Observation Logs

Mike Swanson

Many amateur astronomers record their observation sessions in a log. In simplest form a log is a small notebook where the observer records the date, the objects viewed, and a short description of each. On the other end of the scale are complex databases running on a personal computer that help you to easily search your entries, group together each observation of a particular object, record the eyepiece/magnification, and more. Most settle on something in between.

A comprehensive approach to recording an observing session includes noting the following in your log:

You certainly will not want to spend much time writing grammatically perfect notes while you are out under the stars, so try this instead. Take a small notepad (or loose paper on a clipboard) out with you and leave your 'official' logbook inside. Start by noting the location, date, and time on the notepad. Then simply jot notes about each object. Later that night, or perhaps in the next day or two, refer to your notes to record complete entries in your real logbook.

Besides providing a permanent record of your nighttime adventures, a logbook also helps you to see more. In your quest to record what you observe, you concentrate on small details and really see the object. Some observers include sketches of objects in their logbook. More than anything else, drawing will truly help you to see more detail than you thought possible.

Even if you don't continue your log throughout your viewing career, you will find that maintaining a logbook for your first year will really help you to improve in your observation abilities and will build a firm foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment. Plus, the initial wonder of it all will be reflected in your log entries and skimming through your logbook on cloudy nights can recapture that 'new' feeling from when you first started out.

Visit the Downloads section of the this web site to find loose-leaf log sheets for printing.


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