Holding the Sky in your Hand
Using a Palm Pilot to locate Messier's and NGC's by Altitude and Azimuth.
I used to use a computer to locate different objects of interest in the sky, and then print their location for each half hour of the time I would be out observing. This was very time consuming and then if there was no clear sky it was for naught. One night at a star party Joe Shuster mentioned that I could get a Palm Pilot and install some programs in it that would help to find these objects in real time. I bought a PalmOne Zire 31 for $150 at Circuit City and I installed a few programs such as Messier!, Planets!, NGC!, Night Sky (constellations), and of course Location Manager. The Location Manager program is necessary for all the other programs to adjust the data for your location. All are from Star Pilot Technologies (website www.star-pilot.com).
Because I don't have a Go-To telescope nor am I familiar with the sky like so many of you are, I really enjoy this system. I have my 8-inch DOB telescope, Binocular Parallelogram, and my Sky Window® set up with altitude and azimuth so I can find anything that is seeable without any trouble in a flash. I can also see a picture of the Messier that I'm looking for right on the PalmOne™.
At any time the PalmOne™ will tell me the exact location of any of the 110 Messier's, 13,000 NGC's or show me any constellation and name each star in it that I choose. Also you can record your observations and make notes of the viewing as to seeing quality etc. For protecting your dark adaptation, there is a download called 2Red that will turn the screen red on black at www.PalmFLYING.com.Published in the May 2005 issue of the NightTimes