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How to do a Messier Marathon with SkyTools Real Time
I am reposing below a question I received in a private email so that others could see my answer.

I was viewing over the weekend and decided to do a messier marathon. Using real time it listed the objects in order of the ones that set earlier were first on the list. After further review, about halfway down on the list there were objects that were getting ready to set and the objects that followed were in order of setting as well. It was like there were two lists combined. Being a Real time list it wouldn't let me sort by set time. The question is how are they sorted?. Is there a way to sort by setting time?
Clear skies,
Head Dude at Skyhound
The reason it does an auto sort is that this is the only reasonable way to include multiple sort factors at the same time. A simple column sort does not work well because it can't balance when objects set vs minimizing how far you move the telescope between objects.

Real Time has two modes. The Best Now mode is designed to get you the things best to view right now. It is not for generating a full plan for the night. It does not optimize for including as many objects as possible in the list. It starts with objects setting in the west, but after that it primarily works to minimize how far you move the telescope. I suspect you were using Best Now mode.

The Sky Tour mode makes a plan ahead of time (or at least one that begins at the time you start it up). This is the mode that is better suited to a Messier Marathon (which is usually attempted in the Spring, but I'm betting you knew that).

The Plan feature in the Nightly Planner uses the same algorithm as the Real Time Sky Tour, so that can work quite well for a Messier Marathon too, and it has the advantage that you can set it up ahead of time and customize View Times and Priorities for various objects to optimize the list.

When people have trouble with the Best Now mode of Real Time it is usually because the position of the telescope is not being communicated to SkyTools so that it can take it into account. In order to optimize the choices, it needs to know where the telescope is pointing. This is trivial when using a GOTO telescope, but even then, you do need to connect to the telescope and drive the scope to each target in order for it to work properly. Sometimes people get into "testing mode" and take shortcuts, and this can lead to poor results. There is also a way to keep track of where the scope is pointing when using the on-screen finder charts.

I made a set of workflow videos that covers these things. They are organized by the two modes (Best Now or Sky Tour) and by how you are finding the objects (On-screen finder charts, GOTO scope, DSC), making a total of six workflow videos. Find the ones that most closely match how you observe.

The videos can be found here:

Please feel free to ask questions about using Real Time.
Clear skies,
Head Dude at Skyhound
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