Visual Observing

An observing programme is, I guess, the astronomical version of train spotting.

Like the train spotter standing on the end of a station platform or a railway bridge waiting for their prey to appear, the astronomical observing programme is a little more structured and is generally formed around observing all the objects in old astronomical catalogues.

Looking through the current list of Catalogues in Astroplanner I find there are 150 of them. These are generally professional compilations of various objects, but if you look further there hundreds of observing lists and challenges from the many astronomical magazines published over the decades.

Basically the list is almost endless.

For any astronomer, the most famous of them all has to be the 110 objects in Charles Messier’s catalogue and like many others, is the one that I started with.

I’ve chosen a few others either out of historical interest like the Caroline Herschel catalogue , or the Collinder Catalogue out of practicality as it only contains star clusters, which are generally easier to observe when conditions are far from ideal.

The same can be said the the Lunar 100, which is a compilation of lunar features compiled by Charles Wood in his column in Sky and Telescope magazine.

Others like the Caldwell Catalogue, just because it’s quirky have been added to my observing programme.. and to be honest, there is almost a lifetimes worth of observing.