Title

Messier Marathon Scheduler: A Software Tool for Novice Star-Gazers and Experienced Astronomers

Presenter Information

Katherine Moore

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 140

Start Date

16-5-2013

End Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

Messier Marathons are all-night astronomy observing sessions during which star-gazers are challenged to find all 110 well-known deep-sky objects, such as the Pleiades, Andromeda Galaxy, and Eagle Nebula, that were catalogued by Frenchman Charles Messier ("MEZZ-ee-ay") in the 1780s. However, beginning astronomers are often unable to participate successfully in such events due to still-developing skills in telescope usage and celestial observing. I developed Messier Marathon Scheduler (MMS), an interactive computer program for scheduling an observing session to locate a subset of these celestial objects. MMS implements long-established algorithms to determine the locations of celestial bodies at any one time and from any location on Earth. Although there are other tools that schedule these observing sessions, none of those tools are easy for a novice astronomer to use, with features that also help advanced users. MMS provides users the option to select their level of participation, from beginner (10 naked-eye objects) to intermediate (beginner level plus 46 binocular objects) to advanced (intermediate level plus 54 telescope objects, totaling 110). With the sorting and rating choices that MMS provides, users can successfully participate in a Messier Marathon at a level appropriate to their observing skills, thereby providing the impetus to strive for a higher level of participation during the next observing attempt.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Filip Jagodzinski

Additional Mentoring Department

Computer Science

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Messier Marathon Scheduler: A Software Tool for Novice Star-Gazers and Experienced Astronomers

SURC 140

Messier Marathons are all-night astronomy observing sessions during which star-gazers are challenged to find all 110 well-known deep-sky objects, such as the Pleiades, Andromeda Galaxy, and Eagle Nebula, that were catalogued by Frenchman Charles Messier ("MEZZ-ee-ay") in the 1780s. However, beginning astronomers are often unable to participate successfully in such events due to still-developing skills in telescope usage and celestial observing. I developed Messier Marathon Scheduler (MMS), an interactive computer program for scheduling an observing session to locate a subset of these celestial objects. MMS implements long-established algorithms to determine the locations of celestial bodies at any one time and from any location on Earth. Although there are other tools that schedule these observing sessions, none of those tools are easy for a novice astronomer to use, with features that also help advanced users. MMS provides users the option to select their level of participation, from beginner (10 naked-eye objects) to intermediate (beginner level plus 46 binocular objects) to advanced (intermediate level plus 54 telescope objects, totaling 110). With the sorting and rating choices that MMS provides, users can successfully participate in a Messier Marathon at a level appropriate to their observing skills, thereby providing the impetus to strive for a higher level of participation during the next observing attempt.