This project is an observation planning spreadsheet implemented in Microsoft Excel (2003) suitable for beginner or intermediate deep sky observers. The spreadsheet contains a catalogue of approximately 3,100 deep sky objects and regions which can be sorted and filtered by whether they are currently visible in the observer's local horizon system. This deep sky object ("DSO") observing spreadsheet will be of interest to instructors of introductory college astronomy courses, astronomy club lunar party organizers, and intermediate and beginner observers. By using the full power of Excel's drill-down data filter feature, a variety of interesting DSO tours can be developed, e.g. - by open cluster age, by bright star MK spectral class, by binary star separation, by galaxy type, by Milky Way structure association, etc. For beginners, purchasing a commercial observation planner product like Astroplanner software by Paul Rodham (iLanga, Inc.) is a better alternative. But beginner observers who wish to experiment with observation planning without an initial capital outlay may find this spreadsheet useful for learning observation planning technique. This author uses Astroplanner in conjunction with the spreadsheets provided here.
The spreadsheet is currently filled-out nearly to the practical computation limits of Excel - about 3,100 rows - constrained by user-friendly recalculation time. At this volume of computation, recalculation takes about 15-20 seconds. Allow the spreadsheet to fully recalculate before filtering the primary catalogue worksheet "MainCatalogue". The standard MS-Excel menu command "Tools | Options | Calculation | Manual / Automatic" can be used to toggle to manual recalculation.
Development from a beginner into an intermediate and then an advanced observer depends on in part on maximizing the amount of time spent at the eyepiece. In the time-deprived post-industrial life-style, getting to the eyepiece consistently to view 3 or 4 objects a night is difficult. One way to increase the amount of time spent at the eyepiece is efficient observation planning. With modern observation planning techniques, it is possible to quickly select three or four targets for any clear night, appropriate either for dark sky sites (galaxies, clusters and nebula) or light-polluted urban settings (bright doubles and variable stars and the Moon).
To observe the efficiently is dependent on having a good catalogue of interesting objects and the ability to determine the current location of objects above the observer's local horizon by object type. Typically, this may involve reviewing several books and guides for appropriate targets applicable to a particular night, such as Burnham's, Harrington's Touring the Universe with Binoculars, Mullaney's Celestial Harvest, or Peterson's Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, just to name few options. Finding the right targets is confounded by the repetitous and out-dated designations. Various DSO lists are familiar to most amateurs, such as Messier, Caldwell, the Herschel 400 and R.N. Clark. Expert astronomer recommended object lists are another source for the ideal narrowed DSO list. Prominent among such lists for deep sky objects (DSOs) are Steve Gottlieb's list of 662 DSOs incorporated into the chips of many digital setting circles such as the Skywizard, Lumicon's "Sky Vector" and Celestron's "Astromaster", Appendix E to R.N. Clark's classic book Visual Astronomy of the Night Sky, the Alan Dyer's Finest NGC List, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Deep Sky Challenge List, Messier's list (at the Astronomical League), Caldwell's catalogue (at SEDS), and Bill Arnet's implementation of the Herschel 400 (also available at the Astronomical League).
After using such guides and lists for a few years, it became apparent that many of the guides involve a core of common objects around which a lifetime observing program could be built. Using commercial observing planning software, it was possible to get at parts of a core observing list, but this involved loading catalogues containing numerous entries beyond the reach of most amateur telescopes of 10 inches or less aperture. Loading such catalogues also involved numerous duplicate records that had to be resolved in order to reach a final list for a particular night.
The solution of reviewing several guides and preparing an intermediate-sized life-time list of less than 3,000 objects accessible by smaller aperture telescopes appeared to be an appropriate solution. An "intermediate-sized" observing list here means more than the 400 in the Herschel 400 but less than the 10,000 objects that can be found in a typical modern galaxy catalogue. Appendix "E" in R.N. Clark's Visual Astronomy of the Deep Sky (approx. 620 objects) is in a similar vein, as was Steve Gottlieb's Non-stellar and Stellar observing catalogues (approx. 1,200 total) incorporated into many hand-controllers, and Mullaney's Celestial Harvest (500 objects). In short, review multiple guide books and build one list, in order to spend as much time in the future at the eyepiece. With such a catalogue, regardless of whether an observer is in an urban light polluted or rural dark sky setting, a few interesting objects could be quickly located on any given after-work night.
