Well, I have to respectfully disagree with CassGuy47 that most serious observers tend to use EQ mounts. For one, I’d say that a lot of serious observers have more than one telescope and more than one mount, and many of those have more than one type of telescope and more than one type of mount.
In particular, a lot of serious observers have Dobsonian telescopes, which is a kind of alt-az mount. Many other serious observers like to have a small to mid-sized refractor on an alt-az mount.
As to which system to use, if you are using an EQ mount, the R.A./Dec system matches up with that. If you are using an alt-az mount, the alt-az system works well. Also, I’d say that for most beginners the alt-az system would be more intuitive, especially if they have an alt-az mount.
In the end, use whichever system you feel most comfortable with and which matches your equipment and preferred observing style.
Me, i honestly don’t use either! I know my constellations pretty well and how they move, etc., and I think about things in relation to the constellations and prominent stars, plus the (rough) compass points on the horizon, the meridian (an imaginary line from north to south across the sky), the path of the ecliptic (and so also the zodiacal constellations), the galactic plane and the constellations along it, groupings of constellations (for example, the group of constellations centering on Orion) and also prominent asterisms such as The Summer Triangle.
If I’m trying to get to a new or unfamiliar target, rather than looking up its coordinates (in any system), I look up it’s location on a star chart and figure out a star hop to it visually starting from a known or easily identifiable (bright) star or grouping of stars. When out under the sky, in practice I’m including elements of both alt-az and R.A./Dec. in my thinking, but I don’t really think of it in that way and I essentially never look up exact coordinates or think in terms of any exact coordinates.
My general advice would be to figure out where the ecliptic plane is — it’s like a curving railroad track going from east to west across the sky, and all the planets, the Moon and the Sun basically move along it. Additionally, all the famous constellations of the zodiac (you know, "What’s your sign?") lie along it and it’ll be there all year ‘round. Being able to visualize the ecliptic when I looked up at the night sky was a major breakthrough for me in comparison to just knowing a somewhat random handful of prominent constellations. Also get to know how the Big Dipper’s "pointer stars" point to Polaris, the North Star. If facing Polaris, you’ll be facing the direction of north. The other directions follow from that (i.e., if facing north, east is off your right shoulder, etc.), and a lot more information actually. It all starts to fit together, but it’ll take some time/experience. Figuring out where the Moon rises like you did is a good start — that same area is basically the start of the ecliptic
Edited by therealdmt, 24 July 2021 - 12:33 AM.