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As a beginner, how are you learning about the sky?

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#51 Mike Q

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Posted 14 February 2024 - 08:54 PM

I'm curious if you tried and failed to learn some of the constellations or if they just never held much interest for you.

 

For what it's worth, if you expect the official constellations to make sense in any truly rational way, you're flat out of luck.

Tried and failed.  They just dont compute in my head.  I just dont have an artistic bone in my body



#52 star acres

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Posted 14 February 2024 - 11:34 PM

Learning about the sky? I'm just taking my sweet time. I bought a Ken and Barbie sized planisphere. In cub and boy scouts, I really got to look up for hours. Model planes, radio, and now a Cute little Cessna, I'm restoring, have me thinking and looking up. The Twilight Zone had episodes that kept you thinking and looking up there. It's frustrating, because Elon Musk doesn't have any Club Med destinations for us. It's the epitomy of cool having two space stations over us and all those low satellites. Doesn't it make you wish NASA had a lottery?

#53 RadioPigeon

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Posted 15 February 2024 - 11:03 AM

As someone who is Gen Z, I've installed orbitron and stellarium on my 2GB RAM Laptop and PC in 2020 and followed the sky that way, then I got binoculars.



#54 star69

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Posted 15 February 2024 - 12:07 PM

Tried and failed.  They just dont compute in my head.  I just dont have an artistic bone in my body

Mike,

 

I struggle with "artistic interpretations" of the constellations as well. What has really helped me a lot is looking at Stellarium with the constellation outlines overlay. Not the artistic one, but rather just the outlines. I check out he objects I want to observe in relationship to where they are in a given constellation and try to recognize it while in the field. This has helped immensely in learning the constellations. 

 

Now if they would just stay in the same place in the night sky... lol.gif crazy.gif 

-Kevin
 


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#55 Mike Q

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Posted 15 February 2024 - 03:04 PM

Mike,

 

I struggle with "artistic interpretations" of the constellations as well. What has really helped me a lot is looking at Stellarium with the constellation outlines overlay. Not the artistic one, but rather just the outlines. I check out he objects I want to observe in relationship to where they are in a given constellation and try to recognize it while in the field. This has helped immensely in learning the constellations. 

 

Now if they would just stay in the same place in the night sky... lol.gif crazy.gif 

-Kevi

I may give that a shot.  Thanks



#56 Dazzleshine

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Posted 15 February 2024 - 08:57 PM

In 2022, I purchases a small dobsonian telescope to look at objects and find where they were in the sky. I also use Stellarium, to help pinpoint exactly where everything is. I use a star tracker currently, so I think using that will help me out with finding some of the smaller objects I couldn't find with my little dob.



#57 woodswalker88

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 04:56 PM

I'm curious if you tried and failed to learn some of the constellations or if they just never held much interest for you.

 

For what it's worth, if you expect the official constellations to make sense in any truly rational way, you're flat out of luck.

Constellations don't make a lot of sense because there are no lines in the sky connecting the stars. So we rack our brains to remember these odd stick shapes...and then look up to see a bunch of random-looking stars!

Maybe it's different for folks who can superimpose a smartphone app on the sky. That doesn't work for me because of my eyesight. I'm stuck the old fashioned way. Memorizing & trying to match visual with memory.
Finding Orion was the key though. Impossible to miss. Then I've been trying to think of constellations in relation to Orion. Up just beyond it is a square called Auriga. Then there's that W of Casseopia at the top. And a couple of triangular formations pointing at something.
I'd love to be able to snap a picture of the sky with my iPad. (I have a planisphere, but again...stick figures.)

If I can remember a few of the more distinctive ones, maybe I can figure out the ones surrounding them.
There are a few distinctive shapes. Circles, and things that look like hiking trails. Unfortunately they are just ends of Other constellations.



