Cool Astronomy Files
from Astronomerica

    MP3 Astronomy Podcast - "SPACE WALK AMONG THE STARS"

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Do you have a telescope and want to see more? Take these "space walks among the stars" along with you when you go out observing. Each one will help you find some very interesting celestial objects in your telescope and tell you a little about them. Listen as you move from object to object in your telescope at your own pace, picking up hints and tips as you go. Just download the MP3 file, load it in your player, get to a good observing spot, set up your scope and press play! It's like having your own astrogeek at your beck and call!

An Astronomerica exclusive!

MP3 guided tours of the night sky...

NEW! The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), satellite galaxies M32 and M110, and nearby double stars in Andromeda. (24:15, 11.1 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
The great Andromeda Galaxy - the closest big spiral to the Milky Way.
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide. Plus Bonus Challenge: Globular Cluster G1, or Mayall II).

The Owl Nebula and galaxy M108 in Ursa Major. (17:14, 7.9 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
The ghostly Owl Nebula and a dusty edge-on galaxy.
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

M42, the Great Orion Nebula. (20:27, 18.7 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
A tour of the best deep-sky object in the northern sky.
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

Galaxies M81, M82, NGC 3077, and NGC 2976 in Ursa Major. (33:27, 15.2 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
A tour of some of the brightest members of the M81 Galaxy Group.
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

The Rosette Nebula (NGC 2237), open cluster NGC 2252, binary stars, and UGC 3459 galaxy challenge in Monoceros. (21:32, 10.3 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
A winter or early spring tour of the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros and some interesting nearby objects.
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

Star clusters M46, M47, NGC 2423, NGC 2425, double stars, and a newly discovered planet (that you can't see, sorry!) in Puppis!. (20:29, 9.38 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
A look at some nice winter clusters, double stars, and a surprise.
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

Galaxies NGC 4631, NGC 4627, NGC 4656, and NGC 4676 (A & B) in Canes Venatici. (26:42, 12.1 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
What do a whale, a hockey stick, and a pair of mice have in common? They're all cool galaxies in Canes Venatici, and you're invited to check them out!
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

Globular clusters M13 and M92, galaxy NGC 6207 in Hercules. (16:12, 7.4 MB - click to play in your default media player; right-click, then "Save Target/Link As" to download)
The Hercules cluster and the (other) Hercules cluster!
(Optional charts to go with this MP3 guide.)

    Unofficial Sky & Telescope NGC/Messier/IC Index - This was created by my brother to help all those people (including him) who just can't give up their stack of Sky & Telescope magazines, but have so many issues they can no longer find what they're looking for inside. This is an index of NGC, Messier, and IC objects that appear in articles and images (June 1990 to December 2008, .txt format. Right-click and select "Save Link/Target As..."):

Unofficial Sky & Telescope NGC, Messier, and IC Index

    Databases and other  files for The Sky v. 5 (by Software Bisque):

McNeil Planetaries (Do NOT right-click to download or the file will not save or compile properly. Instead, please click on the link, select the page and copy and paste into your text editor, then save as a .txt file. Thanks to Steve for this tip!) - Some of the more interesting but obscure planetary nebulae are included in this database adapted for The Sky from a list compiled by Jay McNeil. A nice addition to the built-in lists. Put this file in your "SDBs" folder, then in the program click on Data>Import, navigate to the file, click Open. Data Class should be Objects/Points, Object Type=McNeil Planetaries, Epoch=2000.0. Click on Compile, Yes, and Ok. Then go to View>Labels>Set Up and click on the Extended tab. Find McNeil Planetaries in the list in the left and check the box by Label (and any other info you want shown on screen). Then click OK. (Note that if you add something to the database and reload it, you then have to re-activate the labels as described above.) The positions in this file are usually more accurate than those in the NGC or IC lists. To search for an object, find McNeil Planetaries in the list of databases in the Find dialog box, then type the name or designation after the words McNeil Planetaries. For example, if I want to find the Egg Nebula, I could type "egg nebula" or "zwicky 67" or "pk 80-6.1"or "crl 2688", all of which are alternate designations for the same object.

