Friday, May 25 2007 @ 12:00 PM CDT
Contributed by: bobmoody
|Star Charts! Everybody needs them and uses one based on what your individual tastes are for how they look and how easy they are for YOU to use. Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines give monthly charts, but are these the best for you?|
I did the same thing and independently discovered Saturn on a cold, clear winter night behind my apartment in Oklahoma City in 1984, as I pointed the little 60mm at a bright “star”, and focused it in. I literally GASPED out loud as the rings of Saturn came into sharp detail. That was it......I was hooked for life!
Everyone is a little different, sometimes a LOT different, but the next logical step for learning how to get all you can from your telescope is to use a good set of star charts. I say set because I personally believe its impossible to produce a single star chart with everything on it. But how detailed do YOU need a set of charts to be? We should probably start with the same charts I started with, which is the monthly centerfold chart of Astronomy magazine. (Sky & Tel has similar charts) These charts have their good points and their bad points, and I'll try to explain why I find this to be.
At the time I seriously started into astronomy in 1984-1985, locating things from charts was done by visually identifying certain stars in the sky and on the charts at the same time. Too small of a chart didn't allow for many more stars to be included that are sometimes crucial to finding what you're after. The larger the chart the more dim stars are depicted on the chart and that means many more smaller stars that you'll see in the night sky from a dark location.
|Planispheres are neat little rotating "wheels" that can help orient the user to see what's up for tonight, or six months from now, and at any time of night. Together with the centerfold charts, they allow for much better understanding of what's going on at any time than either the centerfold charts or the planispheres by themselves ever will.|
My Good Points on "Centerfold" Charts
First, these charts are a FREE inclusion in several magazines each month. They also reveal the changing appearance of the sky as the months pass by over a year's time. The reader sees how the constellations are forever marching towards the west, while new constellations keep appearing on the eastern horizon and replacing what sets in the west. That was something that really grabbed me at the very outset of my self-taught course on amateur astronomy.
Click Read More for the rest of the story, and for more suggestions on other star charts.