By Dave Fuller on 12/30/2015 10:41 AM
Don't give up! Telescopes seem like they are easy to use - just point it generally where you think the object is you want to see, and it should be visible in the eyepiece, right? I mean, that's what we do with our phones and cameras - just point it, and "Boom!" - there it is!!

So why isn't a telescope so simple? What are you doing wrong? 

There's a few things that beginners may not realize they're doing. Here's how to find things more easily with a telescope your first time out. 

1) Make sure the mount and tripod are steady

This is easy to overlook, but it is VERY important. Your telescope only shows a very narrow slice of the sky, even at low power. Keep in mind, if you drew a line from horizon to horizon, that is 180 degrees. Your telescope only shows 1/180th of that line, at low power. So even very small movements of the tripod or mount will appear to be HUGE changes in the eyepiece! Think about zooming in a camera all the way, without using a steadying feature to smooth out your...
By Dave Fuller on 9/8/2015 7:55 PM

Composed of three stars, in three different constellations, the Summer Triangle is really just a convenient way to look for Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila in the summer sky. How to find it at this time of year? Easy? Check out this quick 30 seconds long video:

For more on what you can see, check out the blog's past posts, or the home page for the most recent video(s). There's also info on basic stargazing and how to understand telescopes

By Dave Fuller on 8/25/2014 2:18 PM
Unlike the previous double star, HD 213067, our next double star is a bit harder to locate, but it's worth seeking out. For one, it's not just a double star at the eyepiece, it's a triple star. HD 215812 / HIP 112559 is a 7.2 magnitude star located northeast of Sigma Aquarii. But it may be easier to find by locating Lambda Aquarii, a star that can be found pretty easily by extending the "Nashira -> Deneb Algiedi" line in Capricornus out ~20 degrees (learn how to measure distance in the sky here).

Find double star STF 2944

At Lambda, an average finderscope of 6x26 or larger can show where to go, because at 3.7 magnitude, Lamdba is easily seen now. Moving northward in the direction of Zeta Pegasi, a 7 degrees field of...
By Dave Fuller on 8/24/2014 3:49 PM
Neptune is just slightly below the dimmest naked eye objects from a dark sky site. Most humans can see down to about magnitude 6.5; at the moment, Neptune glows at magnitude 7.6. That puts it easily within the visibility of most any 7x35, 8x40, 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars from just about anywhere. The key simply knowing where to look. 

Five steps might make this star hop sound more difficult than it really is, but because I'd like everyone to be able to see the furthest planet, I am showing this one small step at a time, so no one misses where to go. The first thing to do is get oriented in the sky. The ecliptic - the imaginary line in the sky that the Sun passes through as Earth revolves around it - is close the area where all the planets appear in the sky. And Neptune is currently visible within the boundaries of the constellation Aquarius. To get an idea of where to look in the sky, check out the Aug 25 thru Aug 31 Eyes on the Sky weekly video:

Later in summer and through fall, Aquarius may appear...
By Dave Fuller on 11/3/2013 7:18 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of November 4 thru November 10 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring. Also, don't miss this week's Eyes on the Sky video about the Moon and THREE Comets you can see: ISON, Encke and Lovejoy.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Nov 4:  Look for one day old Moon about 20 to 40 minutes after sunset (use binoculars; see this week's Eyes on the Sky video) Look at stars in Cepheus...
By Dave Fuller on 10/24/2013 2:10 PM
First, it's a bad idea to tell me, "That won't happen"

There is nothing like someone telling me, "You'll never get that done." About 10 years ago I was told something similar with respect to getting some stop signs put on my street. You see, I live on what amounts to a dead-end street. Well, not exactly, but there is a business at the end of it, so it is not a through street. At the time, the business that was there had two shifts. The second shift started at 6:00, and their lunch was around 10:00 at night.  Every night just before 6:00, then a few minutes after 10 and a few minutes before 10:30 (on their way too, and back from, their lunch break), a dozen or so cars and trucks would accelerate ALL the way up (or down) our street as the left for lunch break, then returned.

Our speed limit was, at the time, 30 mph (currently 25). I would easily guess that, while accelerating, these vehicles were going 40 to 45 mph as they passed our house. Mind you, our street is only 4 (short!) blocks long! They were certainly going 50 mph before they'd slam on the brakes at the stop sign at the corner.

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.