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Trying to learn the night sky

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#26 8Plane

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 11:18 AM

Well done to the OP for getting it exactly right.  There are plenty of posts saying I bought [very expensive telescope] and what do I do now?  You just took some binoculars and went outside at night.  Absolutely the right way to start.


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#27 therealdmt

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 11:45 AM

Regardless of what they are called, I have never had any luck seeing M33 or M101.  I have degree circles and am good enough with my navigation that I am confident in my ability to put the FOV where it needs to be.  Just have not been able to be in a dark area to look for them when they are out.  Very impressive that the OP found them with binos.  Gives me hope that someday I might too.

Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I can’t see M33 either — light pollution situation isn’t great where I am. Frustrating.

 

On the other hand, it certainly could be worse, so there’s that. At least on weekends I’m not right in a city, so I prolly shouldn’t complain too much


Edited by therealdmt, 14 January 2021 - 11:52 AM.

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#28 ulrichsd

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 01:01 PM

Since I have at least a month and a half before my first telescope (Orion XT10i) arrives, I figured I'd do a little backyard binocular astronomy last night with my Vortex Viper HD 10x42 binos. According to the astrospheric app, we had zero clouds, above average transparency and average seeing conditions. I live in a Bortle 4 zone, but I was lying on my kids' trampoline in the back yard, so I did have some artificial light from neighboring houses to deal with. Not really that bad if I just kept the binoculars up to my eyes most of the time. I had a pretty ok view of Andromeda's core and a little fuzzy smear when I averted my vision or just moved the binos back and forth. I surprised myself, and actually found what turned out to be the triangulum galaxy! While moving the binos around the sky, I noticed a very faint hazy patch that really had no defining features. Almost looked like a distant wispy cloud, but it wasn't moving, so I pulled up my Sky Safari app, and sure enough, it was a galaxy. Sky Safari called it the pinwheel galaxy when I tapped on it, but the description called it triangulum, so I'm not sure what that's all about. It was right below the triangulum constellation. I also found a few open clusters as well as a double cluster just above Cassiopeia (NGC869 and 884). Anyway, just thought I'd share my "discoveries" lol. Was kind of a big deal, considering until just last week, I had never even seen Andromeda.

 

I was looking for Andromeda nebula as well - I was looking in the area at about 40x magnification and was able to see a faint smear like you described as well, but only with averted vision or when I moved the view a bit. Sounds exactly like what you describe.

 

I am about half way through "100 Things to see in the night sky", which has been an enjoyable read. Includes a lot of history and background to constellations in addition to just directions to find them. It is not an advanced manual to find faint nebula or such dsos however.

 

I've also been using Stellarium.org software on the computer and the phone aps StarWalk2 and SkyMap.


Edited by ulrichsd, 14 January 2021 - 01:53 PM.

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#29 aa6ww

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 01:29 PM

Stellarium is an excellent program for computers. There's just not enough information on tablets our smart phones for true star hoppers. For those who star hop, its invaluable since it can show you how far objects are in the night sky relative to any other object in the night sky and the computer versions of Stellarium let you enter in new objects like comets and asteroids as they are found. Learning the scale of the sky is important also so you can judge how far apart objects are you want to locate, compared to stars you can see naked eye. This is why the Telrad is so much more valuable as a star hopper then either a laser pointer or finder scope. A telrad gives you a 4 deg scale you can use for locating objects next to visible objects.

Its also important to know how dim the object is you would like to find, since you can only see certain objects based on how dim they are, relative to your aperture and your skies.

I've taught my friends to learn the constellations first. Those of them who want to learn the skies anyways. Being able to look up and just recognize constellations will give you a  huge advantage as an astronomer. Once you can identify constellations, you can then start locating objects in and around those constellations. Just learn the main, obvious constellations first. Open up your star chart program like Stellarium, then find the constellations  you can recognize in the sky on the program and expand the constellations and you will see many potential objects you can locate and observe.  

