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How I charted my progress in learning the constellations

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#26 Escape Pod

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Posted 20 November 2020 - 10:13 AM

I found my way to this thread via the really excellent review of 80mm refractors posted by the author.  I am one of those “re-kindling a boyhood interest” types. With slightly deeper adult-sized pockets I have plunged in, acquiring scopes and goto mounts and apps and even a nebulae filter. 
 

But as my wife and I prepare to head to the dark sky location of Big Bend National Park for a stargazing quarantine, I am reminded that my best astronomical tool may be the physical planisphere and the binoculars that god gave me. And maybe a comfy chair that I can lay back in smile.gif.

 

You can read more about my journey here. As you’ll see, my beginner’s imagination is struggling to help me “see” the objects of the night sky for the majesty and wonder that they are. I wonder out loud if the big pull to astrophotography, or at least EAA, isn’t driven in part by a collective —I hesitate to use the word lazy, but perhaps—impatience with the process of teaching the mind how to interpret visual observation.  
 

https://www.cloudyni...-the-150mm-mak/

 

As you can see in my Second Light post, I have purchased several books to help me to slow down and train my mind. I am wondering whether Patrick Moore’s book should be among them. Or have I identified the modern equivalent. In the book Stars, for example, they supplement a discussion of the various stars in each constellation with a diagram that shows their distance from one-another, and their spatial relationship to our solar system. Initially I was drawn to exploring the night sky purely along these spatial lines. But while I still see the value in that approach, threads like this one also convince me of the merit of comprehending the patterns of Earth’s night sky. 
 

So, thank you. 
 

Don


Edited by Escape Pod, 20 November 2020 - 10:15 AM.


#27 orionic

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Posted 21 November 2020 - 04:11 PM

I was glad to find this thread.  I first took up astronomy around 2017, due to being out with the dog frequently after dark, and realizing I only knew a few constellations.  I pulled out that same Golden Book from my bookcase, and a couple others.  I'm a library book sale enthusiast, and it was exciting to go to them with a new agenda, and sure enough there were a few with large numbers of amateur astronomy books, so I picked up H.A. Rey's book, a Tirion star atlas, the Field Guide to the Stars & Planets, a Patrick Moore book, and several others. 

 

Like many others, I was really pulled in by the accessible illustrations in Rey's book.  I recalled that as a child, I had memorized the map of the contiguous 48 United States (what I mean is that I can draw them all in correct relative position, with roughly correct shape) - inspired by my brother who had done the same.  So I thought, that should be a good way to familiarize myself with the constellations.  However I never reached that goal.  I think it was for lack of time (and my brain is not so young now), and also, even when I thought I'd "memorized" parts of the sky (i.e. the major stick figures), I still found that on my evening walks, I was often pretty lost anyway.  In Bortle 5-6 (or worse, e.g. early evening), typically just a couple stars were visible from each constellation so the actual view differs so very much from what is in the star charts.  So, I never completed the task, and at this point my knowledge has regressed quite a bit (and increased work demands during the pandemic have shrunk my leisure time).

 

Originally my goal was to learn to draw out the entire all-season sky.  (With Polaris at the center, so, flattened and distorted toward the edges.). Starting with the Big Dipper, I fill in the little dipper, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, i.e. go clockwise once around, but then I continue counterclockwise in a wider circle: Lynx, Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus, Lyra, Hercules, Corona Borealis, etc.  At one point I sort of knew the entire list proceeding in this way, spiraling counterclockwise outward, to include all the Zodiac constellations, and up to Eridanus I think.  But I would not have been able to draw most of them accurately - I really just knew their relative positions.

 

Lately I've had a resurgence of interest in this area.  I started to wonder if it might be better to focus on 4 main views, as separate tasks: the March, June, September, and December sky.  That would reduce the distortion at the edges, and also, be more practical in terms of what to expect in the sky at a given time.  Another challenge, though, is that even if you can draw out the view as seen in books, half the time you are seeing it all upside down, which is all very disorienting and dizzying!


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#28 caussade

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Posted 24 November 2020 - 09:40 PM

I found my way to this thread via the really excellent review of 80mm refractors posted by the author.  I am one of those “re-kindling a boyhood interest” types. With slightly deeper adult-sized pockets I have plunged in, acquiring scopes and goto mounts and apps and even a nebulae filter. 
 

But as my wife and I prepare to head to the dark sky location of Big Bend National Park for a stargazing quarantine, I am reminded that my best astronomical tool may be the physical planisphere and the binoculars that god gave me. And maybe a comfy chair that I can lay back in smile.gif.