This project's DSO observing spreadsheet also was created out of a desire to have an observing tool that was more generic and flexible than commercial observation planning products and that could be carried around with the user on a data device like a jumpdrive. I was also interested in study astronomical math algorithms. The implementation vehicle chosen was Microsoft Excel. Excel is widely distributed in office environments. Thus, during a workday break, it is possible using this spreadsheet to quickly select a few objects for after work observing or to plan an astronomy club party.
Other features included in this DSO observing spreadsheet are a means to quickly move target lists to HTML tables for redistribution over the web.
The DSO observing spreadsheet catalogue contains approximately 3,100 objects. Spreadsheet Tab MainCatalogue. The catalogue was developed by the following means. CDS Simbad database was as the preferred source for object positions and names. Object names and positions located in various reference lists were checked against the Simbad J2000 position.
|Source catalogue||Count of catalogue objects from|
|R.N. Clark's DSO Catalogue Appendix E (Includes all Messier's list)||611|
|Herschel 400 - Supplemental objects not in Clark||187|
|Barnard Dark Clouds||348|
|Caldwell's List - Supplemental objects not in the above||18|
|O'Meara's DSO list - Supplemental objects not in the above||3|
|Mullaney's Celestial Harvest - Supplemental objects not in the above||13|
|Quasers visible to amateurs - McGaha, J. March 2006. The Outer Limits: Observing Quasers at High Redshifts. S&T. 111(3):69-72||4|
|Arp Peculiar Galaxies (of special interest to this author)||343|
|Hubble Famous Photographs - selected by this author||20|
|Molecular Clouds Complexes - Dame (1987), Perrot (2003) and others||18|
|Milky Way Dwarf Galaxies - recent discoveries||2|
|Cox, Arthur (ed). 2000. Astrophysical Quantities (4th ed.). Springer.||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=2000asqu.book.....C|
|Acker, 1992. Strasbourg-ESO Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae||http://cdsweb.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/Cat?V/84|
|Table 22.2 - Nearby galactic open clusters in Allen's Astrophysical Quantities (ed. 2000) - from (adjusted) Lynga, G. Catalogue of Open Clusters Data, 5th ed.||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=2000asqu.book.....C|
|Table 23.6 - The Local Group in Allen's Astrophysical Quantities (ed. 2000) - after van den Bergh, S. 1992 MNRAS, 255, 29pp and Tully, R.B. 1987, Nearby Galaxies Catalog (Cambridge Univ. Press)||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=2000asqu.book.....C|
|Table 23.7 - Bright galaxies in Allen's Astrophysical Quantities (ed. 2000) - after de Vaucouleurs, G. et al. 1990. Third Reference Catalogue of Bright Galaxies (Univ. of Texas Press) and Tully, R.B. 1987, Nearby Galaxies Catalog (Cambridge Univ. Press)||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=2000asqu.book.....C|
|Dame, T.M. et al. Nov. 1987. Molecular Gas within 1 kiloparsec of the Sun. Table 2 in A composite CO survey of the entire Milky Way. 1987ApJ...322..706D||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1987ApJ...322..706D|
|Dias, W.S. et al. July 2002. New catalogue of optically visible open clusters and candidates. 2002A&A...389..871D||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=2002A%26A...389..871D|
|Fich1984: Fich, M. & Blitz, L. 1984. Optical H II regions in the outer galaxy. 1984ApJ...279..125F||http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?1984ApJ...279..125F|
|Harris W.E. 1997. A catalog of parameters for globular clusters on the Milky Way. 1996AJ....112.1487H CDS Catalogue VII/202||http://vizier.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/Cat?VII/202|
|Hilton, J., Lahulla, J.F. 1995. Distance measurements of LYNDS galactic dark nebulae. 1995A&AS..113..325H CDS Cat. no. J/A+AS/113/325||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1995A%26AS..113..325H|
|Kerr, F.J. 1969. The Large-Scale Distribution of Hydrogen in the Galaxy. (Review) 1969ARA&A...7...39K||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1969ARA%26A...7...39K|
|Paturel, G. et al. HYPERLEDA Catalog of Galaxies, Version 2003 CDS Catalogue VII/237 (Catalogue of Principal Galaxies)||http://cdsweb.u-strasbg.fr/cgi-bin/Cat?VII/237|
|Lynds, B.T. Jan. 1962. Lynds-Barnard Cross-Reference, Table 1 in Catalogue of Dark Nebulae. 1962ApJS….7….1L||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1962ApJS....7....1L|
|Skiff, Brian. 1999. Observational Data for Galactic Globular Clusters. NGC/IC Project Website.||http://www.ngcic.org/gctext.htm|
|Taylor, J.H., Corders, J.M. Jul. 1993. Pulsar distances and the galactic distribution of free electrons. 1993ApJ...411..674T||http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1993ApJ...411..674T|
|Tully, R.B. 1988. Nearby Galaxies Catalogue. Cambridge. Univ. Press. CDS Cat. VII/145||http://cdsweb.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/Cat?VII/145|
Figure 1 - Age Distribution of Open Clusters and Clusters of Stars in a subset of approx. 823 DSOs in the catalogue
The galactic year, the time it takes the Sun to complete one revolution around the Milky Way's core, is approx. 220 million years or 8.34 log10(years). Half of all open clusters disperse in just under one galactic year (8.13 log10(years) or 218 million years). The third quartile of open clusters disperses in just under two galactic years (8.6 log10(years) or about 430 million years).
