I teach astronomy at the George Observatory south of Houston Texas. Here is a link to the Observatory's website.
As an amateur astronomer, I enjoy observing very distant objects in the universe. A paper I wrote on observing obscure Milky Way globular clusters won the 1998 Web Society Award, and currently there are only 10 globular clusters within our galaxy that I have not seen, a trip to the southern hemisphere is in order.
The Aintno 100 list was put together on a cloudy day when a bunch of us were deciding what would be fun to observe but probably impossible to see. (Association of Invisible Nebula and Things Nobody Observes) Here is a link to the revised list of 100.
Observing philosophy: Recently I was asked to write about my favorite Deep Sky Observing Tools for a program to be presented at the Darksky 2003 meeting, co-sponsored by the National Deep Sky Observers Society. Essentially, what tools did I find consistently useful in planning or conducting visual observing. I thought about this and how my observing has changed over the last 20 years. It was very different before Uranometria became the "de facto" standard tool for deep sky observing in 1987. In those days when you found a faint fuzzy you did not know if it was a catalogued object, a comet or what. Uranometria changed all that. My first edition 1987 is totally dog eared, the book looks like it went through a war. Almost as worn is the Uranometria South edition (1988). I still use my Uranometrias, but for planning purposes now, I take my trusty laptop, loaded with MegaStar version 5 and the Real Sky (from Astronomical Society of the Pacific) loaded on the hard drive. (Now that 40 gig hard drives are common for laptops.) Real Sky is a compressed version of the Palomar Sky Survey which interfaces with MegaStar to show real images of the night sky. This allows quick searches of supernovae candidates, comet candidates, and allows one to quickly confirm a field seen in the telescope, using the photographic plates (albeit not at the resolution of the originals).
I would think that the advent of computer catalogues like MegaStar supplemented with the Real Sky loaded onto the hard drive is the greatest observing tool one can use at the telescope under true dark skies.
I keep all my observations in a database I created that allows one to sort by object, by date, by type, by constellation, telescope used, location, etc. You can make your own database or use one of the commercially available ones. I made mine long ago, when there weren't these great commercial programs. It is interesting to read your older observations and compare with more recent ones of the same object. It also allows you to share your observations with others. I would encourage observers to keep a log of some sort, whether writing in the margins of their charts, or a notebook, or directly into a computer or a tape recorder for later transcription Keep detailed notes. Thinking further, I would be lost without my Takahashi 10 x 70 finder scope with illuminated reticle (4.2 degree field) a good match to the field of a Telrad as well. I think it is the best finder out there, very lightweight to keep your scope balanced. Using it, aligned with the telescope and a high power eyepiece to center the reticle, it is a killer for honing in on any object. The object may not be visible in the finder, but the faint stars visible in it assure you that you are right where you need to be.--- I have observed thousands of galaxies, hundreds of galaxy clusters, completed the Herschel 400, the Messier 110, I have observed all but 25 of the Arp Galaxies, all except for 10 of the Milky Way globular clusters, hundreds of open clusters, asteroids, dozens of comets, several great meteor showers, including the Leonids of 1998, and 2001, planetary nebulae, diffuse nebulae, reflection nebulae, asteroid occultations, lunar grazes, (I once got 36 events on a graze of Beta Tauri), solar eclipses (5 total eclipses), dozens of lunar eclipses, iridium flares, earth x crossing asteroids, supernovae, and never have seen anything in the sky that could not be explained in one way or another.
Another great tool is an equatorial platform. One hour of drive on a 20 inch telescope allows plenty of time at the eyepiece for making critical observations. This summer (2003) had a new telescope built around my Galaxy Optics mirrors serial number 19 . It has a ServoCat drive system http://www.stellarcat.biz/ which replaces my equatorial platform built by Andy Sauletis and my husband, Buster. Because of the servo drive I have regained 5 inches of height from the ground, so I don't have to go quite as high on the ladder. After a long night observing it makes a difference at dawn, I am not as tired from climbing the ladder all night.
New SpaceWalk on left, old Sky Designs on right.
Revised 1-4-04 Barbara Wilson