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Amateur astronomy

  1. Jul 9, 2013 #1
    Hi !

    I have a basic question : What should an amateur astronomer learn to better understand the sky he's watching ?

    I love watching my sky at night (Even though the quality of it is discusting, too much light pollution.) But I feel I lack knowledge because I'm watching space, but I don't know what exactly I'm seeing. How would someone advance ?

    Thank you (If my question isn't clear, I'll try to re-write it.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2013 #2


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    Find a book on naked eye astronomy and learn the constellations. For the major stars light pollution helps a bit, as it cuts out many stars leaving only the bright ones.

    I have been in the high mountains with dark skies and no light pollution, I found it hard to find the stars I know because there were so many!

    Start with the summer triangle, assuming you are in the northern hemisphere, and the circumpolar stars. You will not be able to see many of the smaller constellations but should be able to pick out the bright stars if nothing else.
  4. Jul 9, 2013 #3
    Any suggestions concerning the book ?
  5. Jul 9, 2013 #4


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    Well the one I used 40yrs ago was call Naked Eye Astronomy, I think :)

    I have searched for it and have not found it. There are so many out there and I cannot vouch for any of them. Perhaps someone else will help out.

    If you wish to become familiar with the sky this is the starting place. Do you have Stellarium? Set your location and time, it will show you your sky. Start by finding the bright stars go from there.

    good luck
  6. Jul 10, 2013 #5


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    "Sky and Telescope Magazine"

    I have subscribed to this magazine for many years. It is probably the best source to guide you into astronomy with practical articles and a good opportunity to learn about observing the sky. There is a monthly sky chart and monthly sunrise and sunset planet visibility notices with easy-to-use diagrams. It is issued once a month and the cost is not very expensive. I highly recommend it. You may also visit the website:
  7. Jul 10, 2013 #6
    The funny thing is, I was looking at the sky, and decided to use stellarium like you said. First, I was able to locate Vega pretty easy and after I found Altair. To finish off, I found Deneb and I told myself, wow, that makes a good triangle. (I thought I "saw" something and was the first to see it lol) and when I went on wiki to know more about those three stars, I saw it talked about that summer triangle (Which I found without even looking for it, in a unconscious way xD) and it made me remember your recommendations for my searches ^^ Just wanted to tell you.
  8. Jul 11, 2013 #7
    Stellarium is an incredibly useful software. I live in a city where there is far too much pollution and find it very convenient to use this software. The software simulation also allows you to turn on and off atmospheric effects. I try practicing by using the grids, star locations, constellation lines one day and then trying to figure the same the next day with everything off as if I were seeing the night sky. Give it a shot, I'm addicted to it!
  9. Jul 11, 2013 #8


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    I live in an area with pretty clear skies, and for many years I used a cardboard planarium and a set of Burnham's guides. Eventually, Tirion published his various charts and atlases, and those were a great help.
  10. Jul 11, 2013 #9
    Sky and Telescope is great. Just a heads up to OP, though: You may not have to actually subscribe, depending on your local library. My local library holds a large amount of magazines, and always has new copies of Astronomy, as well as Sky and Telescope, so I would check your local library before subscribing.
  11. Jul 11, 2013 #10
    make best use of internet to get detailed information about stars and constellations.. Just get into eclipse and moon positions.. try to generate more interest
  12. Jul 22, 2013 #11
    Do you have a pair of binoculars? (Judging you don't have a telescope?)

    If so, view the Moon and perhaps Saturn too. :thumbs:
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