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Solar Prominences compared to Size of Eorth

Becoming a Sky Observer 5
The Observer's Equipment 10

Understanding the Sky 21

First Steps in Observing 29
Using a Telescope 35
Star Charts and Setting Circles 45

The Sun 66
Sky Colors 74
The Planets and Asteroids 78
Comets 94
Meteors 98
Stars 102
Nebulas 117
Drawing Sky Obj ects 122
The Sky Observer's Camera 125
Using Astronomical Time 135
Accessories and Maintenance 138
lncidentallnformation 146
Maps of the Heavens 148
Index 158






The Moon










Ring Nebula (MI. Wilson)


Becoming a Sky Observer

All of us, from childhood, have gazed at the sky i n
wonder. Sun a n d Moon, t h e wanderi n g planets, the
fiery trails of comets and meteors-these a re things to
marvel at. Man will never tire of looking u p into the
tremendous, sparkling bowl of space.
Skywatching was undoubtedly a pastim e of pre
historic m a n . The ancient Egyptians and Babylonia ns,
severa l thousand years ago, observed the h eavens care
fully enough to devise q uite accurate calendars. Ob
servations by Copernicus, Gali leo, and others in the
sixteenth a n d seventeenth centuries were among the
first great steps to modern science. Even today, the
science of astronomy depends on observation.
Astronomy is for the
amateur as wel l as the professional. The amateur can see
for himself the sig hts that sti rred Ga li leo, the Herschels,
and other great astronomers. A high-school boy may be
the first to see a comet, a rug sa lesman may discover a
nova, and a housewife can observe and map meteor
faithfu l observations of a
variable sta r may be just the
data an observatory needs.
Although in some re
gions weather and climate

Mars-o challen ge to astrono

mers: T h i s p h oto of the red p l a n
et, a lways a favorite of o bse rvers,
is one of the fin est. (W. S. Finten,
Union Obs., Johannesburg)

Great Nebula in Orion:. This famous object was p a i n ted as seen by the
artist in h i s 8-inch telescope at 200 power. The pattern of four stars
near the center is the well-known, col o rfu l Trapezi u m .

are often unfavora ble, any interested person i n any

part of the world can become a sky observer. The aspect
of the sky differs from place to p lace, but the majesty
of Sun a n d Moon, of sta rs and planets a n d nebu las, is
to be seen everywhere.
This book is a g uide to observing-to the use of
binoculars and telescopes, the locati ng of sky objects,
and what objects to look for and how best to see
them. The beginning observer should have also a book
on genera l astronomy. Even a little knowledge greatly
increases the pleasure of observi ng, a n d it prepa res us
to undertake rea l astronomica l projects. Most old hands
have found that the fun of amateur astronomy is greatest
when they a re working on observation programs that
are scientifica l ly usefu l.
Even a n observer
without binocu lars or a telescope ca n see many wonders
of the heavens. The importa nt th ing is to know how to


look and what to look for. The constel lations ca n be

traced and identified. Some star clusters can be located,
and eclipses and some comets observed . The changing
positions of Sun, Moon, and the brighter planets can be
closely watched, and some a rtificia l satel lites can be
seen. The brightness and length of meteor trails can be
estimated. Get used to finding your way a bout the sky
with the eyes a lone before tryi ng a telescope.
Your fi rst look at the
heavens through good binoculars can be exciting. Binoc
u lars with 50m m . lenses gather a bout 40 times as m uch
light as the eye a lone, revea ling such features as
mountains a n d craters of the Moon, sunspots, the four
larger satellites of J upiter, double stars and star clusters,
and luminous clouds of cosmic gas such as the famous
nebula i n Orion . (Before observing Sun, see pages 66-67!)
With no more than binoculars, some observers do
useful scientific work, such
as recording light changes
i n variable stars and
watching for novas and
comets. A telescope is ob
tained by every serious
amateur sooner o r later.
Refractors, with lenses 1%
to 4 i n ches diameter, a n d
reflectors, with mirrors of
3 to 6 inches, are popular
types. The light-gathering

