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Simple DIY planisphere

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One of the most useful amateur astronomer’s tools, is the planisphere. In addition with star maps of objects that you might be interested in, you are able to identify a large part of the night sky. There are many ready made printable planispheres and star charts to get and print. The most known and used is in National Research Counsil of Canada, and one custom made by Toshimi Taki that can be found here. Another one that can be used to know how planispheres might be constructed can be found here. Another interesting way to view a planisphere customized for your country is via GoogleEarth.

So why should you make one by yourself and even sweat about it? Well the magic word (at least for me) is customization. Being able to make custom planispheres or star charts may help you easily focus in the subject you study/observe, change the colors to optimize visibility, change lines,borders or even constellation art. Another reason is the self confidence  you might feel, when you construct something that everybody has convinced you, you must BUY to be able to use. The custom planisphere that can be found in the Downloads page is an example. Its still an early version but i ll modify it as best i can. Its written in pp3 (a software that is used to create custom charts) and after a small comparison with a commercial (at least schematically) seems to be working (have to exhaustingly test that one). It lacks labels, days, months and divergence but they will be added in time. In the files section you can find the tex code that is provided by the pp3 script, which is also included.

Now to construct one. The guidelines of Mr. Toshimi Taki are simply brilliant but instead of wood i’d use plastic flexible sheets like the commercial ones. I want it to be waterproof and flexible without the danger of carelessly tearing it apart. Also i want it to be ultra portable. That means that i want to be able to roll it in a cylinder, put it in my pocket/camelback/backpack and be able to use it wherever i am, even in my running sessions. To be able to print it on a plastic sheet i would possibly go to a print shop and choose everything, from material to thickness but i guess its more practical and cheaper to use plastic sheets in your inkjet or laser printer. If you have the printer, the cost of plastic sheets in Amazon is 3.99 USD or you can visit you local bookstore. That way you can have many charts and planispheres or even a clone of the relatively expensive Uranometria with only four dollars.

I ll also try to upload some custom star charts. More updates to come…

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Written by aperturefever

November 20, 2008 at 9:05 pm

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