The results of observing with a telescope are often pages upon pages of notes... notes that get put away in binders and sit gathering dust unless they can be useful. These notes sit around mostly because the chronological nature of them makes it rather difficult to refer to a particular object unless one remembers what date it was observed on. In an attempt to make my years of notes useful I have invested the time necessary to convert them into a form that can be automated, searched and displayed on any computer.
Overlayed DSS image
. These overlays are generated on-the-fly using the object data.
The notes themselves are originally written on paper forms in the field. These must be entered into the computer in the form of a custom database maintained with a series of Python scripts. For web display they are exported to a MySQL database on the server and PHP scripts used to serve the pages. The drawings and DSS photos are linked by filename in the database records.
The result seems to work fairly well, most objects can be brought up with a quick query. As long as my PHP scripts work, no promises as I am certain a few bugs still exist.
There are notes here on most of the objects worthy of attention that are available to an observer equipped with small or large telescopes. Most of my observations have been from various locations around Southern Arizona or the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Each entry contains basic physical data on the object, written descriptions, as well as CCD and Digital Sky Survey photographs. In addition I have collected various historic descriptions of each object.
There are currently well over 21 thousand objects included in the database. Of these I have personally observed around one quarter of that number. The observations have been done with several various instruments, from a 90mm apochromat to an 18" (46cm) f/4.5 dobsonian of my own construction. Many observations have been made with binoculars, or sometimes without any optical aid at all.
When using this database keep in mind that this will ever be a work in progress... There will be links to objects not yet observed, objects with sketchy or non-existent descriptions and other material missing. A list of objects needing new descriptions is also part of the database. The most recent version of this database can be found at www.darkerview.com. I intend to continue adding to this database as long as I can observe from dark skies.
Of course the public nature of the Internet also makes this personal database available to anyone in the world who wishes to share in what I have seen in dark skies...
The query field accepts the following formats. No padding with zeros is required.
Mxxx or Messier xx, for Messier objects
Ex: M1 or M101
NGCxxxx, NGC objects
Ex: NGC55 or NGC7009
xxxx, if a number without prefix is supplied it is assumed to be an NGC object
Ex: 6822 for NGC6822
ICxxxx, for IC objects
Bxx or Barnard xx, for Barnard catalog objects
Con or Constellation, returns all objects in a constellation, uses the standard three letter abbreviations
xxx Con , stellar identifiers either Bayer and Flamsteed or variable designations
Ex: Beta Cyg or SS Vir
Common names, will match the first object with a text fragment in the common name
Ex: 'black' will match 'Blackeye Galaxy'
Will attempt to match any other format with the object if possible
Ex: 3C273 or PK 342+27.1
Various sources have been used to compile the information found here, from historical information to modern astronomical databases.
- A complete set of Charles Messier's original descriptions from Connoissance des Temps for 1784 is included thanks to the SEDS deep sky database. Also taken from there are a smattering of descriptions by William and John Herschel as well as other early astronomers.
- Many historical notes are included from A Cycle of Celestial Objects Vol II, The Bedford Catalogue by Captain William Henry Smyth, the 1844 edition. Using a 150mm refractor his view of the sky and resulting descriptions are quite comparable to what a modern amateur astronomer might see, when viewed through the astronomical knowledge of the early 19th century. These have been edited to convert them to digital format including conversion of many special characters to unicode equivalents and to expand many often cryptic abbreviations.
- Included are all of the deep sky object descriptions by Rev. Webb from Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes sixth edition, Rev. T.W. Webb, 1917, edited by Rev T. E. Espin. Webb's observations were usually done using a 94mm refractor in a back-yard observatory providing a view similar to modern amateur instruments. The observations have been lightly edited to allow conversion to digital format, usually conversion of special characters to the nearest unicode equivalent.
- The full set of E. E. Barnard's descriptions of dark nebulae is incorporated from A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way, E.E. Barnard, 1927
In recent years a number of astronomers and serious amateur historians have made a splendid effort to correct some of the historical astronomical catalogs, in particular the New General Catalog and the Index Catalogs. Due to the nature of collecting, collating, and manually transcribing astronomical data on thousands of objects various errors had entered these classic catalogs. Many errors are also due to the limitations of observers using their instruments to the limits of human perception in the ages before CCD cameras or even photography.
These efforts involve accessing the historical observer's original notes or photographic plates and carefully correcting many longstanding errors in the record. I cannot praise these efforts adequately and much credit must go to these folks...
- The extensive NGC & IC object notes from Harold Corwin have been partially incorporated to resolve many mysteries in the NGC and IC catalogs. These are graciously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. I intend to fully incorporate these notes but this will take some time. These have been lightly edited to expand abbreviations, occasional mis-spellings, and to convert many astronomical catalog numbers to standard formats in order to allow automatic link creation.
- Many corrections to the database have been made while referring to Courtney Seligman's excellent website. A few snippets can be found included under his non-commercial permission.
- Naming conventions and catalog number formats used are generally in compliance with SIMBAD formats. There are some exceptions in formatting (such as ESO and Perek+Kohoutek nebulae) where multiple formats are included to allow searching for catalog numbers from other references.
- Some select catalogs, such as Collinder and Melotte, are entered in both spelled out and abbreviated forms to allow searching for either.
- Binary stars have separate entries for the constituent stars if those member stars are well cataloged themselves, i.e. if there are separate HD, SAO, or GSC catalog numbers for the system members. Otherwise there is only an entry for the system.
- I have taken exception to the IAU practice of placing traditional names on a single member of a binary or multiple star system. This does not agree with traditional practice of naming the entire system as these would not have been distinguished prior to telescopic discovery of the companion stars. Here the traditional name is to be found in the entry for the system, not on the constituent stars.