Astronomy Packet: 6
Finding in the Sky:
After six astronomy packets, you are now almost ready to be certified as a junior astronomer. One of the most difficult things you will have to master as a junior astronomer is learning how to find things in the sky.
There are millions of exciting and beautiful things to look at in the sky, but you have to know where to look. If you randomly point your telescope or binoculars at the sky, chances are all you are going to see is either darkness or a few stars.
If you want to see neat things in the sky, you have to learn how and where to find them. The first and most important thing you must do is learn the constellations. You must learn where they are in the sky. If you cannot look up at night and quickly recognize what part of the sky you are looking at, you will never be able to find fun things to explore with your telescope or binoculars.
Take a week and just learn the constellations.
Secondly you will need a skymap. You can print free skymaps every month at www.skymaps.com. If you want a really good skymap, I recommend you buy a book called "Roger Tory Peterson's Astronomical Guide" or "National Geographic Astronomical Guide." In these books you can find each constellation on a separate page.
All you have to do is look up a constellation you know, such as Orion. The book will tell you every galaxy, nebula, star cluster and other interesting things to find in Orion. Simply lie on your back and look for these objects one by one. You already know where Orion is, the hard part is done.
Some telescopes have setting circles. These circles are like dials. If you have a telescope with setting circles, simply look up the right ascension and declination of the object you want to see. Set your dials (setting circles) to those numbers and look through the telescope. Your telescope will be pointing directly at the object you were looking for.
Note: To use setting circles you have to polar align your telescope. This is very easy to do. If you have setting circles your telescope mount or tripod probably looks like a "T". Simply point the top part of the "T" at the North Star. Your telescope will come with directions on how to do this.
You will also have to adjust your telescope for the latitude of your city. Your telescope will have directions for this as well.
Assignment # 3.
Setting circles are a nice accessory for a telescope, they make it much easier to find things in the sky. But do you need setting circles to find your way through the sky? Why or why not? If you do not have setting circles, what is another way to find objects in the sky?