Database Information

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 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 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 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...


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
Sources, Acknowledgments, and Credits

Various sources have been used to compile the information found here, from historical information to modern astronomical databases.

Data Sources

Historical Sources

Historical Corrections

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...

Futher Notes

end Database Information