster. Current these include:
  • Astro League Globular Clusters
  • RASC Globular Clusters
  • Palomar Globular Clusters
  • Terzan Globular Clusters.
The AL and RASC lists are designed to educate the observer about observing globulars. They provide a nice sampling of objects and helpful information in their respective publications*. Either is a worthwhile project.

The latter two lists are designed for imagers and observers with large telescopes. The data for these lists are taken from the SIMBAD astronomical database and are supplemented with magnitude and color information gathered by W.E. Harris of McMasters University in Canada.

These are small, faint clusters so you will likely want to download and view DSS images of these objects. Although these clusters have been studied for many years, magnitude and color information is missing for many of the objects.

*AL Globular program material: https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/globular/globular1.html

*RASC Globular program material: Edgar, James S. Observer's Handbook 2017, Toronto: Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 2016, p312. Print.

09 December 2016

Deep-Sky Planner 7.1 Release

A free update to Deep-Sky Planner 7 has been released. It contains bug fixes, enhancements and new features. The list of changes is available in the release notes that can be viewed in the Deep-Sky Planner 7 Community (Software Updates page), and in the Readme file that accompanies the update.

This release has some important changes that require some explanation. First, support for ASCOM weather stations has been added. I tested with both the BlueAstro Stickstation and the Astromi.ch MeteoBox. As you may know, the developer of the Stickstation, Per Frejvall, died unexpectedly in July. I had corresponded with Per and worked out communication issues before he passed. I have since worked with Martin Ingold at Astromi.ch on support for MBox. Both Mbox and StickStation are working well with DSP7.1.

MeteoBox (MBox)

Deep-Sky Planner 7 was released with internal support for high resolution displays. The user interface was sufficient where Windows scaling was 150% or less. Because the user interface was not sufficient where scaling was above 150%, I have elected to make internal support for high resolution displays an option within Deep-Sky Planner. I will improve internal support for high-resolution displays as Windows and development tools improve support for high res displays.

Lastly, the database has been updated with new cross reference information for NGC globular clusters. There were incorrect references between NGC and GCL catalogs for globular clusters. If you have created any observing plan documents that include GCL objects, you may want to be sure that the object information is correct. Please look for a new Terzan Clusters plan and an updated Palomar Clusters plan in the Plan Library in a few days. My thanks go to Owen B for reporting this issue.