A couple weeks ago, my astronomy club did a group purchase of SkyTools 3 Pro (to get a big discount) and I got my copy a week ago. So far, I have been absolutely thrilled with it. The planning tools are great, the realtime tools are as well, it’s charting is excellent and the logging is perfect for me. I just thought I’d let folks know how I’m using it and put in a hearty recommendation.
Last year, I imaged the entire Messier catalog, and while doing so, I would find the object visually then attach the camera. When I talked about this at my local club, someone mentioned that I would be eligible for the Messier Pin from the Astronomical League. When I inquired, the league told me that I needed to log my observations, something I hadn’t been aware of, but a requirement that I understood. So, since then, I had always been meaning to actually log the Messier’s so that I could get my pin (I’m one of those people who love checking things off…), but I had never actually done it. Since I got the software last week, I’ve already re-observed and logged 51 of the Messiers and hope to get the next 19 for the pin (you need 70 for the pin) in the next couple days, finishing out the 110 by the end of the year sometime (and getting my honorary from the AL). In doing this, it has re-opened my eyes to visual observing. Since I started observing about 2 years ago, I’ve spent the vast majority of the time imaging, mostly only doing visual observations to center something before attaching the camera. This software, with it’s recommendations for eyepieces and other things, has encouraged me to look deeper into objects visually and I have fallen in love with visual observing again. Globular clusters in particular have been wonderful to pump up the magnification on – something I hadn’t done before – and the views have been stunning. I’ve also been using an eyepatch to keep one eye dark adapted as I use the laptop for finding charts and logging – that’s made a huge difference. I may look a bit dorky or like a pirate, but man I can see really well with that eye!
Anyway, I wanted to say thanks to the folks at Skyhound who made this excellent software and heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to bring more organization to their observing time. This software has in just a week reinvigorated my viewing, allowed me to organize what I’m doing and has renewed my interest in visual observing.