 

You can read more about my journey here. As you’ll see, my beginner’s imagination is struggling to help me “see” the objects of the night sky for the majesty and wonder that they are. I wonder out loud if the big pull to astrophotography, or at least EAA, isn’t driven in part by a collective —I hesitate to use the word lazy, but perhaps—impatience with the process of teaching the mind how to interpret visual observation.  
 

https://www.cloudyni...-the-150mm-mak/

 

As you can see in my Second Light post, I have purchased several books to help me to slow down and train my mind. I am wondering whether Patrick Moore’s book should be among them. Or have I identified the modern equivalent. In the book Stars, for example, they supplement a discussion of the various stars in each constellation with a diagram that shows their distance from one-another, and their spatial relationship to our solar system. Initially I was drawn to exploring the night sky purely along these spatial lines. But while I still see the value in that approach, threads like this one also convince me of the merit of comprehending the patterns of Earth’s night sky. 
 

So, thank you. 
 

Don

You're welcome, Don, and I am glad to learn that my 80-millimeter telescope review was enjoyable for you.  I just followed the link you gave and wow... there is some good material there.  I just skimmed through, but plan to revisit later on to read at depth.  As much as I enjoy the night sky, I also enjoy learning from the amateur community and reading stories like these that you have been posting.

 

Should Patrick Moore’s book be a part in your book collection?  Maybe.  I still regard his writings as some of the best ever, but the field of astronomical literature has grown considerably since, and I have seen some newer titles that are simply amazing (e.g., "Turn Left at Orion" from Consolmagno and Davis, now into its fourth edition).  See my note on this title here: http://www.cloudynig...s/#entry9181934

 

But Moore himself had something to say about his continuing relevance into the future; in the preface to the 12th edition of "The Amateur Astronomer" (from Springer-Verlag, his final revision from 2006) Moore stated, "The first edition of The Amateur Astronomer was published almost half a century ago.  Other editions followed, and I hope it is fair to say that they introduced quite a number of people to astronomy.  But things have changed since then. [...]  There was no point in catering for the electronics expert and computer user; others can do far better than I ever could.  So it was better to retain the original pattern, bringing it up to date but not attempting to go further."

 

Thanks, and clear skies!

Armando Caussade


Edited by caussade, 24 November 2020 - 09:41 PM.

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#29 caussade

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Posted 24 November 2020 - 10:06 PM

I was glad to find this thread.  I first took up astronomy around 2017, due to being out with the dog frequently after dark, and realizing I only knew a few constellations.  I pulled out that same Golden Book from my bookcase, and a couple others.  I'm a library book sale enthusiast, and it was exciting to go to them with a new agenda, and sure enough there were a few with large numbers of amateur astronomy books, so I picked up H.A. Rey's book, a Tirion star atlas, the Field Guide to the Stars & Planets, a Patrick Moore book, and several others. 

 

Like many others, I was really pulled in by the accessible illustrations in Rey's book.  I recalled that as a child, I had memorized the map of the contiguous 48 United States (what I mean is that I can draw them all in correct relative position, with roughly correct shape) - inspired by my brother who had done the same.  So I thought, that should be a good way to familiarize myself with the constellations.  However I never reached that goal.  I think it was for lack of time (and my brain is not so young now), and also, even when I thought I'd "memorized" parts of the sky (i.e. the major stick figures), I still found that on my evening walks, I was often pretty lost anyway.  In Bortle 5-6 (or worse, e.g. early evening), typically just a couple stars were visible from each constellation so the actual view differs so very much from what is in the star charts.  So, I never completed the task, and at this point my knowledge has regressed quite a bit (and increased work demands during the pandemic have shrunk my leisure time).

 

Originally my goal was to learn to draw out the entire all-season sky.  (With Polaris at the center, so, flattened and distorted toward the edges.). Starting with the Big Dipper, I fill in the little dipper, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, i.e. go clockwise once around, but then I continue counterclockwise in a wider circle: Lynx, Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus, Lyra, Hercules, Corona Borealis, etc.  At one point I sort of knew the entire list proceeding in this way, spiraling counterclockwise outward, to include all the Zodiac constellations, and up to Eridanus I think.  But I would not have been able to draw most of them accurately - I really just knew their relative positions.

 

Lately I've had a resurgence of interest in this area.  I started to wonder if it might be better to focus on 4 main views, as separate tasks: the March, June, September, and December sky.  That would reduce the distortion at the edges, and also, be more practical in terms of what to expect in the sky at a given time.  Another challenge, though, is that even if you can draw out the view as seen in books, half the time you are seeing it all upside down, which is all very disorienting and dizzying!

Glad that you came here, orionic!  The fact that you actually drew the constellations is quite interesting, and I can imagine that this helps a lot with memorizing.  I absolutely agree on your idea to focus on the four seasonal views, in order to reduce edge distorsion in the maps.  Back in the 1980's I perhaps went on to make a couple of drawings, but it never ocurred to me that this could be an effective way to learn.

