Return to the Cloudy Nights Telescope Reviews home pageAstronomics discounts for Cloudy Nights members
· Get a Cloudy Nights T-Shirt · Submit a Review / Article

Click here if you are having trouble logging into the forums

Privacy Policy | Please read our Terms of Service | Signup and Troubleshooting FAQ | Problems? PM a Red or a Green Gu… uh, User

General Astronomy >> Beginners Forum

Pages: 1 | 2 | (show all)
Domerman
Just Lucky, I Guess.
*****

Reged: 07/21/07

Loc: PA
Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips?
      #5711884 - 03/04/13 02:29 AM

Ok, so I am not new to this hobby, however, I am fairly new to finding objects in the sky on my own. I have been spoiled by GOTO scopes and I've come to realize I know very little about how to find objects in the sky on my own. I've done quite a bit of astro-imaging and observing through the years, but ask me to point out a fairly well-known object in the sky without GOTO and I will look like a fool!

I got myself a PSA awhile back, but I have not really used it all too much..partly because it looks really intimidating. I can't seem to wrap my head around RA and declination and how the things on the map correlate to what I am seeing in the sky. I am so confused! I know RA is essentially longitudinal (and increases when you move east) and dec is latitude in the celestial sphere. I know simple things like celestial equator, zenith, prime meridian, nadir, ecliptical, but using the PSA to find things simply confuses the heck out of me! HELP!


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Tony Flanders
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 05/18/06

Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Domerman]
      #5711921 - 03/04/13 04:42 AM

There are really two separate questions here: How celestial coordinates work, and how to find things in the sky using star charts. They're both worth learning, but neither one is necessary nor sufficient for understanding the other.

When I'm actually out there at night using the Pocket Sky Atlas, I don't think much about R.A. and Dec except for organizing my session and locating things in the PSA. I have a rough idea of the R.A. and Dec of all celestial objects, just as I have a rough idea of the latitude and longitude of every city and country on Earth. (Doesn't everyone? ) That helps me flip quickly to the right page.

But the process of finding something doesn't involve R.A. and Dec. First I find out what constellation the object is in. Then I locate the constellation in the sky. Then I locate the closest bright star to the object. And only then do I begin the serious work of correlating what's in the atlas to what I'm seeing.

Until you know all the major constellations, you're navigating blind.

The Pocket Sky Atlas isn't really appropriate for learning the constellations; you need something that shows much bigger chunks of the sky in less detail, such as a planisphere.

A good way to learn the sky is to use your Go To backwards. Find something with the Go To, then look where your scope is pointed to see what the region looks like to the unaided eye.

The very best introduction I know learning the sky and celestial coordinates is H.A. Rey's book The Stars: A New Way to See Them.

There are a bunch of very useful articles our website (I work for Sky & Telescope). Probably all of the articles in Stargazing Basics are potentially interesting to you, particularly Using Star Charts and Star Wheels and Understanding Celestial Coordinates. For a deeper look, see Using a Map at the Telescope.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
kenrenard
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/13/12

Loc: Dunmore, PA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5712001 - 03/04/13 07:07 AM

Along with Tony's excellent advice. I would recommend this book.
http://www.amazon.com/Star-Hopping-Backyard-Astronomers-Alan-MacRobert/dp/093...
It's out of print but you can still get it used. Dave Mitsky had this posted in the beginners section and its a great way to learn star hopping. Alan MacRoberts takes you through many practice hops and shows you many interesting objects.


Ken

Edited by kenrenard (03/04/13 07:08 AM)


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Tim L
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 12/17/08

Loc: Missouri
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5712009 - 03/04/13 07:16 AM

Domerman,

I use the technique described in the third article Tony linked (Using a Map at the Telescope). I made a couple small rings out of wire to correspond to the fields of view of my finderscope and low power EP.

The 1* ring didn't get used much in my experience, but I was always using that 5* ring to hop my way across the map and match what I was seeing in the finderscope. After using it a lot, I sort of instinctively know how big the 5* circle is now and don't have to use it so much anymore.

Good luck--star hopping is loads of fun!


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Domerman]
      #5712221 - 03/04/13 10:20 AM

You never mentioned what finder(s) you have on your scopes. I have a Telrad, and one long winter, I used a washer & penciled in Telrad rings on objects that I wanted to see. This was an immense help in locating the objects; simply by matching your Telrad ring to those on the charts. The one drawback, is if you are viewing from a light polluted area; then the rings of the Telrad do not show up well, from what I've read from other members here.