Telescope on wheels: T h i s home

mode 8-i nch reflector is kept i n
the g a rage a n d wheeled o u t at
observing time. (William Miller)

and mag nifying power of telescopes brings out details

of the Moon's surfa ce. It reveals J upiter's larger satellites
and its ba nded clouds, as we ll as ma rkings on Mars a n d
the rings of Saturn. With telescopes we can "split"
double sta rs and disting uish sta r clusters, nebu las, com
ets, and sunspots. We ca n watch the Moon occult (that is,
pass in front of) sta rs and p lanets. light fluctuations of
faint va riable stars and novas can be detected.
Good sma l l telescopes can give surprising per
forma n ce. When conditions are right, a n observer with
a good 3-inch refractor or 6-inch refl ector ca n see
some featu res of J upiter and Saturn more distin ctly
tha n they a ppear in observatory photographs.
FUN W I T H T H E CAMERA Many a mateurs make use
of the camera . The eye is sensitive o n ly to the light it
is receiving in the present insta nt, but photog ra phic fi l m
i s sensitive t o light received over a l o n g period o f ex
posure. An amateur's camera ca n detect faint objects
which the eye, even with the aid of a telescope, could
never see. Even a simple
camera gives exciting and
useful results.


Some serious amateu rs,

not content with factory
made telescopes, make
their own . They g rind the
Transit of Mercury, Nov. 1 4,
1 907: The move m e nt of a pla net
a cross the S u n 's disk i s a rare
sight. Arrows poi n t to Merc u ry
a nd show the d i recti o n of its
path . (Yerkes Obs.)

For a serious a mateur: This homemade 1 2-inch reflector, e q u i p ped with

a camera, can g ive h i g h perfo r m a n ce . (Clarence P. Custer, M.D.)

lenses a n d m irrors, and design the mou ntings. It takes

specia l knowledge and skill, yet hundreds of amateurs
have made instruments that perform splendid ly. Tele
scope-making classes a re held at some planeta riums,
universities, a n d observatories. Books on telescope
making a re availa ble from booksel lers.
Ma ny a mateur ob
servers belong to nationa l organizations. These give
mem bers info rmation on equipment, observi ng tech
niq ues, and sta ndard methods of reportin g thei r work.
They set up observing progra ms and receive obser
vational data from mem bers. Data a re sent to ob
servatories for use i n programs of research. Some
organizations publish news of developments that interest
a mateurs. loca l g roups observe together, compare
equipment, a n d promote pu blic interest i n astronomy.


Three types of telescope: The reflector, with a mirro r for its objective,
i s a common a l l-purpose desi g n . The refractor, using a lens for the
objective, also is a n a l l-pu rpose type. The tracking telescope has the
extra-wide fiel d needed for fast-movi ng objects.

The O bserver's Equipment

J ust as we gather a supply of
maps and booklets before touring the country, so we
m ust gather certain sources of information before touring
the sky.
This book provides all necessary i nformation for a
good sta rt in sky observi ng. The index wi l l g uide you to
exp lanations of observing techniques and equipment,
to lists of i nteresti ng objects to look for, and to tables
indicating where and when to look for planets, eclipses,
meteor showers, and periodic comets. For more back
ground in astronomy, the reader may turn to books a nd
periodicals recommended on pages 1 46- 1 47.
Hundreds of stars, nebulas, and other objects ca n be
located with the aid of the maps on pages 1 48- 1 57.
For fainter objects the more detai led cha rts to be found



in a star atlas become indispensa ble. There a re atlases

of convenient size that show nea rly a l l stars as faint
as can be seen with binocu lars. For serious work with a
telescope, more detai led charts a re needed.
Some begin ners use a planisphere to learn constel
lations. One type has a "wheel" on which is printed a
map of the constellations. The wheel is rotated withi n
an envelope that h a s a wi ndow. When t h e wheel i s set
for any particular month, day, and hour, the window
shows the positions of the constel lations at that time.
Every observer should own a good
pair of bin oculars. These gather fa r more light tha n the
eye; they magnify images and use the capacity of both
Opera-g lass binoculars consist essenti a lly of two
sma ll refracting telescopes mounted together. At the
front of each is a large lens, the objective, which gathers
the light. At the rear is a smaller lens, the eyepiece or
ocula r, which does the magnifying. In the front part of
the eyepiece is a third element, the erectin g lens, which
is necessary to prevent our getting an upside-down view.


