The First Light Guides are intended to the be an easy and fast way for telescope owners to observe objects in the night sky.
For beginner amateur astronomers new to the First Light Guides, please skip to the "Overview / Getting Started" sections below, or see the Frequently Asked Questions page. For amateur astronomers who know the night sky, here are the various ways to search for objects in the First Light Guides:
Eyes on the Sky's First Light Guides are the easiest, fastest way for beginners to find galaxies, nebula, globular clusters, double stars, and other interesting objects in the night sky. If you know nothing about amateur astronomy or telescopes, please take an hour or so and go through the entire page of beginner astronomy videos here. It really is important to understand how to use your telescope, what field of view you will see at the eyepiece (the videos teach you how to calculate that) and understand things about the night sky, such as measuring distance with just your hands, knowing what magnitudes are and how to identify them, and basic terms like meridian, zenith and more. Once you know that, the rest of these pages will be FAR simpler to understand. This site even has a glossary of astronomy terms if a word is not familiar to you.
"But I do not really know the sky yet. How will I find First Light Guide objects?"
Complete knowledge of every star and constellation is not necessary. That said, you will need to know how to identify a few bright star patterns in the sky. These shapes will then help guide you to the constellations that contain the objects. To make this as simple as possible, you will need to be able to a least spot a five well-known / easily-identified shapes in the sky. These links show exactly how to do that:
Additionally it may help to review this page. So you may not know many - or any! -of the constellations initially, but you will also likely learn many of them rather quickly. Once you've identified one or more of those major shapes, simply compare your sky overhead, and scroll though the list of objects to decide what you'd like to see.
For each object, there is a page with several videos. There are usually three (sometimes one) step-by-step star hop videos showing you exactly how to find each object with a finderscope, red-dot finder (RDF), or setting circles on a well-aligned equatorial mount. Further down each page is a general constellation video in case you're not familiar with the brighter stars that are needed to find each object in these guides.
What is that RA / Right Ascension thing?
Please review the beginner amateur astronomy videos here, particularly the "Stargazing Basics" videos; Right Ascension is explained more fully.
Because the sky changes over the course of a night and as the Earth revolves around the Sun, the First Light Guides break up the sky into 8 sections - 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 21 "hours" of Right Ascension. This makes it easy to find objects by comparing your night sky with the charts here. Then you can choose from the list of objects on those pages.
In each case, the objects listed on the Right Ascension pages show which objects are best viewed on a given time/night. There is an oval drawn on each (see below) - a sort of "Oval of Observability." These are set up so that you will see objects through the least amount of atmosphere (this ensures the objects are high enough in the sky to be observed best).Objects are only listed if they meet the following conditions:
So if you use the "Compare Your Sky Tonight" or one of the Right Ascension links below it, you can use those pages to search for the best objects to see on those nights.
Happy observing! I hope you will use these guides to help you find objects, and share them with others too.
David Fuller, Host and Founder of Eyes on the Sky