UNAIDED EYE OBSERVING -
There are several astronomical observing methods that can be used.
Wandering Around the Sky
When I was starting out in observational astronomy I would go outside at night and look around the night sky. Being a beginner and not knowing much about astronomy I quickly realize I needed to learn about what I was looking at. Therefore I took astronomy books and charts outside with me during my observing sessions to help me learn about what I was looking at. As a result, most of my observing time was spent in reading or looking up objects in charts or astronomy guides for things that I could observe. What I had learned was studing and researching objects to observer was better complished before starting the night time observing session so that more time was spent observing.
The current observing methods I use most are the "Three to Ten Minute Quick Look" and the "Planned Observing Session". Both of these observing methods have been more productive in that I spend more time sky observing and less time reading references during an observing session. But at times, when mood suits me I will wander around the sky to find objects that I have never observed before.
This method entails searching the sky, finding a sky object of interest and then researching it to identify and to learn about the object. Observational astronomy by wandering around the sky is fun in that it explores the unknown (to you) and that you discover astronomical objects with no set agenda or plan. The key to observational astronomy by wandering around the sky is knowing what to look for and then having an excellent method of researching astronomical objects in order to identify them and to learn about them.
The objective for this quick glance at the sky observing method is to learn the unaided eye visible night sky throughout the year. My definition of the visible sky is the Moon, constellations, bright stars, planets, Milky Way and a few bright deep sky objects like M31 Andromeda galaxy, M44 Beehive cluster, etc. This method is composed of two parts:
In other words, take a quick look at the sky and try to identify and to recall as many constellations, bright stars, planets, and to occasionally try to find a faint fuzzy deep sky object if sky conditions permit. A typical quick look is composed of the following observations:
I have found this "Three to Ten Minute Quick Look" observing session is an excellent method to learn the night sky.
Planned observing sessions are researching astronomical objects that can be seen and then planning a nightly observing session to observer them. This method has the high ratio of observing time of the sky versus total observing session time which includes telescope setup, reference work, sky observing and telescope tear down. This method of observing for a beginner is recommended because unskilled observer will not easily recognize certain astronomical objects. Also, in observational astronomy by wandering the sky researching unknown astronomical objects requires good use of astronomy references resources in order to identify them which may be a bit over whelming to a beginner.
This method entails searching the sky for new objects such as comets, supernovas, etc. A sky search pattern is developed based on the type of object being search for. The seach pattern is implemented on a ongoing schedule with a goal to optimize the chance to be the first person to discover a new object such as a comet, supernova, etc.
© 1998-2003 David Haworth