A Small Guide to Stargazing

By: Fion Lim


As a lover of Astronomy, stargazing is one of my many hobbies. Having a few years of experience, I would love to share how to catch a few of my favorite constellations.


Constellations have evolved since prehistoric times. Now we have a system of 88 constellations! But do not let these official constellations limit you, use your imagination and you might be able to create new ones to add to your own list! And you never know, maybe you’ll be able to add a new one to the official 88 constellations!


First, there are a few factors that will affect your stargazing experience: the Observer’s location on Earth, The Season and The Effects of Light Pollution.


Observer’s Location on Earth

To take a part from Giles Sparrow’s book, ‘From any point on Earth we can see roughly half of the sky - the rest is hidden by the bulk of the planet that lies beneath our feet…’


He stated 3 different parts:

1. Polar Observer

2. Mid-latitudes

3. Equatorial Observer


A Polar Observer (located on either the North or South pole) sees the same hemisphere of the sky all the time. This hemisphere rotates daily around the poles.


Any observer in the Mid-latitudes (anywhere between the Poles and Equator) will see some stars rise and others set as the Earth rotates. However, circumpolar stars (stars between a Polar Observer and a Mid-Latitude Observer) will remain permanently visible throughout the night.


An Equatorial Observer can see every region of the ‘heavens’, it changes as the Earth rotates.


The Season

The Season changes the length of the Day and Night. Longer days mean you can only see stars for a short period of time.


Light Pollution

If you live near or in a city, it will probably be very hard for you to even catch a glimpse of a few of the brightest stars. A few of the constellations you can catch as a city dweller are Orion, Ursa Minor and (if your city is not as polluted) Aries! You will most likely only be able to see parts of the constellations that I have named, but it is a good start if you’re new! (Example: Only being able to see Orion’s belt.)


Getting the factors out of the way, here is how to catch a few of my favourite constellations!


Orion


In my opinion, this constellation is one of the easiest to see as a city dweller and for any type of observer. You can see it dominating the sky at the beginning of the year. It can be harder to see his arms with the light pollution, but being able to catch this constellation can be very fulfilling.


Triangulum


This constellation is one of my favourites because of its simplicity. It is just above Aries. Yes, it is just a triangle but if you own a pretty decent telescope, you can see that to it’s right Triangulum Galaxy Messier 33 shines beautifully.


You can see this constellation easily if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.


Crux


This constellation is also known as ‘The Cross’ and ‘The Southern Cross’ and is the smallest constellation in the system. It was frequently used by navigators to make sure their boat was moving on the right path.


It can be best viewed between April and June from the Southern Hemisphere and the Equator.



The Scientific Teen

Since June 2018

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The Scientific Teen 2020.