#58 Tanglebones

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:50 AM

I too struggled with this lack-of-line-in-the-sky business, finding it difficult to translate Stellarium (and others) into the actual sky. I can only reiterate what I said in an earlier post, the technique that worked for me - starting with the zodiacal constellations as a baseline. I based everything off the vernal equinox - March 21st, when the Sun is on the celestial equator and in the Constellation of Pisces. In my mind, I imagined what I would see if I kept facing east-ish as the year progressed, watching each zodiacal constellation rise over the horizon. In order, I would see:

 

Pisces

Aries

Taurus

Gemini

Cancer

Leo

Virgo

Libra

Scorpius

Sagittarius

Capricornus

Aquarius

 

I worked to memorize that sequence before even looking at the sky, so I could recite it without effort. Doing so also helped me realize a few other things. First - they're the hours of right ascension. Pisces (00), Aries (02), Taurus (04), etc, so I can easily estimate the RA for objects in the sky simply by noting what zodiacal constellations they're closest to. Then I realized that the vernal equinox (00h) is followed by summer solstice (06h), autumnal equinox (12h) and winter solstice (18h), so that meant that the Sun was in Gemini, Virgo, and Sagittarius respectively at each of those periods. So if the Sun is in Sagittarius at the winter solstice, for example, then it's opposite number (18h-12h=6h), Gemini, would be prominent in the winter nighttime sky. And, of course, it is. Vice versa for the summer solstice, when the Sun is in Capricornus and Sagittarius can be seen in the evening sky.

 

None of what I just wrote is essential to learn the constellations, but it just fell out of that base principle of starting with the twelve (thirteen if poor Ophiuchus is included...) zodiacal constellations and trying to understand the patterns of movement all around me. Why those? Because any time you go out at night and look up, no matter what time of year, at least three of them are always present, one of which should be an equinox/solstice constellation, Pisces, Gemini, Virgo, or Sagittarius. 

 

As for the constellations themselves - shrinking your list down from the 44 northern (or southern) constellations down to 12, for the time being at least, gives you a good starting point. This is where having ruthlessly memorized the order comes in handy, for when you spot one (Gemini, for instance), you know that Taurus and Cancer must be on either side. The Hyades of Taurus, not to mention the Pleiades, are easy to spot, but Cancer isn't an easy one to see, at least from the city. And that's okay, because just beyond it lies Leo - so even though you may not be able to see Cancer, you know where it must lie if you can see both Gemini and Leo. And from there, of course, find M44.

 

Before the pandemic, I used to love doing star parties - either the formal ones or just some sidewalk astronomy with friends. It's pretty cool when you can ask people what they want to see - "Do you want to see a dying star (planetary nebula)? Do you want to see an exploding snowball (glob)? Or would you rather see a galaxy eating another galaxy (M51)?" When they pick one, and you just manually swing your scope from one point of the sky to another, without goto, and after a few seconds peering through a Telrad and/or eyepieces, turn to them and say "Have a look..." - all that time spent memorizing and struggling to recognize patterns really feels worth it.

 

Another technique I stumbled on that really helped, was to just take a photo of the night sky with a DSLR. I doesn't have to be fancy, but shutter open long enough to get the main stars that you see when you look naked eye. Then, in your photo editor of choice, manually draw your own constellation lines. Here's an example of one I did a few years ago, and it really helps to be able to spot those patterns:

 

https://www.astrobin.com/234883/

 

Of course, everyone is different and has their own way of learning. This is just what worked for me.

 

Stu



#59 deepakvenkatesh

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Posted 27 March 2024 - 11:41 AM

Hello everyone 

 

This is my first post. I feel lucky to have found CloudyNights. I have binge read hundreds of

posts in last 2-3 days.
 

I started star gazing in mid to late 90s as a kid. I used to live atop a hill in the Himalayas with a spectacular view with little obstruction (my boarding school). Just on the opposite hill through the window next to my bed was an Observatory (ARIES Nainital). In the months of October and November I could see the expanse of the Milky Way overhead and spot constellations. I thought as a kid that the Milky Way would be visible from every place. How wrong was I!

 

Fast forward to 2009. I earned my first paycheck and I bought a small Newtonian which was quite bad. Probably spherical sub 4 inch mirror on a poor mount. This was in a heavily polluted city Mumbai. I sold it after a year. 