The 110 Messier objects are always an excellent starting point. If you expand your knowledge beyond just looking at a few planets, the moon and bright stars, you will never be bored, with any telescope you are using. 

Make a list of the constellations you see, and start making notes as to what you observe in and around those constellations. 

Good luck and don't give up.

 

...Ralph


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#30 McGarnicle

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 02:25 PM

Well done to the OP for getting it exactly right.  There are plenty of posts saying I bought [very expensive telescope] and what do I do now?  You just took some binoculars and went outside at night.  Absolutely the right way to start.

This is my plan too. Previous sessions were with a Starsense Explorer scope which was too easy. Tonight looks clear so I’m headed out with my gravity chair, binoculars and sky chart. I’ve already observed Pleiades with binoculars which is awesome and can’t wait to see what else I can find. 


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#31 Medic_1210

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 02:48 PM

Regardless of what they are called, I have never had any luck seeing M33 or M101. I have degree circles and am good enough with my navigation that I am confident in my ability to put the FOV where it needs to be. Just have not been able to be in a dark area to look for them when they are out. Very impressive that the OP found them with binos. Gives me hope that someday I might too.


What is the Bortle rating where you live? I'm in a class 4, but honestly feel it's probably on the darker side, closer to class 3. And regarding M33, I couldn't see any detail. It was literally just a very slight change in contrast from the darker sky surrounding it. I'm not sure what others see when they view it through a bigger scope and darker conditions, but this would have been very easy to miss had I not been moving really slowly across the sky with the binos. It'll be interesting to see if I can find it when my scope arrives. I imagine the tighter field of view might make the change in contrast less visible.

#32 Sheol

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 06:59 PM

                           Can I trade you skies for a year Medic? I'd give my left arm for skies that good these days. The only way I found M. 101 was the last Super nova in it! I came to know that area so well, that when that happened I saw a star that was never there before. LOL. Even then, just a clump or two of haze with Averted vision. It remains one of my more difficult objects. All northern DSOs do, because LP is horrible to my north, but the Big Dipper/Ursa Major does rise high enough above the DFW light dome at certain times of year. As for M.33, that is all I've seen through an 8 inch here at home. And no, it will not be easier, the magnification needed to make the contrast usually washes it out altogether. I had the same experience with NGC 253, the Silver Coin galaxy. Lower magnification or it actually became invisible.

 

                            Clear Skies,

                                Matt.


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#33 Medic_1210

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 10:00 PM

                           Can I trade you skies for a year Medic? I'd give my left arm for skies that good these days. The only way I found M. 101 was the last Super nova in it! I came to know that area so well, that when that happened I saw a star that was never there before. LOL. Even then, just a clump or two of haze with Averted vision. It remains one of my more difficult objects. All northern DSOs do, because LP is horrible to my north, but the Big Dipper/Ursa Major does rise high enough above the DFW light dome at certain times of year. As for M.33, that is all I've seen through an 8 inch here at home. And no, it will not be easier, the magnification needed to make the contrast usually washes it out altogether. I had the same experience with NGC 253, the Silver Coin galaxy. Lower magnification or it actually became invisible.

 

                            Clear Skies,

                                Matt.

Fortunately, even though I live in a Bortle 4 zone, we don't really have any light domes from any nearby metro areas.  Using the lightpollutionmap.info site, my house sits in a pale orange zone so rated as Bortle 4, but less than 20 min from my house, there are plenty of green Bortle 4 areas that are noticeably darker to my untrained eye.  I've only experienced true dark skies when I was in Afghanistan several years ago on one of the many blackout bases where no artificial light is allowed at night. The amount of stars visible is incomprehensible to anyone who has never seen it for themselves. I honestly don't know how Astronomers can star hop when it's dang near impossible to identify the stars you're trying to hop from. I had trouble identifying even the main constellations like Orion due to the amount of stars. There's nothing even close to that on the East Coast. About the darkest areas within 4 hours of my house just do get into the upper Bortle 2 level. I do hope I get to experience true dark skies again, but it's gonna require a trip out west. Attached are the light pollution info at my house (orange) as well as an area about 15 min drive (green).  I'm still trying to figure out the numbers, like SQM and ratio. 