A planiophere: Devices like this

a re h i g h l y u sefu l for l e a r n i n g the

various conste l lations.

Optical aid: Binoculars can re

veal l u n a r features and vast sta r
fields. (Stellar)

I n the la rge prism binocu lars, the objectives a re

centered farther apart. The light rays from them m ust
be brought closer together before they reach the eye
pieces. This is done by a pair of prisms in each tube.
Opera g lasses have objectives of a bout one i nch
diameter and a magnifying power of 2 to 3. Prism binoc
ulars, with their larger objectives and higher mag nifi
cation, a re prefera ble for astronomica l o bserving. Pop
ular types have objectives of 35 to 50 millimeters (about
1 % to 2 inches), and magnify 6 to 1 0 times.
Binoculars labeled "7X 50" mag nify 7 times and have
an objective 50 mil limeters in dia meter. The a rea of
the objective determines light-gathering a bility; so
7X 50 binoculars gather more tha n 7X 35's.
Binoculars vary a lso as to field of view. The field is
the whole circular a rea we see through the i nstrument.
Thus i n binoculars with a 6 field we can see an a rea
of sky 6 in dia meter-eq ual to an area 1 00 feet i n
diameter at 1 ,000 feet.
Heavy binoculars m a ke
the arms tired and un
steady. The mag nification
increases the effect of
unsteadiness. Usua l ly 7power g lasses a re the lim
it for ease i n handling.
Bigger ones ordi nari ly re
quire a support.

Magnification: Large and re

duced sizes of this photo show
the Moon as seen with unaided
eye and through 7-power binocu
lars. (Lick Obs.)

Paths of Light t h r o u g h M a g n ifie r a n d Te l escope

Astronomica l telescopes a re
of two main types: refracting and reflecting.
I n a simple refractor, light is gathered by a lens, and
mag nification is done by the eyepiece. There is no
erecting lens, beca use this would cut down the amount
of light delivered to the eye. The image seen by the
observer is inverted, but this ma kes no difference i n
observation o f most celestia l objects.
With the telescope the observer usua l ly gets severa l
removable eyepieces. These a re used for different
deg rees of mag nification, as desired .
Every good astronomica l telescope has a fi nder-a
sma l l telescope, usua lly of 5 or 6 power, with a wide
field, mou nted on the main tube. It is used for aiming
the telescope, because the field seen through a high
power telescope is very sma ll. Astronomica l refractors



genera l ly have a sta r diagonal, a lso, to bend the light

at right angles before it reaches the eyepiece. This
allows us to observe objects overhead with comfort.
Reflecting telescopes use a mirror, not a lens, for
the objective. It is a high ly polished concave g lass
disk coated usua lly with a luminum or si lver. Light
from the sta r fa lls upon this mirror and is reflected to a
sma ller diagona l mirror or prism in the tube. This reflects
the light to the eyepiece.
Refractors get out of adjustment less easily than re
flectors. less maintenance, such as realignment or the
resurfacing of m irrors, is necessary. But reflectors a re
less expensive and more readily made by a mateurs.
The telescope's ability to
revea l faint objects depends mai n ly upon the size of its
objective. A lens or mirror 3 inches in diameter wi ll
gather two times as much light as a 2-inch, and a 6-inch
wi l l gather four times as much as a 3-inch. Figures given
in the ta ble here a re only approximate. Some telescopes
can do better. Actual performance depends partly upon
seeing conditions, quality of the instrument, and the
observer's vision.



Diameter of








*See pages


af Stan


227 for explanation af magnitude.

Collecting light: A 6-inch mirror, a 50mm. binocular lens, and the

human eye differ greatly in light-gathering power, according to area.

