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Beginner's Guide

7.   Recording your observations

Elizabeth's logbook

Fig 1: Excerpt from E. Warner's first logbook.

One of the neatest things for me nowadays is looking through this old red spiral bound notebook that has the unorganized scribblings of a teenage astronomer. I don't know why I wrote down little notes about what I observed... I guess that from reading, I had picked up the idea that scientists keep records - a logbook. So I kept one too. That first notebook just had simple notes. But later ones, after I went off to college and took lab classes that required us to keep logbooks, are more detailed and formalized. I include things like where I'm observing, who I'm with, the temperature, what equipment I'm using, what I looked at, and what I looked at through other people's scopes. If I'm taking pictures, I'll include information about the exposure. And sometimes, I'll include a sketch.

A logbook can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. One reason for keeping a logbook is to help you remember what you observe. Remember, you are outside at night, probably sleepy, so anything that you see is liable to get forgotten along with your dreams from when you do go to sleep. Another reason to keep a journal is that by keeping some notes or making a sketch, you unconsciously start to observe details that you would have missed if you were simply glancing in the telescope.

Observing Log Templates

observing log template .doc
photograph log template .doc


What information you include in your logbook is up to you. Nowadays, there are even computer programs that let you keep your records electronically. I think it's more fun to write the notes by hand. Here is a template that you can use for your logbook or you can make up your own! There's also a template for recording image information if you take pictures.

Sketching Tutorial

Here's a nice example from John Drummond...

log entry from John Drummond
Fig 2: Sketch log excerpt from J. Drummond.

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Updated: 10-Dec-2018