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Friday, July 17, 2009


Let the Moon Be Your Guide!

Left: The Moon near Jupiter on Saturday night July 11 10:00 pm local time. Right: Moon near Mars, Venus, Aldebaran, Pleiades and Hyades a 6:00 am local time on Sunday Morning July 19.

This is the second of a planned series of posts on looking at the sky and how to find your way around it as a beginner.

Finding things in the sky can be confusing, sure you can get downloadable star maps, but trying to match up a host of bright points with the dots on the map can be a herculean task sometimes. Sometimes you need a signpost, something bright and obvious you can't mistake for anything else.

Like the Moon.

The Moon has the advantage of passing quite close to several interesting bright stras and all the planets, so if you know when the moon and a planet are close, you can readily pick the planet out, and memorise its location for future reference on another night the Moon isn't conveniently close. See the two examples above for locating bright planets near the Moon.

Of course, the Moon and Planets move, so you have to keep track of when the Moon is near something of interest. How do you do that? Southern Hemisphereians can keep track via Southern Skywatch or my Weekly Updates where I note which objects the Moon is close to, or you can use the Heavens Above star chart or the skyview cafe star chart or Google Sky.

After a while the sky will become quite familiar to you, and you can star using skycharts with confidence.

First post: The Dark Adapted Eye.

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Wow, Ian, thanks for the site and its maintenence. I just stumbled in here and have this nifty new telescope that I'm just learning how to use. I think your going to be helping me immensly!
A pleasure. With your new telescope, using the Moon as a guide will be immensely helpful. To start off with, the biggest problem for new telescope users is that quite often the finderscope is not properly aligned with the main scope. This can result in hours of frustration. By centring the Moon in your finderscope, and checking whether the Moon is in the main scope (use your lowest magnification eyepiece for this) you can adjust the finer scope until they align pretty well, so when you point your scope at something with the finderscope, it will be there in the main scope.
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