1. A flexible plastic binder, 3-hole, 8.5 x 11 (US Letter size). I picked a flexible binder because I usually tuck it into a small backpack (see below).
2. A set of sheet protectors in the binder for the other items. Sheet protectors are great because they keep the dew off of your pages without you having to go out and buy special waterproof paper.
3. A planisphere. A good old plain plastic planisphere. Why do I take a planisphere when I have a star chart on my Palm T/X? Because I’ve been unfortunate enough to have my Palm device run out of battery before. The other downside to the Palm T/X is that the screen is so small it’s frequently hard to get your bearings and relate what you are seeing on the Palm with what you are seeing in the sky. The Palm T/X is great for looking up information, and it really helps to zero in on an object, but I still take the planisphere just in case. Plus, the planisphere keeps working even after I drop it off of the top of the observing ladder. If you don’t have a planisphere, and don’t want to buy one, Toshimi Taki has PDF files posted where you can make your own. This has the advantage of being in plain black and white, which shows up much better at night.
4. A star atlas. (See #3 above for my reasoning on this item too). Now don’t go rushing out to buy a star atlas, when there is a perfectly good free version available. This is version 2.0 (color with the milky way) of Andrew L. Johnson’s Mag-7 Star Atlas Project. I print it out in black & white, and then (because I am basically lazy) I annotate the pages at the edges indicating which chart has the continuation. DaveP also uses this same star atlas. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a copy of Uranometria 2000 or Sky Atlas 2000.0. This atlas prints out on standard size paper (A4 or US Letter) as 21 pages covering the entire sky down to Mag 7. There are more detailed atlases available for free as well (See Toshimi Taki’s Mag 8.5 atlas for example), but this one is a good balance of detail and size (Taki’s atlas is huge: 146 pages for the main atlas, 3 supplement (detail) pages, 146 pages of object lists (one for each page in the main atlas), 123 pages of sorted and indexed objects, 2 index pages and 22 pages for the manual , for a total of 442 pages).
5. Object lists: I have a Messier List and a Caldwell List in an Excel spreadsheet, so I just printed those out (by the way, if you want a copy, just drop me a note at hudson double-u jay at yahoo dot com. I can send it to you in .xls or .pdf form).
6. Some ruled binder paper for observing notes.
7. I downloaded and printed up some copies of DaveP’s drawing templates. The idea with these is to sketch what you are seeing, and then scan it and invert the colors, so that you wind up with white on black.
8. A small backpack to hold the binder and its contents, as well as the planisphere. Also in the backpack are some essential items (first aid kit, bug spray, benadryl gel for insect bites, a folding knife, a magnesium fire-starter, pen (Fischer ‘space pen’), pencil (for sketching), permanent marker, green laser pointer, gloves, extra socks, a rescue blanket and an extra sweatshirt). The backpack also is put to use as a tripod stabilizer when I’m using my small telescope. I wrap a piece of rope around the tripod legs about half way up, then gather the loops of rope into the center of the tripod and hang the backpack off of the ropes with a caribiner. The extra weight really helps to stabilize the tripod.
9. 10×50 binoculars (in the backpack).
10. Water bottle (in the side pocket of the backpack).
11. Telescope. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I do sometimes go up to the Challenger telescope at Fremont Peak without my little telescope. Today (July 13, 2007) for example, I have the scope reserved for myself and my daughters, so I’m not taking my little scope.
12. Red flashlights (in the backpack).
13. Extra batteries: AA and AAA batteries for the laser pointer and flashlights.
14. Last but not least, my Palm T/X with 2Sky.
Well, there is is. It sounds like a big list, but it is not really, and it’s well organized so that I can easily find what I need.
What do you take with you? Leave me a note and let me know.