The eyepiece of a telescope

bends the light rays so that they form a larger image on
the retina of the eye than would be formed if no eye
piece were used . The image size depends upon the foca l
length of the eyepiece. The foca l length is the dista nce
between the eyepiece and the point at which the con
verging rays of light meet. The shorter the foca l length,
the larger the i mage. Foca l lengths of typica l telescopic
eyepieces ra nge from 1.4 inch to 1 V2 or 2 inches.
Magnification given by a telescope depends not o n ly
upon the eyepiece being used, but a lso upon the foca l
length of the objective. The longer the foca l length of
the objective, the g reater the magnification obtained
with any given eyepiece.
To determine the magnification being obtained, we
divide the foca l length of the eyepiece into the foca l
length of the objective. For example, if the foca l length
of the objective is 50 inches, a %-inch eyepiece wi l l give
100 power (" 1 00X ").
Theoretical ly, there is no limit to the mag nifyi ng
power of a n instrument. Practica l ly, there is. As we use
eyepieces of higher pow r, the image becomes more
and more fuzzy, though larger. Fina l ly the fuzzi ness



becomes so extreme that the object is seen less dis

tinctly than at a lower power.
The practica l magnifying limit depends mainly upon
the diameter of the o bjective. For well-made telescopes
the limit is a bout 50 times the diameter of the objective,
in inches. This means a bout 1 50X for a 3-inch telescope,
or 300X for a 6-inch. As the observer becomes familiar
with his own telescope, he may find it has a somewhat
different limit-say, 40 or 60. The exact figure will
depend partly upon the atmospheric conditions.
RESOLV I N G POWER The resolving power of a n in
strument is its a bi lity to show fine detai l-for exam ple,
markings on planets. To determine the theoretical
resolving power of a n objective, divide the n u m ber
4.5 by the diameter of the objective i n inches. The
answer (known as "Dawes' limit") is the distan ce, in
seconds of a rc, between the closest objects that can
be distinguished.
A good 3-inch lens should separate objects a bout
1 .5" (seconds) apart. One second of arc is 1 /60' (min
ute) or 1 /3600 (degree). A degree is 1 /90th of the
dista nce from the horizon to the zenith (point in the sky
directly overhead). The average unaided human eye,
under good conditions, ca n distinguish stars that a re
a bout 1 80'' a pa rt. The performance of a n objective
depends upon qua lity of
the g lass, optica l surfaces,
seeing conditions, and
proper a lignment of the
Ma gni fication :

Excessive magni
fication of an image given by the
objective tends to spoil it.

Since it gives such high

magnification, a telescope m ust have a strong, steady
mounting. The two main types of mounting a re the
a ltazim uth and the equatorial.
The a ltazimuth mounting is the simpler. It a llows two
motions of the telescope-up and down, an "altitude"
motion; and horizonta l, an "azim uth" motion.
This is a good genera l-purpose mounting. It is light,
portable, and easi ly taken down and set up; usua l ly it
rests on a tripod. Most telescopes with objectives of
less than 3 inches have this type of mounting.
The equatorial mounting is designed to be set up in
a certain way i n a spe
cia l ly prepared location,
though it too is used for
som e sma l l porta ble tele
scopes. In its sim plest form,
the eq uatoria l has two axes
at right ang les to each
other. It is an a l l-purpose
mounting, genera l ly used
for serious work. To make
the most of it, we m ust set
it up properly (page 36).
Some equatorials have setting circles, which make it
possible to aim the instru
ment a utomatica l ly at the
right point in the heavens
(pages 50-53).


Resolution: The moon crater Ar

chimedes as it looks well resolved
and poorly resolved.

Saturn in a small telescope: Even

at 200 to 300X, the planet's imoge
is small. But with a good instru
ment and good seeing, more de
tails can be seen than appear
here. UsuaUy finer details of
planets are seen fleetingly, be
c.ause of atmospheric turbulence.
During some years Saturn's rings
are "edge on" to us and invisible
in small telescopes (see page 91 ) .

Besides the basic equipment that usual ly comes with

a telescope, an observer ca n o btain useful extra equip
m ent. See pages 138-141.
Both for serious astronom
ical work and for plain fun, q ua lity in equipment is a l l
i m portant. Test instruments before buying. Haziness,
m i lkiness, or rai nbow colors in the field a re a sign of
poor optica l parts. Good instruments wi l l reduce stars
to neat points of light, and show distant print without
distortion. If an o bject as viewed "dances" when the
telescope is lightly touched, the mounting is below par.
A poor mounting spells inconvenience and frustration.
Price is not a lways a n indicator of quality. Some low
cost instruments turn out well, but there is a lways risk
i n buying them. If possi ble, the buyer should have the
a dvice of an expert. Some buyers exaggerate the im
portance of "power." They buy the biggest telescope
. available at a g iven price-on ly to learn, later, that a
smaller i nstrument of better qua lity would h ave given
g reater satisfaction.