 

Finally now I am in Washington state (East side Seattle). I see some clear nights when it’s not raining. I have got a copy of Turn Left at Orion and a pair of 7x50 binoculars. I have gone back to star hoping. The pleasure I am deriving is that now my 6 year old

daughter is learning with me. She has started to figure out. So I am trying to recall and re learn and then teach my kid. Showed her a view through a club’s Orion table top dob 4 inch I think.
 

I have also joined the Seattle Astronomical Society. I am hoping to join them for a star party next weekend. Will take the entire family along. 
 

I do not have a telescope. I am in queue to get a loaner 130p dobsonian from the society. But I want to delay purchase for a month. 
 

my goals:

1. To read and absorb Turn Left at Orion by April end

2. Teach my daughter some basics - ongoing. But she knows Orion, Little Dipper, Jupiter , Sirius etc. 

3. I might acquire a plainsphere. I lost my last one. 
4. Get exposed to Seattle Astro Society

5. Long term: Plan to  purchase a dobsonian to work through Messier objects. (I am very confused about  a few scopes I have narrowed down to. So I am postponing the decision till I reach maybe May 2024)

 

Thanks & Regards

Deepak


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#60 daveb2022

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Posted 27 March 2024 - 12:47 PM

 
 

I do not have a telescope. I am in queue to get a loaner 130p dobsonian from the society. But I want to delay purchase for a month. 
 

my goals:

1. To read and absorb Turn Left at Orion by April end

2. Teach my daughter some basics - ongoing. But she knows Orion, Little Dipper, Jupiter , Sirius etc. 

3. I might acquire a plainsphere. I lost my last one. 
4. Get exposed to Seattle Astro Society

5. Long term: Plan to  purchase a dobsonian to work through Messier objects. (I am very confused about  a few scopes I have narrowed down to. So I am postponing the decision till I reach maybe May 2024)

 

Thanks & Regards

Deepak

You might consider trying to look through some constellation binoculars. They are not for everyone and they don't (at least for me) produce sharp images like standard binoculars, but the wide field is something to experience. I have a set of Orion 2x54 and it is kind of nice being able to scan such large sections of the constellations. They work well for me in urban light polluted skies. I've been scanning for a T Coronae Borealis outburst and take a look whenever the constellation is in view. But your 7x50s are a great choice as well.

I say maybe check them out first because the eye spacing can be an issue, and my set barely came to focus in one ocular for my eyesight.

 

Good luck on your scope purchase.

 

And welcome, you have a sound plan.


Edited by daveb2022, 27 March 2024 - 12:59 PM.

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#61 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 27 March 2024 - 07:33 PM

You may find some of the information on astronomy, amateur astronomy, and observing presented in my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287 useful, Deepak. There are sections on various books, observing guides, the Moon, the planets, star-hopping, stellar atlases, planispheres, planetarium programs, astronomy apps, deep-sky objects, lists of worthwhile celestial objects to observe, binocular astronomy, urban astronomy, and other related topics.


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#62 Astro_In_Tampa

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Posted 27 March 2024 - 08:19 PM

I've been interested in astronomy and space in general since we first landed men on the moon (I was 6!). My first college class was an astro-physics class at TCU back in 1984. I still remember my first look at Saturn through the instructors catadioptric scope. Unfortunately, life and career got in the way, and it took my 4-year-old grandson (who is obsessed with space) to motivate me to get a telescope last July. First thing I did was join this forum and start picking the giant brains of the members to find out how to use it. What I did was load up Stellaruim on my phone and laptop, and I bought a few more apps for my phone that show you what's in the sky at any point in time. It didn't take too long to figure out where the constellations were. Based on more specific recommendations about looking for certain targets, I figured out how to use sites like freestarcharts.com to figure out where a target would be relative to the constellation. 

 

So yes... Technology definitely flattened out the learning curve quite a bit for me. I try not to rely on it too much. I prefer to use it as a tool that teaches me where things are. Then I can hopefully find the target on my own. One silly example. I was outside early one day when the sun was still up. I knew I could see Jupiter if I could find it. So, I aligned my AD12 on where I knew Orion *should* be, and when I swung my scope over to where Jupiter should be, boom! There it was in my RACI. I was quite pleased with myself.


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