Pillars in the Eagle nebula

sm. starYou need to make sure you can use a star chart. It isn't difficult Alan M Maccrobert and Fred Schaaf give some good advice in their article OUR MONTHLY SKY MAPS AND HOW TO USE THEM in SKYWATCH '99 pg. 40.

sm. star"Turn the chart around so the edge marked with the direction ( north, south, east, or west) you are facing down. The stars above this horizon on the map now match the stars you're facing. Ignore the rest of the map until you turn to face another direction. The center of the map is overhead."

sm.starMr. Macorbert and Mr. Schaaf also give some good hints about finding constellations on your first few tries. They recommend that you start with the brightest stars and constellations finding them first. I remember my first night I started with the Big Dipper and worked at finding all the constellations around it first.

sm. starThey also remind you that star patterns will look much larger in the sky than they do on paper. Be prepared.

sm. starThey recommend that you try to learn a new constellation every night. My astronomy class and I would try to learn two or three new constellations each week.

sm.starIt would really help you if you read Celestial Coordinates. It contains of information that you will need. Many terms you will find in star guides, astronomy books, and star charts are explained on this page.

sm.starI always studied the map and my star guide book before I went out. I found this to be an important step. I planned my viewing for that night. I wanted the shapes of the constellations to be familiar to me. This helped me see them in the sky more quickly. I also wanted to know the myths about the constellations and the brightest stars in the constellations. That makes it more fun. I would say the major star names and the constellation names so that I would remember what star was in what constellation.

sm.starMy first sky watching year, I would eagerly look forward to what the next season would bring. In the autumn, I read about all the winter constellations, in the winter, I read and studied about the spring constellations, and so forth. I remember eagerly waiting for Orion and Canis Major. I was not disappointed!!

sm.starMy astronomy class had tests and quizzes where we had to name the brightest stars or the main stars in each constellation. I would give them a blank star map and they had to fill in all of the names of the constellations and the main stars. This can become a family game .

sm.starOn one of our trips to Kansas City for the astronomy safari program sponsored by the Creation Science of Mid-America, my astronomy class learned a really good way to show the constellations to those who have never seen them or those who are having a difficult time locating them. Get a one of those very large flashlights and use it is a pointer. Someone who is very familiar with the constellations can easily point them out star by star using that flashlight as a pointer because it is easier for a person's eyes to follow the beam of light to the exact star than a finger at the end of a hand. We use this method with new comers all of the time. It works really well when teaching the constellations to children.

sm.starOne last piece of advice I read in one of my favorite books. Be patient. It takes a while to find all of the constellations. It is worth it however. They will always be a source of pleasure to you and your family.


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