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Skyline Scanner

Because trees are nice to have in your yard, too
  [vote for,

It’s fun to show kids the sky with a small telescope. It helps instill them with a sense of wonder and encourage their curiosity.

But kids do not generally have a ton of patience. Modern motor-drive scopes can remove much of the tedium of pointing and aligning the scope. (Some even have a built-in GPS and sky object database).

However, most of us are not blessed with a clear 360 degree horizon that affords complete freedom in choosing what to look at next. “Hey, lets look at Saturn….(2 minutes later)…oh, sorry kids, it’s behind the house right now.” “Aww, Dad!”

Here’s a gadget to help plan your evening’s observations taking this into account.

It is a very low-res camera with a fisheye lens. It has a magnetic compass and a bubble level off to one side of the lens. A cable is provided to upload the data to your computer or your telescope’s pointing system.

You take this camera to your planned viewing location during daytime. Set it on something approximately at the level of your telescope, with the lens pointed straight up. Rotate it until the compass needle points at the “N”, and make sure the bubble is centered in the level. Duck down so you are out of sight of the camera, and press the shutter button on the side.

The camera takes a low-resolution picture of your horizon to pick up where all the trees, houses and so on are located. Now you can upload this picture to your astronomy computer (either the one attached to your telescope, or your PC). It uses it to calculate the effective horizon for your location.

With the knowledge of the skyline in your area, and your latitude and longitude (which it would need to know anyway), the program can now tell you precisely what is visible at any given moment, taking the tree line into account. Now when observing with the kids, you can help plan out the evening so boredom never sets in.

It also has uses in naked eye viewing, such as learning the constellations. It could print out a customized sky chart for that night that included the actual trees and such on the horizon.

“Hmmmm…let’s see, I’d like to show them Jupiter, Mars and at least one nebula and one galaxy. When would be a good time for that?”

<click click>

“OK, kids, here’s the plan for tonight…”

krelnik, Dec 21 2003

Astronomy resources for kids http://directory.go...stronomy_and_Space/
[krelnik, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Take a 360° panorama in one shot: http://www.bugeyedi...main/036-0360d.html
Someone got drool all over this device. Sorry. [Amos Kito, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Starry Night Pro http://www.starrynight.com/products.html
This star mapping software allows you to insert a photo of your own backyard. [Amos Kito, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       "Aww, Dad when are you gonna hook it up to the weather network, so we don't keep getting surprised by these clouds blowing in? +"
FarmerJohn, Dec 21 2003

       Ha! I like that.
krelnik, Dec 23 2003

       If this were accurate enough, one could theoretically predict the exact moment and position of a planet rising through the trees of a distant mountain. Would make a nice picture. +
Dently, Dec 23 2003

       I hadn't thought of that, neat.
krelnik, Dec 24 2003

       "Starry Night" [link] has adjustable light pollution settings, and you can paste a photo in place of its default horizon. It doesn't calculate for individual tree branches.
Amos Kito, Dec 24 2003

       In fact I think it's Starry Night or something similiar that has a skyline you can put in. Fake pictures of trees and all. It shows you a window of stuff you can see and you can't really even look at stuff below your skyline.
clafever, Jan 21 2004


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