TAC Observing Report Archive


These observing reports are writeups of the experiences of TAC amateur astronomers (a.k.a. TACyons, TACies, TACos) observing astronomical objects such as meteors, the moon, the planets, the sun, comets, double stars, nebulae, star clusters, supernovae, galaxies, and quasars.

They span the range from formal, carefully crafted literary works of art to informal, hurried and brief descriptions of observing experiences. They are written by everyone from highly experienced writers and observers to complete novices.

The reports are fun to write and fun to read, and are primarily for the enjoyment of the readers.

All TAC members are welcome and encouraged to contribute. Each report is copyright by its author. Contact the author for permission to publish elsewhere. This compilation of reports is in the public domain.

Report Guidelines

There is no absolute requirement for a report to be formatted in any particular way, or include particular information, but certain formatting and content guidelines make reports both easier to archive, and easier to extract useful information from.

Please submit reports in plain text, rather than HTML.

A complete observing report generally includes the following elements:

Whether you formally include these elements all in one place, or include them as part of your descriptive narrative doesn't matter.

Hints for writing better reports

If you want your report to look a certain way, you can provide hints in the text itself, such as including section titles, or using _underscore characters_ or all CAPS to indicate various kinds of emphasis. I will generally convert material between underscore characters to italic, and all caps to bold type.

If you include tabular material, I will attempt to make it into a table. If you include a dump from an astronomical database, I will attempt to make it into a table. If you include material in a list, I will attempt to make it into a list.

If desired, the author is free to mark up their report in HTML, and submit it to me directly for inclusion in this archive. Please don't submit such reports to the list.

It is particularly interesting and fun to read various reports from the same event. Having this information makes the reports more useful for comparison purposes, and can answer questions like why one person failed to see something that others did, or why one person saw color in an object that others didn't. (Aperture wins.) (Ooops. That belongs in another advice section!)

Other elements that might be included in reports are:

The reports themselves perhaps serve as the best guideline for what to include.


Several sources are used for these reports:

The TAC mailing list
This is the source for the vast bulk of the reports.

The CalAstro mailing list
Sometimes TAC members post reports here, particularly when TAC is down.

The TAC-SAC mailing list
As a Sacramento-based regional TAC group with many TAC members, these also get archived.

The Starry Nights mailing list
A few members of TAC are also members of this list, and post reports here, but not on TAC.

The Shallow-Sky mailing list
Many members of TAC are also members of this list, and some prefer to post their reports only in one place. With their permission, the reports posted to the Shallow-Sky list by TAC members are archived here.

sci.astro.amateur (s.a.a.)
Some early reports were posted on s.a.a., either before the TAC mailing list existed, or before some posters were members of TAC. Prolific s.a.a. posters who are now members of TAC have had their postings archived.

Archiving selection and frequency

I mark observing reports for inclusion as I plow through my daily e-mail.

I am only archiving observing reports. TAC is an astronomical community oriented towards active observing in groups, primarily at dark sites, though backyard observations are welcome, too. Equipment reports, telescope making reports or astronomically oriented meeting reports will be added only if they include some astronomical observations.

When I have the time and inclination, I mark up the reports with HTML, and add them to the archive. I use a Perl script and do further edits by hand, and I generally do it on the weekend, though I have been known to do it at other times. I make an effort to prevent outstanding reports from sitting in my queue longer than a week, but depending work, social schedules and particularly my own observing schedule, I may not be able to adhere to this internal deadline rigorously.

If you fail to see your report included in a timely fashion, or it appears I didn't include a report that you think should have been included, please ask me about it. I have been known to accelerate my archiving on this basis, and I am happy to do so.


Thanks for the reports

On behalf of TAC, I would like to express my thanks to everyone who has written one of these archived reports. The reports here are extremely useful for beginners, and I have learned a tremendous amount from them. Herein is described everything about how to do astronomical observing, sometimes in excruciating detail.

Special thanks

Thanks also go to Bill Arnett and Mark Wagner, who developed the idea of archiving the reports sent to the list. Thanks to Mark for archiving them for TAC for so long.

For questions about, problems with, corrections to, or requests regarding the observing archive, contact me.

Randy Muller
TAC Observing Report Archivist
Updated January 22, 2005