Why Bother Learning The Night Sky?

 Many people know how to find their way among the stars.  Whether eight years old or eighty, anyone can learn.  It isn’t rocket science - far from it.

            I am not saying that object locating computers for telescopes should not have a place in amateur astronomy.  Certainly, they are very useful for finding objects that are nearly impossible to locate by traditional means; however, the vast majority of interesting bodies are relatively easy to find with a little effort.  Yes, I’m including strange exotic objects which are thousands or even millions of light-years away!  Furthermore, a non-computerized telescope will give you views that are every bit as good as its computerized counterpart and will cost a whole lot less!

            It’s true, having a computerized telescope find something for you will impress everyone with how “smart” your telescope is.  On-the-other-hand, if you locate something yourself, onlookers will be impressed by how smart you are!  Usually, such a feat is very simple for someone with just a little knowledge, though it may appear to the casual onlooker to be nearly miraculous!  As you will see during your progress through this section, becoming familiar with the night sky is much easier than most people would think it is. 

There are  a number of reasons why a person may want to become familiar with the starry heavens.  For one thing, acquiring such a skill can be a source of immense satisfaction and accomplishment.  It is also a pleasant way to spend a few quiet evenings.  Lastly, it is an important skill for the sky gazer who owns a telescope or binoculars and wishes to locate a particular object using nothing but his own skill.  Of course for those who cannot afford a computerized telescope, being familiar with the sky is an absolute necessity! 

The main qualification the reader must satisfy in order to use this book is that he or she must live north of the Earth’s equator (that is, in the northern hemisphere).  Fortunately, this area holds most of the world’s population.  I would include the southern hemisphere, but I have no practical experience observing the stars in that part of the world. 

In this section of the book, we will concentrate on locating those objects visible to the naked eye that you will need to use as “landmarks” when you’re out trying to find things to view with your telescope.   Since telescope observing tricks and techniques will not do you any good until you know your way around the sky, I am saving that subject for the last section. 

There are only two things that you will need: 1) an observing site as far away from city lights and house lights as possible and 2) good weather. 

To see all of the stars depicted in the illustrations and described throughout this section, you should observe at times when the moon is either a thin crescent or not visible at all.  Though you shouldn’t let a bright moon discourage you, because it will not keep you from seeing the brightest stars I will describe to you.

 

copyright 2004 Singularity Scientific, all rights reserved.

36