Understanding the Sky


A yardful of expensive eq uipment can

not make up for an ignorance of as
tronomy. Every observer should have a
basic astronomy guide (see pages 1 461 47) and read it. But here is a review
of facts that directly affect o bservi hg.
Astronomers ca l l the sky, as seen
from Earth, the "celestial sphere." It
can be imagi ned as a n enormous hol
low ba ll with Earth at the center, and
with the stars on the i nside surface.
As Earth rotates, the stars seem to
parade by.
Exactly what section of sky the ob
server can see depends partly upon
his location. The sky seen from the
North Pole is completely different from
the sky seen from the South Pole.
Between the poles there is a n over
lappi ng. An observer looking south
from New York sees a portion of the
northern part of the sky that is seen
fom Rio de Ja neiro. People in Rio
can see o n ly the southern part of the
sky a rea that is seen from New York.

The celestial sphere (as if seen from outside):

Earth rotates from west to east within the sphere.
At latitude of New York, stars within 41 of
the north celestial pole never go below the hori
zon, and stars within 41 of the south celestial
pole never rise above the horizon.


Big Dipper as seen from d i ffer

ent latitudes: I n central Canada
(top) it is higher than as seen at
the same time from Long Island
(bottom). Here it is near the low
point of its revolution.


Theoretica l ly, a person at

the Eq uator can see the
whole sky, but he can see
only ha lf of it at once.
At night the sky appears
to pass steadily overhead,
east to west. This seeming
motion is due to Earth's
rotation. From the North
Pole, the sky a ppears to
turn like an enormous
with its hub directly over
head at the so-ca l led
North Star. From the South
Pole the sky a ppea rs as
a whee l turning clockwise.
For an observer halfway
between the Eq uator and
the North or South Pole,
the hub is j ust halfway up
(45 ) from the h orizon.
Stars within 45 of the hub
remain in view all night
as they m ove a round it.
Objects fa rther tha n 45
from the hub rise and set.
Objects nea r the center of
the wheel seem to move
slower than stars farther
out. A l l, however, are
moving at the sa me speed
in degrees-about 360 in
24 hours.


The Sun 's changing pat h : The

path is low in winter, higher
in spring and fall, and high
est in summer. This diagram is
far the northern hemisphere.
For the southern hemisphere,
compass points are reversed.
The Moon's path is high in
winter, lower in spring and
fall, and lowest in summer.

A sta r or planet appears to move

at a speed of a bout 1 5 per hour a long its circle. But
each evening it rises a bout 4 min utes earlier than the
evening before. This daily gain is due to the progress of
Earth i n its journey around the Sun, and amounts to a
gain of a day in the course of a year. Stars that rise and
set at any particular latitude, therefore, are n ot visible all
year. During some of the year, the time between rising

W h y constellations change with seasons: A s Earth revolves around

the Sun, the part of the sky that we see at night changes. During the
course of a year, a full circle of the sky passes before our view at night.





These are drawn as if seen from

outside. Constellations in fore
ground are reversed. The Sun is
"in" a constellation when be
tween it and Earth.

a n d setting wil l occur dur

ing daylight. The sta r
cha rts on pages 1 48- 157
show that each constel la
tion, at a given hour, is
fa rther west in summer
tha n in spring, fa rther west
in fa l l than in summer, and
so on.
Stars are so
distant that, though traveling many miles per second, they
look m otion less . Constel lations remain the sa me yea r after
yea r. Only over centuries could changes in their shapes be
noticed by the unaided eye .
But all o bjects within our solar system a re much c loser.
As seen from Earth, they move against the background of
the constellations. The Moon, during most of the yea r, rises
an average of 50 minutes later each night, and the height
of its path in the heavens changes with the seasons. Posi
tions of a l l the pla nets, asteroids, and comets change as
wel l . The Sun's motion against the background of stars is
not so noticeable, but does occur.