Popular old clusters and moving groups that have survived more than two galactic years and into the fourth quartile include M044 (Beehive Cluster), M048, M067, M073, M093, the Hyades Moving Group, and the Coma Berenices Star Cluster.
The youngest clusters in the catalogue are aged around 6.7 log10(years) or approx. 5 million years old. The youngest three are the Tau CMa Cluster a.k.a. the Northern Jewel Box (NGC2362, Caldwell 64); NGC1980 surrounding iot Orion in the Orion stellar nursery region; and, NGC2239, a star cluster associated with the Rosetta Nebula stellar nursery in Mon.
There are two populations of globular clusters divided by metallicity. Zinn (1985). The smaller population has high metallicity, is redder in color, is within 7 kpc of the galactic core and is flattened in shape. The larger second population has lower metallicity, is bluer in color, generally is beyond 7 kpc of the galactic core and is spheroid in distribution. Both populations were formed across a span of 13 to 9 billion years ago, with some bias towards the high metal population being formed more recently. Chaboyer (1996). How the two populations of nearly equal-aged globulars formed in the Milky Way with differing metallic contents still remains under investigation. There are competing hypotheses. Pulliam (Mar. 2006, S&T); Brook (2003) (hierarchical consolidation); Martin (2004) (Canis Major Dwarf galaxy accretion); Forbes (2004) (not Canis Major Dwarf galaxy accretion).
Planetary nebula ages are not coded in catalogue, but have been measured to 40 million years. Xilouris (1996). Planetary nebulas begin with their characteristic end-view circular shape seen in M57 (M57 at SEDS), M27 (M27 at SEDS) or the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293 at SEDS). As time progresses, interstellar wind or the effects of nearby bright stars degrades this shape and they dissipate into the interstellar medium. See Xilouris (1996).
While planetary nebula may be spherical in their early stages of mass loss, they may not remain so. In later stages, they can become elongated symmetrical tubes, as illustrated by a Hubble Space Telescope picture of the PN MyCn18. Space Sci. Instit. 1996. Planetary Nebula McCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star. Photo STScI-PRC1996-07. This nebula has a strikingly similar appearance to M57 and the Helix nebula, but is viewed from a side angle instead of "end-on."