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#34 Katharine

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Posted 14 January 2021 - 10:25 PM

Thanks for the tips.  I've subscribed to Sky and Telescope, and am planning on getting Turn Left at Orion. Unfortunately, the closest astronomy club is an hour and a half away, which I suppose isn't too unreasonable for going to star parties, but maybe not convenient for monthly meetings or whatever. The three nearest me are all in bigger cities like Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, so not the darkest locations.  I will still look into them and see what they have to offer.  I've made some posts on local Facebook group pages seeing if there were any astronomers in the area, and really didn't get many responses.  

Attend virtually for now.  See if your chosen club has some sort of message board, Facebook, or other group so you can get to know people.  Find out, also, if they video their in-person meetings-- pre-Covid, mine always did and posted them on Youtube.  Hence, you will have the community, you can perhaps watch meeting presentations even if you can't be there, and you'll be on your way.

 

 

I'll check that out.  I've heard about people doing sketches, but have wondered how they're done.  I'm guessing people who already have a good artistic ability are the ones who gravitate towards sketching? So many new concepts I had no idea existed before delving into this hobby. Definitely eye opening. 

Nope.  I'm a terrible artist and I'm trying to take it up.  Working mostly from photos right now until I get the binoculars on a tripod, but nah, you don't need to be a great artist to sketch.


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#35 Jethro7

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Posted 15 January 2021 - 05:28 AM

I'll check that out.  I've heard about people doing sketches, but have wondered how they're done.  I'm guessing people who already have a good artistic ability are the ones who gravitate towards sketching? So many new concepts I had no idea existed before delving into this hobby. Definitely eye opening. 

Hello Medic,

What sketching does for you, is this technique will help teach your eyes how to see. I know this sounds funny but observing takes practice. You do not need to be a artist to sketch. The principal behind this technique is, when you are sketching your mind is engaged in the details of your observations. You are now learning how to see. Often times magnification will be a hindrance to your observations due to the sky conditions and or the relative magnitude of the your target and you will have to use lower magnification to view the target and it will be smaller but it will be better defined. After you learn how to see you will be able to pick up so much more detail with lower magnification and will probably learn to appreciate the views with lower magnification. At first most all beginners go for all the magnification that can be had until the realization that this is actually  working  against you. Our Moon is the exception, it is really fun to view our Moon at high magnification it looks like you are looking out the portal of Apollo 11. Did I mention that sketching is fun. 

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


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#36 JOEinCO

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Posted 15 January 2021 - 10:25 AM

welcome.gif 

 

Nobody mentioned it yet, but get yourself a simple star chart book and a dimmable red light. Doesn't need to be anything fancy to be a good match to your binos. I am a big fan of the old Second Edition of the Cambridge Star Atlas. Buy this for four bucks: 

https://www.ebay.com...yQAAOSw3ChZd9gj

 

I'm old school. I love a pair of binos, a chart and a red light. And remember, even in "night mode", almost all devices bleed white light. Lay in the trampoline, use your atlas, and save your dark adaptation. waytogo.gif 


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#37 NYJohn S

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Posted 15 January 2021 - 12:26 PM

Medic, Here's a place you can post your observations. Its a great way not only to share what you see but read about what others are viewing night to night. - https://www.cloudyni...#entry10807086 

 

Reading the posts will help you compile a list of objects to look for. 

 

John


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#38 Sheol

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Posted 15 January 2021 - 07:27 PM

                            Color me Jealous! Look at the LP satellite picture! I'm dangerously close to that awful white blob smack in the center of the Lower Plains. Only worse areas are Coastal Florida & the Northeast, plus Houston!   You lucked out.

 

                       Clear skies,

                            Matt.


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