A really pathetic question...

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shuttle_rtf

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Always been facinated by a clear night in the countryside in seeing the array of stars in the sky. However, I never did pick up that book, check out that map, to see which star is which and so forth.<br /><br />No doubt, it does take years to be able to point and name, but where would someone like me (at least) make a start.<br /><br />I hear that you can sometimes spot Mars and Venus (simply appearing as stars). I believe I've worked out the three stars of Orions Belt?<br /><br />Anyone got a good starting point to at least knowing how to be able to look up and name a few - so as to build from there?<br /><br />Cheers.
 
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newtonian

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Nevers will answer that much better than I.<br /><br />Venus is, I believe, the brightest 'star.' If you have a telescope (even a cheap one) you will see it has phases like the moon so if it is half (like a half moon) and bright, you can be sure it is Venus.<br /><br />Mars is also relatively bright and has a reddish tint.<br /><br />Jupiter and Saturn are less bright- again, in a telescope, Saturn will have rings - so you will realize it is Saturn.<br /><br />If you take a time-lapse photo of the night sky, the stars will appear to rotate around the north star- which is, if I remember correctly, polaris.<br /><br />I assume you recognize the big dipper.<br /><br />You can build from there and come to recognize where certain objects are in the sky.<br /><br />Of course, the planets change positions fairly rapidly, the stars do not.<br /><br />Thats the basics. I know there are sites where you can study star charts or maps, and there are programs like starry night (I don't actually know what that program is, except you can use it to identify where things are on a given night in a given location (geographically, e.g. lattitude). <br /><br />Oh, and if you are in a dark rural location like I am, you will clearly see the Milky Way, the galactic disk, and can orient telescope (or binocular) targets from that also.
 
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bbrock

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If you have a personal computer, I suggest you purchase the simplist version of Starry Night Software. This will point out any object, planet ,star and deep space object from your back yard night sky. It will also tell you how far away it is, how big it is and how hot it is. It will also help you identify the constellations and star patterns. I think this would be a very entertaining starting point. If you purchase a good pair of 50mm aperature binoculars, you can really get into learning the night sky using Starry Night. Go to Telescopes.Com to get more info on the software.<br /><br />Good Luck<br />Bill
 
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nevers

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Well...they beat me to it! Very good info and suggestions above. Starry Night has a trial program that you can download and use for 15 days. You can find it at the main Space.com page.<br /><br /> Orion Telescopes has a great Starchart by Wil Tirion and I think they have monthly charts available to download for free. Sky & Telescope as well as Astronomy Magazine are good places to look for maps too.<br /><br />I'll find some more and get back to ya later. I'm sure your gonna be swamped with great responses by then!
 
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nevers

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Oh, and don't forget: The most pathetic question is the question not asked. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" />
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>No doubt, it does take years to be able to point and name, but where would someone like me (at least) make a start.<br /><br />I hear that you can sometimes spot Mars and Venus (simply appearing as stars). I believe I've worked out the three stars of Orions Belt?<br /><br />Anyone got a good starting point to at least knowing how to be able to look up and name a few - so as to build from there? <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />Okeedoke!<br /><br />You're in Britain, so that's good, because I have no advice whatsoever about the Southern Hemisphere sky. <img src="/images/icons/tongue.gif" /> (Someday I do intend to see the southern sky, however!)<br /><br />As we come into the winter months, Orion (the Hunter) becomes very visible. The three stars of Orion's belt are Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. Below them you if you look close (even with some light pollution) you should be able to make out a faint smudge. Avert your eyes slightly to cause the light to fall outside the fovea of your eye and it will be easier to see -- your fovea has very good acuity, but concentrates mostly on color-sensitive cells. The more light-sensitive cells are concentrated outside of the fovea. This is a popular stargazer's trick. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> Anyway, that faint smudge is the Great Nebula of Orion. It's the easiest nebula to see in the northern sky.<br /><br />You should also be able to find Orion's feet (or the bottom corners of his kilt/robe, depending on how you imagine him) and shoulders. The two on the bottom are Rigel and Saiph. The two on the top are Betelgeuse and Bellatrix. Rigel is one of the brightest stars (in terms of absolute magnitude; it's far away, so it isn't the brightest star in the night sky), and Betelgeuse is the largest star known (in terms of diameter). Betelgeuse is a super red giant, and you will be able to tell with the naked eye that it is slightly reddish in color. Because of this, it <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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silylene old

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It's really hard to learn the stars and constellations if you live in a big city with lots of light pollution. If you can only see perhaps the 20 brightest stars and a couple of planets, then it is near impossible to develop a mind picture of the constellations, or which star is which.<br /><br />Due to the huge amount of urban development near my house in Massachusetts, one can no longer see the Ursa Minor (little dipper) or the north star. Due to the bright spotlights pointing skyward to light up the Duncan Donuts, the Burger King, the McDonalds, the KMart, the WalMart and a Regal 16 theater megacomplex just a km away, I now can locate the great square of Pegasus with great difficulty (forget trying to trace the tail to the location of the Andromeda galaxy).<br /><br />My sons will never understand why I am fascinated with astronomy. I can understand why though, when I look up at the night sky and see........nothing anymore. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><em><font color="#0000ff">- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -</font></em> </div><div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><font color="#0000ff"><em>I really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function.</em></font> </div> </div>
 
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glutomoto

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for online info.<br /><br />http://www.heavens-above.com/<br /><br />http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance/article_110_1.asp<br /><br />http://skyandtelescope.com/howto/visualobserving/default.asp<br /><br /><br />and although you said something about not being too interested to "pick up that book", I will still recommend "Turn Left at Orion", and so would a few others.<br /><br />http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=204746&highlight=astronomy+guide#204746<br /><br /><br />have fun. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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nevers

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What ever you do, DON'T buy a telescope from like Wal-Mart...!!!!!! Nothing against Wal-Mart type stores of course, but you'll be disappointed in the image you get out of one. Most of these 'scopes are plastic and of inferior quality.<br /><br />I know that wasn't the original question but...just in case.
 
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silversoul

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Your quest for learning about the stars is a noble one, the most simple of questions can provide the most profound answers. We can only learn by asking and that does not make us pathetic, it makes us strong. Keep going in you journey thorugh the night sky, it will fascinate and amaze you at every turn.<br />Silversoul
 
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