Figure 3 - Distribution of dark cloud opacity
Figure 4 - Distribution of 685 galaxies by Magnitudes per Square Arcsecond (MPSAS)
|Type||Description_______________||No stage||0||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||Grand Total|
|LAR||Lenticular non-barred with inner ring||7||5||12|
|LAS||Lenticular non-barred s-shaped||3||5||8|
|LAT||Lenticular non-barred mixed||1||1||2|
|LBR||Lenticular barred inner ring||6||1||7|
|LBS||Lenticular barred s-shaped||6||6||12|
|LBT||Lenticular barred mixed||2||2|
|LXR||Lenticular mixed inner ring||2||2|
|LXS||Lenticular mixed s-shaped||3||3||6|
|LXT||Lenticular mixed mixed||1||1|
|SAR||Spiral non-barred inner ring||1||4||2||1||3||11|
|SAS||Spiral non-barred s-shaped||2||3||8||15||6||23||7||3||1||2||70|
|SAT||Spiral non-barred mixed||1||6||13||8||28|
|SBR||Spiral barred inner ring||1||1||5||7||7||2||23|
|SBS||Spiral barred s-shaped||4||8||1||13||5||10||5||7||4||10||67|
|SBT||Spiral barred mixed||1||3||4||6||9||2||2||2||1||30|
|SXR||Spiral mixed inner ring||1||2||3||5||3||14|
|SXS||Spiral mixed s-shaped||1||2||3||7||5||8||2||3||1||3||35|
|SXT||Spiral mixed mixed||1||3||3||9||19||16||11||62|
|Catalogue||Count of catalogue objects from|
|Alignment bright stars from Skyscan controller list||90|
|Declination drift method alignment stars on celestial equator (this author)||29|
|Spectral - HR Diagram stars from Kaler's Stars & Their Spectra - Supps||75|
|Mullaney's Celestial Harvest Carbon Stars & Misc - Supps||18|
|Garrison 1996 Spectral Stars with known absolute magnitudes - Supps||4|
|Catalogue||Count of catalogue objects from|
|6th Orbit Catalogue||155|
|USNO 2006 Selected Doubles - Supp||53|
|Belmont Society Colorful Doubles List - Supps||145|
|AstroLeague Double Star Observing List - Supps||51|
|Mullaney's Celestial Harvest - Supps||28|
|Garrison 1996 Spectral Stars with known absolute magnitudes - Supps||4|
|Complex systems supps - brighter mag 11 w more 5 or more members (this author extracted from the CCDM)||31|
|Argyle's High Precision Resolution Test Stars - 090mm scopes. In Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars. Springer.||4|
|Argyle's High Precision Resolution Test Stars - 150mm scopes||3|
|Argyle's High Precision Resolution Test Stars - 200mm scopes||9|
|Argyle's High Precision Resolution Test Stars - 300mm scopes||13|
|Argyle's High Precision Resolution Test Stars - 400mm scopes||6|
|Catalogue||Catalogue objects from|
|Variables - Short Period AAVSO master catalogue united.txt||381|
|Variables - Long Period - AAVSO Easy Variables||74|
|Variables - Long period - Mullaney's Celestial Harvest - Supps||6|
|Mag. of 2nd component||Sep. " < 1||2||4||8||16||32||64||128||256||512 >||Total|
About 70% of the doubles in the observing list require an enlarged separation to resolve due to the faintness of the 2nd component between magnitude 8 and 10.
|Primary/Secondary Magnitude||< 0||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10 >=||Total|
|Contrast Index||Magnitude difference||Sep arcsecs < 1||2||4||8||16||32||64||128||256||512 >=||Total|
|CEP||Cepheid type pulsating variable||23|
|DSCT||delta Sct type pulsating variable||13|
|E||eclipsing binary system||163|
|IS||rapid irregular variable, no apparent connection with diffuse nebulosity||2|
|LB||slow, irregular late spectral type variables||2|
|M||Mira type variables||53|
|N||nova type eruptive systems||1|
|RCB||R CrB type eruptive variable||4|
|RR||RR Lyr type pulsating variable||25|
|RS||RS CVn type eruptive variable||4|
|RV||RV Tau type pulsating variable||1|
|SR||semiregular pulsating variable||12|
|SXPHE||SX Phe type pulsating variable||6|
|UG||U Gem type eruptive variable (dwarf nova)||3|
|UV||UV Cet type eruptive variable; flare star||3|
|X||x-ray source, close binary system with one component a hot, compact object||2|
|Z Cam||Z Cam type nova type eruptive systems||3|
|Catalogue||Count of catalogue objects from|
|Limiting Magnitude Areas - Int'l Meteor Org.||46|
|Photometry - Landolt standard star fields||24|
|Asterisms per SEDS with supps||50|
|Meteor shower radiants - Int'l Meteor Org. - Meteor Shower Calendar 2006||51|
|Catalogue||Count of catalogue objects from|
|Parapegma - Ecliptic marker - Greek regular 30 deg constellations||12|
|Parapegma - Galactic plane IAU constellations - chart take-offs by this author||18|
|Structure - Ecliptic plane marker 30 deg - computed this author||2|
|Structure - Galactic plane marker 30 deg - computed this author||17|
|Structure - Supergalactic plane marker 30 deg - after the NEDS's coordinate converter||14|
|Orion Arm spinward anti-spinward apexes - after Walkey (1946)||2|
|Galactic spiral arms - distances - after Taylor (1993)||7|
|Gould's Belt after Grenier (2004)||5|
|Misc. OB Associations within 1 kpc - after Dame (1987)||10|
|Olano's Ring - Associated Molecular Clouds - after Olano (2001)||3|
|Olano's Ring - Associated OB Associations - after Olano (2001)||14|
This process yielded approximately 3,100 object entries.