ECLIPTIC AND ZODIAC The path of the Sun agai nst

the background of sta rs is cal led the ecliptic. In the
course of each day, the Sun moves a bout 1 against the
backg round. I n a yea r it ma kes the fu l l circuit of 360 .



As Earth circles the Sun, its axis stays tilted at a bout

232 with respect to the plane of its orbit. Hence the
position of the ecliptic i n the sky appears to change as
the year progresses. The ecliptic is directly overhead at
232 north latitude a bout June 2 1 , and overhead at
232 south latitude a bout Decem ber 22. On these dates,
the "solstices," Earth is at opposite points of its orbit.
All the planets, and the Moon a lso, fol low pathways
that remain within a bout 8 of the ecliptic. That is, they
follow a n avenue a bout 1 6 wide, with the ecliptic
i n the middle. To this avenue the a ncients gave the name
Zodiac. Its twelve divisions a re ca l led "signs."
'Y' Aries
II Gemini


Signs of

S1... Leo

the Zodiac





Scarp ius

t Sagittarius
11.:5' Capricornus


* Pisces


Ordinarily we describe
locations of pla nets with
reference to Zodiac con
stel lations. Th us, "J upiter
is i n Pisces" means J upiter
is at present i n the a rea of
sky outlined by Pisces.
The mag
nitude of a celestial body
is its brightness, compared
to a certain sta nda rd, as
seen from Earth . Magni
tude depends upon the
amount of light the object
emits and upon its distance
from Earth . Some sta rs
vary in mag nitude beca use
their light output changes.
Planets va ry as their dis
ta nce from Earth changes.
Magnitude 1 is 2% times
the brightn ess of magni
tude 2; magnitude 2 is
2% times magnitude 3;
etc. Thus, a sta r of magni
tude 1 is 6.3 times as
bright as a star of magni
tude 3, and 1 6 times as
bright as a star of magni
tude 4.
Some objects a re of
"minus" magnitudes. Th us,
the Sun is of mag nitude
- 27; fu l l Moon, - 1 3 .

Asteroid trail: For this time expo

sure, a clock drive kept the tele
scope trained on the same field
despite Earth's rotation. The aster
aid, moving against the back
ground of stars, made a trail.
(Yerkes Obs.)
Magnitudes: Magnitudes of many
stars can be estimated by compar
ison with stars of known magni
tudes in the Little Dipper and
Southern Cross.


./ .

E ffed of increasing power: At left is a 7 field in Cygnus as seen

with 7x50 binoculars. At right, centered on the same star, is the re
duced and inverted field seen through a small telescope at about 35X.
Numbers on map indicate magnitudes of stars (decimal point before
last digit omitted).

Mag nitudes a re sometimes rounded off:


-1 .5
+ 0. 5

Are Considered

+ 1 .4

as Magnitude

-1 .0
+ 1 .0 etc.

On a clea r, dark nig ht, the unaided eye may detect

sta rs as faint as magnitude 5 or 6. Binoculars help us to
see "down" to magnitude 8 or 9, and a 6-i nch telescope
to a bout 1 3.
The brightness of planets changes according to their
positions with respect to Sun and Ea rth . Planets outside
Earth's orbit a re brightest when Ea rth is between them
and the Sun. The mag nitude of Ma rs, for exa m p le, varies
from - 2.8 to + 1 .6, and J upiter from - 2.5 to - 1 .4.
Planets shine more steadily than do sta rs. Light from
a star reaches us as if from a tiny poi nt, and atmospheric
i nterference with this thin stream of light is q uite notice
able. Light from a pla net comes as if from a disk; the
strea m is thicker and the atmosphere has less effect.