When I first started; I also took one Constellation for a night of viewing, & really worked it, finding everything I possibly could; rather than hopping all over the sky. This also is a great way to learn the Constellations.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
caheaton
Pooh-Bah
*****

Reged: 05/26/09

Loc: SW Ohio
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5712288 - 03/04/13 10:59 AM

Just wanted to add to the good advice already given here. The best way to learn to star hop is to practice...you'll learn to get a feel for how those fainter stars shown in the atlas really look in your telescope and finder and once you've learned that, star hopping becomes much easier. Also, be aware of the size of the field of view of your finder and of your low power eyepieces. Drawing circles on the atlas, using rings of wire, circles on clear plastic, etc. that match these fields of view are great aids to navigation. Also, use of a RACI finder helps considerably, and be aware that the view through your eyepiece will vary from the atlas and this view will differ if you're using a reflector or a refractor.

Start by star hopping to fairly easy, obvious targets (e.g., M31, M13, etc). Point your scope to a naked eye star that's fairly close to your target and center it in your finder and your scope. Note this star in the atlas and look for any little "patterns or chains" of stars in the direction of your intended target. Move the scope onto that pattern and repeat the process. This will lead you to your target! (It works for me... ).
Craig


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Jeff2011
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 01/01/13

Loc: Sugar Land, TX
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: caheaton]
      #5712310 - 03/04/13 11:16 AM

Steve,

I too had problems reading star charts at first. What really helped me were the apps available on my smart phone. I started with Distant Suns and later got Sky Safari. Sky Safari has the most stars from the apps that I was able to find and also tracks commets, asteroids and satellites. More stars is useful when zooming in to match the view through the eyepiece.

Finding objects for yourself can be very fun and rewarding. I enjoy just looking up in the sky and known were objects exist even though I can't see them with the naked eye. Hopefully you won't give up on it.

Jeff


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
FlyBD5
sage
*****

Reged: 02/12/13

Loc: Boston MA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Jeff2011]
      #5712491 - 03/04/13 01:09 PM

I've had a lot of fun using Google Sky Map for Android (the now open source version of the extinct Google Sky). I don't think it's available for iPhone, but perhaps someone will consider porting it. It's very basic (stars, constellations, Messier objects, planets, "meteor showers", has an RA/Dec grid and a horizon line) but is pretty accurate, drawing from your phone's location services. Just point it at the sky and it tells you what should be there...

Juan


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
acochran
professor emeritus


Reged: 06/19/08

Loc: So. CA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: FlyBD5]
      #5712526 - 03/04/13 01:25 PM

Sky & Telescope magazine has a monthly sky chart in it. Not as detailed as the pocket atlas, but shows the whole sky. Find an easy constellation like the Big Dipper or Orion then start comparing the sky to the chart.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
TexasRed
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 05/17/11

Loc: East Texas
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Jeff2011]
      #5712532 - 03/04/13 01:28 PM

I want to second Tony's advice to use GoTo backwards. I've used GoTo to find a lot of great objects. My next step is usually to use my RACI finder and green laser pointer to see where the scope is pointed, what's in the immediate area and how I could find it again without the GoTo. That's when I pull out the star charts and start comparing what I can see with my eyes and/or binoculars with the same area on the charts.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
newtoskies
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 07/15/12

Loc: SE Ma.
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: TexasRed]
      #5712739 - 03/04/13 03:30 PM

Well what the others have said is sound advice. What I am doing to learn the constellations and star hopping is to use sky charts. I print out the charts (or the books) and go outside and see with naked eye and my binos. I like to use the monthly S&T charts to see what constellations are visible for each month.
I try to locate the bright major stars in each constellation with first naked eye and then with binos. I do this most clear nights even when I am not going to use my scope, even for just 10 minutes.
The winter constellation are slowly moving away, aor blocked in my area by trees,LP and houses. So with each month I learn new constellations. I figure by next winter I will know most of them, the bright stars and what objects can be seen in the constellations.
I have seen very little objects compared to my time behind the scope due to my wanting to learn the constellations and star hoping. I do visit the regulars I enjoy virwing, but mostly I just learn the stars and my way around. the binos have helped me out a lot the past couple months, so get yourself some. i bought the cheap Tasco binos at Walmart for $26 and they do the trick. Along with some charts, from books or printed from websites, the binos will help you out a lot. Let me know if you need the links to the various websites with charts.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
StarStuff1
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 04/01/07

Loc: South of the Mason-Dixon Line
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: TexasRed]
      #5712944 - 03/04/13 05:09 PM

Ummm...ohh, the Big Dipper is not a constellation. Sorry, my astro lab instructor persona got a hold of me.