Miscellaneous Objects (Do NOT right-click to download. Please click on the link, select the page and copy and paste into your text editor, then save as a .txt file.) - I put together a few oddballs that aren't otherwise available, such as the Twin Quasar, Quasar APM 08279+5255 (the most luminous object in the universe, around 12 billion light years distant), Hoag's Object, more accurate positions for the centers of the bigger/brighter Abell Galaxy Clusters, exact locations for the "tadpoles" in IC 410, Barnard's Star, etc. Add your own! It's easy! Add the database and find objects as per the instructions for McNeil Planetaries. (Distances for objects with redshifts provided assume a Hubble Constant of 71 km/s/Mpc and Omega_M (total matter density) of 0.27, 'cause it's my website! See this cool calculator if you want to put your own parameters in. Just enter "z", which is an object's redshift and hit "flat". If this is meaningless to you, but still piques your interest, grab a donut and start here)

Tip on adding images to The Sky v.5: Don't follow the instructions in the manual! Instead, you can easily create an image file as in the example below, as long as the object has an "alias" (most do, the notable exception being any "PK" planetaries). If you add the two databases above to the program, you can use the alias for those objects and add images for them, too! The first column is the alias, the second is the image file name. Add the database like you add the two above, only the Object Type in the import dialog box should be "Image." It's that easy!

NGC 1952                      M1.jpg
NGC 1952                      M1A.jpg
NGC 1952                      M1B.jpg
NGC 1952                      M1ESO.jpg
NGC 1952                      M1LordRosse.jpg
NGC 7089                      M2.gif
NGC 7089                      M2.jpg
NGC 7089                      M2A.jpg
NGC 7089                      M2-SDSS.jpg
NGC 5272                      M3.jpg
NGC 5272                      M3A.jpg
NGC 5272                      M3B.jpg

These images will show up in the object's dialog box under the "Multimedia" tab when you click on an object. Notice that for Messier objects, you need to use the NGC number for the alias. Also, for some inexplicable reason, use "30" as the alias for the Pleiades. Your hard drive storage space is the only limit to how many images you can add. I like to use Irfanview (Google it, it's free) to convert to .jpg and to resize images to the size of the screen or 99% of the original size because that often reduces the file size considerably. I also rotate the image so that north is up to match the DSS thumbnails, and make sure it's not mirror-reversed (I use a reflector). Irfanview will handle all these tasks. Notice you can have multiple images of the same object. I use a system of adding A, B, C etc. to the end of the file name. If you add MCG galaxies, use this format for ones with positive declination: MCG10-14-40 and this format for negative declination: MCG-2-5-50 ("-" before the first number!). Keep the entries in some kind of order so you can find any entries that need correction, etc.

Add your observing notes to The Sky: Don't use the cumbersome "observer log" feature. Instead, you can add observing notes to each object the same way you add images, and they'll also be available on the Multimedia tab in the object's dialog box when you click on it. Create a text file for each object with a paragraph for each time you made an observation. Then create a master database text file just like the one for the image list. It might look like this:

NGC 1952                         M1obs.txt
NGC 7089                         M2obs.txt
NGC 5272                         M3obs.txt
NGC 6121                         M4obs.txt
NGC 6523                         M8obs.txt
NGC 6333                         M9obs.txt
NGC 6254                         M10obs.txt
NGC 6705                         M11obs.txt
NGC 6218                         M12obs.txt
NGC 6205                         M13obs.txt
NGC 6402                         M14obs.txt

Just like the image file! Hmmm...I need to make some notes next time I observe M5, M6, and M7!

    Asteroid Log - Do you like to hunt minor planets, a.k.a. asteroids? These are great for building your starhopping skills or just for pure enjoyment, especially when the sky is not so great for deep sky or planetary observing. Organize your observations with this Microsoft Access database. It's a somewhat barebones reduced weight version due to my website's file limitations. Includes the first 3,000 numbered asteroids and you can add more. You'll need MS Access 2002 (XP) or newer:

Asteroid Log     (Screenshot)

    Astro Coordinates Calculator - Convert RA from hr-min-sec and Dec deg-min-sec to decimal and back. Also convert RA in degrees of arc to hr-min-sec. This is useful for creating databases for planetarium software programs. Also, if you like SDSS galaxy images, you might want to check out Galaxy Zoo, where you can classify galaxies for a scientific project. A lot of interesting galaxies (many very faint, however) are posted in the forum on this site, but Right Ascension (RA) for objects in SDSS is given in degrees of arc, so this calculator will convert this to the hours-minutes-seconds format commonly used in most recreational astronomy programs. You'll need MS Excel:

Astro Coordinates Calculator    (Screenshot)