Star Charts – A Thing of the Past?

star chartI was so excited when I bought my Star Atlas 2000. After a few years in the club I finally felt the need for a good star chart. I was no longer intimidated by the seemingly chaotic pages of the star atlas, and could finally make sense of the thousands of dots.

When my book came in the mail I sat like a kid at Christmas, on the livingroom floor with the book sprawled out in front of me. I carefully opened each page, looking for familiar constellations and star names. It was so amazing. I felt as though I finally had the knowledge and the tools to do some serious observing.

I spent hours prepping for my first Messier Marathon using the book. Armed with sticky arrows I located all my targets on the maps and wrote down the page numbers on my messier list.

How quickly things change! This fast moving and ever changing world of cell phones, computers and tablets has also affected the world of observational astronomy. There are apps out there that allow stargazers to organize their time more efficiently, and to save some space in the ever growing bag of gadgets needed to observe. The electronic star chart has done away with the need to drag out the book, my precious book. It allows us to access with literally the touch of a finger the wonders of the night sky.

Lynn and I have used an electronic star chart to find asteroid Vesta, planets and Messier objects. We both have a small tablet, mine being a Kindle Fire. The app I use is Distant Suns, developed by Mike Smithwick. It’s a great app that allows me to carry the universe in my pocket. I can search for messier objects or just check out which constellations will be out tonight. I love using it and I love being able to put my tablet in my purse or my duffel bag and bring it anywhere.

So what about my star charts? Well, I’m not ready to get rid of them quite yet. I love how they look, how they feel and what they represent. Yes I know, I put too much emotional attachment on things. That’s why I can’t get rid of stuff like the 35mm camera my dad gave me, my prom dress from 1976, my VHS collection of Star Trek movies and the little pink dress both my girls wore in pictures when they were babies.

Well….maybe the prom dress can finally go!

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