Practice, practice practice, look and look some more. Download Stellarium and just play around. Read more in S&T and other books and mags. Eventually things will settle in.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Domerman
Just Lucky, I Guess.
*****

Reged: 07/21/07

Loc: PA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: StarStuff1]
      #5712967 - 03/04/13 05:21 PM

Well, I recently purchased some Pentax PCF WII 10x50s and I plan to use those to help me learn the sky. I want to avoid scopes for a bit and just use the binos. I don't have a sky&telescope subscription anymore. Any recommendations as to free sky charts that are updated monthly?

Also, is my PSA pretty much useless at this point?

Edited by Domerman (03/04/13 05:28 PM)


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
newtoskies
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 07/15/12

Loc: SE Ma.
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Domerman]
      #5713023 - 03/04/13 05:51 PM

Here are links to online charts you can print out. I print out and order them by the seasons and what is visible this month.
By constellations

I like this one because it shows what and where to look through the finder, scope and naked eye....similar to the must have book Turn Left at Orion.
Finder charts

The telrad charts are also by Constellation with Messier objects.
Telrad charts

For the Herchel 400
web page

You'll be able to see some DSO's with binos and for sure some clusters. Start wit M42 then find easy clusters like NGC 884 & 869, the Pleiades. Get familiar with the brighter stars that make up the constellations with and without the binos. Then you can see/guess where an object is located.
Well that's what I do and it seems to work, and I am a big time newbie. Until I got my binos I could not find M36,37 and 38 even tho they are easy to find...now anyways. With the binos I was able to see more stars and learn to star hop to the clusters. now I find them easily.

Hoe any of this helps and I am sure more experienced members will add to this or correct me ( I hope).

Edited by newtoskies (03/04/13 05:54 PM)


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Domerman
Just Lucky, I Guess.
*****

Reged: 07/21/07

Loc: PA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: newtoskies]
      #5713058 - 03/04/13 06:14 PM

I forgot I purchased skysafari awhile ago on my iphone. I will try with that first! I am waiting on my binos to get here. Thanks for all the advice folks!

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
GeneT
Ely Kid
*****

Reged: 11/07/08

Loc: South Texas
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5713067 - 03/04/13 06:20 PM

Quote:

The Pocket Sky Atlas isn't really appropriate for learning the constellations; you need something that shows much bigger chunks of the sky in less detail, such as a planisphere.




Yes--get and use a planisphere. Also, Sky and Telescope and other astronomy magazines have a monthly sky map as part of their publications. You also can find a monthly star chart on the Internet. From a broader perspective, you can then dial in with your Pocket Sky Atlas.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
jochsner
member


Reged: 01/11/12

Loc: PA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Domerman]
      #5713180 - 03/04/13 07:28 PM

I also seems to be having trouble getting used to PSA I purchased for the Kindle Fire. Maybe I'll print out the map pages.
May I also recommend the Golden Sky Guide. I've used that for 22+ years and love it. Stellarium is nice and I also like Uranometria 2000.
The golden sky guide shows the constellations for every season in a perfect understandable way. I am scanning the book now to use on the Kindle.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Domerman
Just Lucky, I Guess.
*****

Reged: 07/21/07

Loc: PA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: jochsner]
      #5713269 - 03/04/13 08:14 PM

You guys recommend any book that has large big sky atlases?

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Domerman
Just Lucky, I Guess.
*****

Reged: 07/21/07

Loc: PA
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? new [Re: Domerman]
      #5713494 - 03/04/13 10:13 PM

So I purchased "Turn Left at Orion" and a nice big planisphere! I spent a good hour or so using my PSA and Stellarium software to figure out some things and I think I'm getting the hang of the PSA!

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Pocket Sky Atlas - Tips? [Re: Domerman]
      #5713594 - 03/04/13 11:21 PM

Good to hear that you are getting to use the PSA; you will find it very helpful for your viewing!

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Pages: 1 | 2 | (show all)


Extra information
12 registered and 36 anonymous users are browsing this forum.

Moderator:  WOBentley, kkokkolis 

Print Thread

Forum Permissions
      You cannot start new topics
      You cannot reply to topics
      HTML is disabled
      UBBCode is enabled


Thread views: 1569

Jump to

CN Forums Home


Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics