Telescopes and binoculars are pretty useless unless you know where to point them. I am going to show you some standard constellations and how to find them in the night sky, so you’ll never be lost again in the ocean of stars overhead. You’ll need to download and install Stellarium Planetarium Software before watching the video below. If you need a paper planetarium, try downloading this star wheel from Sky & Telescope here or try this simple star wheel here.
Download the student worksheet that goes with this lesson.
Try to observe when the phase of the moon is less than first quarter phase or more than three quarters (meaning that the moon is less than 50% illuminated). You don’t need any fancy viewing equipment, only your log sheet, and if you can do it, bring your planetarium software program with you outside to help you locate the objects. Start small, and find a couple of things on the first night. If you don’t figure it out the first time, try again the next night. I learned the northern sky by learning one new constellation every time I went star gazing, and pretty soon I had a lot of them that I could identify easily.
Note: This isn’t something that’s going to work by osmosis. You will have to go outside, figure out where to look, and find the object. Figure out what you’re looking for, and about where you can expect to find it, and practice and test yourself over and over until you can successfully find it every time. If you’re getting frustrated, it’s time to stop and have a sip of hot cocoa before you try again. This is supposed to be a fun treasure hunt, so make it enjoyable!