 

As you say, when skies brighten to about Bortle class 6 the fainter constellations start to become more challenging. I was fortunate that, when I went through my learning stage in the 1980's my area in suburban San Juan was around Bortle class 6, meaning that fainter constellations were still identifiable (although with some effort).  Now at Bortle class 8, I only see the outlines by brighter stars.

 

It is also interesting to see which books others have used and found helpful.  I identify a lot with the titles that you mentioned, particularly the Tirion atlas and the Field Guide to the Stars and Planets.

 

Thanks, and clear skies!

Armando Caussade



#30 Escape Pod

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Posted 25 November 2020 - 12:15 AM

You're welcome, Don, and I am glad to learn that my 80-millimeter telescope review was enjoyable for you.  I just followed the link you gave and wow... there is some good material there.  I just skimmed through, but plan to revisit later on to read at depth.  As much as I enjoy the night sky, I also enjoy learning from the amateur community and reading stories like these that you have been posting.

 

Should Patrick Moore’s book be a part in your book collection?  Maybe.  I still regard his writings as some of the best ever, but the field of astronomical literature has grown considerably since, and I have seen some newer titles that are simply amazing (e.g., "Turn Left at Orion" from Consolmagno and Davis, now into its fourth edition).  See my note on this title here: http://www.cloudynig...s/#entry9181934

 

But Moore himself had something to say about his continuing relevance into the future; in the preface to the 12th edition of "The Amateur Astronomer" (from Springer-Verlag, his final revision from 2006) Moore stated, "The first edition of The Amateur Astronomer was published almost half a century ago.  Other editions followed, and I hope it is fair to say that they introduced quite a number of people to astronomy.  But things have changed since then. [...]  There was no point in catering for the electronics expert and computer user; others can do far better than I ever could.  So it was better to retain the original pattern, bringing it up to date but not attempting to go further."

 

Thanks, and clear skies!

Armando Caussade

Many thanks for the kind words and helpful link, Armando. I won’t be able to get a copy of Moore’s book before I leave for the desert. But I do have a copy of Turn Left, as well as now a pdf copy of the open-source Astronomy text you referenced. So thanks for that. Hopefully with these and a good deal of observing  time under a dark sky I will learn may way around the night sky and be deserving of the 150mm instrument that I’m pointing at it smile.gif.

 

Un saludo,

 

Don


Edited by Escape Pod, 25 November 2020 - 12:16 AM.


#31 caussade

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Posted 25 November 2020 - 10:36 AM

Many thanks for the kind words and helpful link, Armando. I won’t be able to get a copy of Moore’s book before I leave for the desert. But I do have a copy of Turn Left, as well as now a pdf copy of the open-source Astronomy text you referenced. So thanks for that. Hopefully with these and a good deal of observing  time under a dark sky I will learn may way around the night sky and be deserving of the 150mm instrument that I’m pointing at it smile.gif.

 

Un saludo,

 

Don

Thanks, Don.  Wish you all the best for your trip to Big Bend, and will follow your posts from there with much interest.  Clear skies!


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#32 astronomicsgeek12

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Posted 30 November 2020 - 01:23 PM

@ apollo 

 

Yes I also agree with that, Camelopardalis has been the hardest to find and most challenging for me to locate of the northern constellations. 

 

Also when I visited Sweden 5 years ago I tried locating this. It definitely was tricky hoping from Dubhe, Polaris or Capella. I definitely feel you on that one ! Love the challenge though.

 

What are your favorite places to use your telescope in Sweden , i plan on making another trip in 2022 , when co-void calms down. 

 

Best, 

 

 



#33 jiblet65

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Posted 01 December 2020 - 09:05 AM

My wife is impressed by the constellations and stars I've learned since delving into this hobby. When I see some of the things the members of this community have achieved I'm in awe. If I could accomplish 1/100 of what some have done I'd be ecstatic.



#34 mikemarotta

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Posted 02 December 2020 - 03:22 PM

How I charted my progress in learning the constellations

By Armando Caussade

 

I am opening this topic to see if there is anyone in the Cloudy Nights forums that has been recording their progress in learning the constellations, like I did 35 years ago. 

Image credit: Original charts by J. Hedley Robinson (1905–1991), from "Astronomy Data Book" (1972).

Wow, that is quite an achievement. You are really focussed and organized. Wth the skies clear and with a new telescope, I have been happy to identify patterns that I long ago learned only as names: Cygnus, Delphinus, Pegasus, Andromeda, and Perseus. Others, I knew already - Orion, Taurus, Scorpio, the Bears, maybe ten or 12 more - but mostly, I face the ecliptic and track what is there. To know all 88 is truly an admirable accomplishment.




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