All spreadsheets are in MS-Excel (2003). Right-click link to download component.
Main catalogue spreadsheet ObsSpdht.xls is the primary component. It must be open on the desktop when all other spreadsheets are opened. The other component spreadsheets are subsidiary and dependent-linked to primary spreadsheet ObsSpdht.xls.
It is assumed that the user has a basic working knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Excel's drill-down capabilities via the "Data filter" menu option.
The spreadsheet uses Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code to compute numerous values. You will need to respond "Enable macros" to the standard Excel security prompt to update the spreadsheet.
Only enter data in blue-background cells. Use notes by component spreadsheet and worksheet tab follow:
Again, remember Cell B31 in this worksheet. It forces recalculation of all the remaining worksheets.
Do not change the urls in the first seven rows of the bibliography. This urls are used in the Main Catalogue to automatically generate external content links for objects.
For this spreadsheet to work, ObsSpdt.xls must be in the same directory as this worksheet. ObsSpdt.xls must first be open on the desktop before opening this spreadsheet.
Learn about history of astronomy, the structure of the Milky Way, how astronomers discovered the structure of the Milky Way, and the structure of the supergalactic universe by reading astronomical journal articles, websites and some hard copy books. Get a sense of how astronomical scientific knowledge is incrementally discovered through the scientific process. Although most of the journal articles contain higher level math that is beyond the average amateur, many journal articles contain narrative conclusions and figures that are within the range of most amateur readers. NASA ADS Services redistributes - for single download, personal reading - astronomical journal articles - many of which are subject to copyright protection. The Reader-Bibliography is an index to landmark journal articles and books and other resources with external content links to the NASA ADS and other websites. To learn more about Milky Way structure and astronomy history, start reading here . . .
The content of this website and the data contained herein are distributed without charge in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty, including without any implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, to the extent permitted by applicable law. The content of this website and spreadsheet data contained herein are distributed "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of the software and data are with you, including any general, special, incidental or consequential damages arising out of the use or inability to use the website and spreadsheet data contained herein.
This website contains amateur astronomer developed materials and is not suitable for citation as an authoritative source.
No copyright is asserted to any original content materials developed and included by this author in this website and the same are released to the public domain. No copyright is asserted as to any scientific fact recited herein.
It is the nature of the internet that information contained on it is temporary. This website was developed for the enjoyment of the amateur astronomical community and as an aid for astronomy clubs, amateurs and secondary school educators. I encourage students and other amateurs to freely download, store and/or redistribute this website.
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Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg - Simbad: This project has made use of the SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France.
Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg - Catalogue Service: This project has made use of numerous catalogues redistributed through the CDS Astronomer's Catalogue Service, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France. Catalogues that were utilized are listed in Bibliography and the Distance Bibliography. The use of those sources are by this reference is acknowledged and appreciated.
NASA Astrophysics Data System/Computation Facility at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics - NASA ADS Abstract Services: This project has made use of NASA's Astrophysics Data System.
Nigel Henbest and Heather Couper: This project was inspired by the N. Henbest & H. Couper's 1994 book The Guide to the Galaxy. Cambridge Univ. Press. (1994gtg..book.....H).
Salt Lake Astronomical Society: At the time this site author was created, the author was a member of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society (SLAS). While SLAS neither participated in nor endorses this project, the use of SLAS's 16 inch Ealing Telescope at SLAS's Harmon's Observatory in the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex (SPOC) at Tooele, Utah remains a continuing inspiration, which is acknowledged here.
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This site is not an alpha version of a software product intended for future commercial distribution. These catalogue will not be distributed commercially.
Like many hobbies, amateur astronomy relies on the goodwill and fraternal desire of its participants to freely share without charge. This author remains committed to that standard of conduct in the amateur astronomical community. But in this instance, the many nights and weekends over a five month period needed to develop the underlying spreadsheet database, to review professional astronomy journals for the reasonably current and accurate distance information, and to develop VRML rendering scripts, ethically appeared to justify an entirely voluntary donation request.
Prepared by: K. Fisher 7/2006 email@example.com