Monday, 16 May 2011

A 'sound approach'?

Just recently, because I have several projects on the go at once - the Herschel 2500 among them, plus as much of the NGC as I can possibly do from 50 North as well as some smaller ones - I am just taking notes and not doing any sketching. This is because sketching slows me down far too much. While I am not in a tearing hurry I do want to get through the projects in a decent time frame, so I am just sticking to writing notes down in a lined note book.
However, there are problems with this in that I need to use a light in order to see what I am writing. Even a dim red light affects my night vision and I have found that faint galaxies and nebulae disappear for a good few seconds while my eyes readjust. Not only that, the way things are set up it means that I have to physically move away from the eyepiece to the table where my notebook is in order to write things down. This also slows me down although nowhere near as much as sketching does.Then you have the sheer awkwardness of writing with gloves or frozen fingers during the winter. Finally, my writing is dreadful at the best of times and in the dead of night by red light it goes from merely 'dreadful' to 'barely legible'!
Recently, I read about other observers using digital voice recorders (dictaphones) to dictate notes at the eyepiece, ready to be transcribed into a notebook or onto a computer later. Now, as I detest the sound of my own voice and I don't want our two sets of neighbours, whose gardens are just the other side of a footpath from ours, to think that I am a nutcase chatting away to myself outside in the middle of the night, I discounted ever getting a dictaphone. However, the more I think about it, the more sense the idea makes. Using a dictaphone means I don't have to move away from the scope, apart from when I need to look up my next object on the charts, or even look away from the eyepiece. And I don't have to talk loudly into it, a whisper should suffice which would get around the twin problems of the loathing of my own voice and the neighbours thinking I am a lunatic - I hope! I am hoping this will mean I get more objects observed in a session.
So I've decided to give it a go and went into town this morning to look for a suitable machine. I was surprised at the prices, starting at £39.99 and going up from there as I thought one of these things would be around £20 max. I shopped around and, as I don't want to save my recordings for future posterity, because I'll be transcribing them, I decided against getting one that plugs into a computer on grounds of cost and bought the cheapest I could find.
Instead of saving my inane chatter onto disk, I'll be transcribing my spoken notes into Word, then printing them off, the same as I do now only without trying to decipher my bad writing.
Anyway, here's the 40 quid piece of plastic, made by Olympus, which was somewhat over-priced for what it is. Now I need to read the book and work out how to operate the thing!

By the way, I *will* be going back to sketching, probably during the summer when the skies are not quite dark enough to go after the more elusive NGCs and ICs. I plan to carrying on a globular cluster observing project I began a couple of years back (globulars lend themselves well to light summer nights) and I'd like to sketch most, if not all, of them.

There are a couple of interesting threads on Cloudy Nights about note taking, including the use of digital voice recorders, here and here.

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