Database Information

The results of observing with a telescope are often pages upon pages of notes... notes that get put away in three ring 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 type the descriptions and scan the drawings into a form that can be automated, searched and displayed on any computer.

Overlayed HCG88
Overlayed DSS image of HCG88. 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 databse 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 no expert with this scripting language and a few bugs still exist in this database setup.

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 Hawai'i. 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.

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. In addition I have photographed many of the objects with DSLR and CCD cameras, adding these photos to the database. Care has been taken to properly indicate the scale and orientation of all photos in the database.

The historical observations consist of a complete set of Messier's and Mechian's descriptions from Connissance des Temps, selected descriptions from William and John Herschel, and a complete set of the descriptions of Rev T.W. Webb. These descriptions have been edited lightly, usually removing abbreviations where they could be confusing to a modern observer, but hopefully leaving the original content and character intact. Certainly these old observations contain many factual errors leading from the lack of knowledge of the true nature of the objects they observed, but herein lies the value of these old observations. These descriptions give insight into the path to understanding astronomers have taken over the intervening centuries.

The Messier and Herschel descriptions come mostly from the excellent SEDS website, while those of Rev. Webb come from the 1917 sixth edition of his Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes.

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 nonexistant descriptions and other material missing. A list of objects needing new desciptions is also part of the database. The mose 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 the clear skies of Hawai'i.

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...

Enjoy!

Database Usage

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