First Steps in Observing

loca l conditions a lways put a limit on what a n observer
can see. Faint sta rs become lost i n the glow of city lights.
Heavy traffic o n a nea rby street may ca use a sta r image
in one's telescope to shiver. If the telescope is pointed at
a planet that a ppea rs just over a neigh bor's roof, heated
air rising from the roof may turn the planet's image i nto
a "boi ling" blob. Gusts of wind, clouds sudden ly rol ling
in, and inconven iently located trees are oth er haza rds.
The observer with a broad, open horizon, free from
interfering lights, is lucky. City observers someti mes m ust
retreat to a park to see more than the Moon or a few
bright sta rs. The suburba nite must place his telescope
so that a building or hedge wi ll block the light from a
neigh bor's livi ng room or front porch.
U n necessa ry discomforts ca n q uickly spoil the fun of
observi ng. In winter, warm clothing is vita l . In summer,
a mosq uito repellent may be necessa ry. In any season,
a stool or chair wi ll spell comfort during long periods
at the telesco pe. For observers using binoculars, a re
clining chair ma kes it easier to observe objects high
The scattered, puffy cumulus
clouds of a fai r day usua lly vanish soon after sunset.
Stratus and cirrus clouds, often associated with rainy
weather, are more likely to linger.
Oddly enough, the clea rest night is not a lways the
best for observin g . The atmosphere may be q uite turbu-


The Pleiades: An open cluster of six stars t o the unaided eye, the
Pleiades become in binoculars a glittering spray. Telescopes of 6 inches
and more show that the cluster is em bedded in faint clouds of glowing
gas, noticeable in this photograph. (MI. Wilson and Palomar Obs.)


"Seeing": Turbulence in the atmosphere (left) usually means poor

seeing, with "boiling" star images (see inset). A quieter atmosphere
(right) usually allows better seeing. The stars usually twinkle most on
a very clear night, indicating more than the usual turbulence.

lent. Differences in density between warm and cold air

cu rrents ca use light to be refracted, or bent, i rregu larly
as it comes down through the atmosphere. The images
seen i n the telescope then uboil.u A slightly hazy sky,
with relatively sti l l air, is preferred .
The nearer a celestial object is to the horizon, the less
clearly it will be seen, usua l ly. Its light comes slanting
through Earth's atmosphere and thus passes through
more distu rbing air currents and d ust than does light
from a n object higher in the heavens. Moonlight, too,
i nterferes, and by the time the Moon is fu- 1 1, only the
bright sta rs can be seen .
A s w e leave a lighted house, o u r
eyes begin adapting t o t h e darkness. After a few min utes
we ca n detect objects severa l times fainter than at fi rst.
Th ereafter, our ability to see in the dark improves slowly
for hours. But to keep this sensitivity, we avoid looking
at bright objects. Any light used during observation,
such a.s for consu lting star charts, should be dim, and it
should be red. (Red impairs sensitivity of the eye to light



less than other colors.) A small red Ch ristmas-tree light

on a n extension cord, or a flashlight covered with red
cloth or cellophane, wi ll do.
To detect faint objects, experienced o bservers often
use "averted" vision. They look a little to one side of
the object, so that its light wi l l fa l l on a m ore sensitive
part of the retina.
Since conste llations
a re the observer's sig nposts, every observer should know
the principa l constel lations visible at his latitude. The
cha rts on pages 1 48- 1 57 show a l l the constel lations and
the ti me of the year when each is conveniently located
for seeing. Constel lations ca n be lea rned by using either
these charts or a planisphere (page 1 1 ). Once they
have been learned, it is easy to locate the brighter sta rs
and planets. Fi rst we fi nd the constel lation in which the
object is known to appear. Then we narrow the hunt
down to the right part of
the constel lation.
Suppose the observer
wa nts to find the great red
star Betelgeuse. He looks
it up in the index of this
book, which refers him to
the chart on page 1 50.
There he sees that Betel
geuse is at the northeast
corner of a g roup of bright

Signpost: Conste l lations can b e

g u ides t o faint celestia l objects.
This time-exposure p hoto of Orion
shows faint sta rs invisible to u n
a i d e d eyes. (John Polgreen)

stars forming the constel lation Orion. The chart shows

Orion in relation to the other constel lations, and the
ti me of year when it is conveniently visib le. With this
i nformation, the observer fi nds Orion i n the sky (if the
time of year and time of night a re right), and Betelgeuse
is identified.
Betelgeuse is easy to spot because it is red and promi
nent. Most sky objects are fai nter and tend to become
lost i n the m u ltitude of stars visible in binoculars and
telescopes. To find a faint object, we m ust fi rst identify
bright sta rs near it and then use these as g uides. Their
positions are easier to hold i n mind if we notice the
patterns they form-sq ua res, triang les, circles, loops.
Suppose we want to get a look at the famous sta r
c luster M 1 3 in the constel lation Hercu les. The chart (page
1 55) shows it is located on a n almost straight line be
tween two sta rs forming the west side of a "keystone" at
the center of the constellation. We find the constellation
and the keystone. With reference to the North Sta r, we
decide which is the west side of the keystone. Then, with
the help of binoculars (because the object is very faint),
the cl uster M 1 3 is spotted.




