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Identifying Constellations & 1st Magnitude stars

Started by Ron Oehlert, 01/11/2010 09:44PM
Posted 01/11/2010 09:44PM Opening Post
In these nights of GOTO 'scopes, I was wondering if anyone still could, from a glance at the sky & without the aid of a chart, identify the Constellations & 1st Magnitude stars visible tonight or on any given night. I learned them at age 11 in 1956 but observing methods have changed since then.
Posted 01/11/2010 10:52PM #1
Well, I can and I would guess that most, if not all, of the people that I observe with regularly could too.

Dave Mitsky

Chance favors the prepared mind.

De gustibus non est disputandum.
Posted 01/12/2010 05:33AM #2
I don't consider myself particularly competent as an observer, but I could pretty much figure out about two thirds of what I am looking at on any given night. I should say that I actually learned more after I got a goto scope since I had to learn the names of the stars that I was using to build my alignment for the night.

Alex
Posted 01/12/2010 07:35AM #3
I'm much beter with Winter and Spring than Summer and Fall and I must admit it takes me longer when I get in dark skies because of all the extra stars but I'm guessing that most of us that still remember how to count change out by hand instead of handing a lump of bills and change at one time can identify the night sky. You bring up a good point. In another 20 years this skill may be gone.

Send me clear skies and warmer temps please
Dave H.
Posted 01/12/2010 08:03AM #4
Ron Oehlert said:In these nights of GOTO 'scopes, I was wondering if anyone still could, from a glance at the sky & without the aid of a chart, identify the Constellations & 1st Magnitude stars visible tonight or on any given night.
Where I live the problem isn't identifying the constellations and all the 1st magnitude stars -- which I too have known for many decades -- but, even on clear moonless nights, seeing any stars other than 1st magnitude or any but the brightest constellations. Under the light-polluted skies where most Americans now live, the GO-TO scopes are very helpful.
I notice that at my club's public star parties, where most of my non-GO-TO colleagues show Jupiter or Saturn or Mars or Venus or the moon, plus an occasional glance at one of the brighter doubles, while I can also show open or globular clusters, etc.

NexStar 8i SCT, Orion 80ED APO refractor, Orion 120 mm EQ refractor, 3.5-inch Questar
Posted 01/12/2010 09:02AM #5
Ron Oehlert said:

In these nights of GOTO 'scopes, I was wondering if anyone still could, from a glance at the sky & without the aid of a chart, identify the Constellations & 1st Magnitude stars visible tonight or on any given night. I learned them at age 11 in 1956 but observing methods have changed since then.

Ron: A reasonable question...

Myself, as a dedicated Starhopper, I can find my way around the sky reasonably well. As far as names, I know many of the bright stars by name but most stars I identify by their relationship. For example "the bright star next to M1", or the "the yellow star with the small galaxy that is the starting point for my hop to M31" or, those pairs in Pegasus that point me to Stephen's quintet... I don't know their names but they are imprinted in my mind as part of the visual star map I carry with me.

But personally I am OK with whatever and however someone wants to enjoy the sky. If one enjoys knowing the constellations and the names of the stars, that's fine with me. If one wants to just look through a GOTO scope with GPS that is self aligning, that is good too.

Jon


Posted 02/06/2010 03:30PM #6
I’m the same age as you, Ron, and learned them at the same time too. Any young astronomer who skips that step has failed to experience a truly grand spectacle presented by nature. I find it hard to imagine that any enthusiast was so quickly glued to an eyepiece that he has never learned the major constellations and brightest stars. Indeed here in Chicagoland light pollution is a big problem. Nevertheless, I can still detect the prominent constellations and stars.

For astronomical graphics, including
monthly wallpaper calendar, visit:
CurtRenz.com/astronomical

Curt Renz
Posted 12/30/2014 09:36AM #7
I know the sky very well and am about your age. Took interest as a kid and just sat on the roof of our inner-city house in Rochester NY under skies that would be considered superior clarity and darkness now-a-days! I had little more than a paper planisphere and small book. Eventually got to where I (still can) ID most any constellation just by catching 2 or 3 brighter stars thru a hole in the clouds. That actually became a useful skill when I was deployed to the jungles. The stars are awesome from the tropics too! I think knowing the sky is substantially a lost art for these reasons: Light pollution, mesmerizing electronic toys (kids don't play outside any more), and most new-comers seem to want to do imagery immediately...with no learning curve. Tom Dey

29-inch Dob in a dome
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