accustomed to measuring

distances in degrees.



zenith (point in the sky

exactly overhead) to the
M13: This cluster, faint Ia u n a ided
eyes, is hard to find u n less one
knows just where to look. I t ap
pears l ike this in a telescope.
(Mt. Wilson and Palomar Obs.)

Reference constellation: I n n o rth

ern latitudes, Big D i p p e r is a
handy g uide. Dista nce between
Pointers (fo r m i n g outer end of
bowl} is about 5. Dipper revolves
a ro u n d north celestia l pole i n 23
hours 56 m i n u tes.

horizon is 90 ; half of this

distance is 4S0; and so on.
By this standard the dis
tance between the two
brightest stars in the bowl
of the Big Dipper, the "Pointers," is about S0 In the
southern sky, the span between the two stars forming
the leg of the Southern Cross (Crux) is a bout S 0 a lso.
By referring to these spa ns, one ca n estimate dista n ces
elsewhere in the sky.
Binoculars, too, make a good yardstick. In binoculars
with a 7 field, for insta nce, the diameter of the circle
of sky shown is a lways 7. We can measure long dis
tances across the sky by 7 steps. In telescopes, size of
field (page 12) varies according to the power of the eye
piece being used. The field may be somethi n g like %0
with the %-inch eyepiece, or 1 with the 1 %-inch.
To determi n e the field obtained with each eyepiece,
point the telescope toward any prominent, concentrated
group of stars near the equator. look through the eye
piece and note the stars at opposite sides of the field;
then check your atlas to determine the dista nce i n de
g rees between these stars. This dista nce is the field given
by the eyepiece.
The eyepiece field can be determined a lso by noting
how long it takes a star near the equator to cross the
field. The motion is 1,4 per minute.

Holding a sta r chart: Chort

is rotated until the star pot
terns correspond to their ac
tual positions in the sky.

avoid confusion as to
sky directions, these
m ust be thought of with
respect to the celestia l
pole. I n the northern
hemisphere we refer to
the North Star, which is a bout 1 from the true pole.
Suppose you have found Betelgeuse in Orion and
want to find p. Orionis, a fainter star in the sam e con
stel lation. A star atlas shows that p. Orionis is a bout
2 north and 1 east of Betelgeuse. Looking at Betel
geuse again, you menta l ly draw from it a line to the
North Star. This line is i n the direction of north. At right
ang les to north, and in the direction from which the stars
are moving, is east. With your menta l yardstick or with
binoculars, you measure 2 north and 1 east from
Betelgeuse, and there is p. Orionis.
Directions are most easily confused near the celestia l
pole. Remember: t h e motion o f stars in t h e northern
hemisphere as they revolve a round the pole is counter
clockwise. As you face north, the stars over the celestia l
pole a re moving westward (towa rd your left) a nd the
stars below the pole are moving eastward (towa rd your
right). I n the southern hemisphere, stars revolve clock
wise around the pole.
When using a chart, hold it u p toward the sky in the
direction i n which you a re looking. Rotate it unti l the
star pattern on the map matches the pattern as you see
it in the sky.


Using a Telescope
Our fi rst look through a telescope at the Moon or a
sparkling sta r cluster ca n be exciting indeed. But in the
long run, the fun of sky observing depends upon our
increasi ng ski l l with the telescope. Even a sma l l instru
ment, if it is a good one properly used, can perform
superbly and g ive tremendous satisfaction.
Telescopes a re ordinarily kept dismantled. The ends
of the tube a re usua lly covered with dustproof bags
or caps. Eyepieces are kept in a dustproof box.
Getting a si mple a ltazim uth telescope ready for use
is usua l ly just a matter of setting up the tripod or base
Orientation of an Equatorial Telescope

Tube Pointed

Tube Pointed T award

at Celestial Pole

Equatorial Region


Jovian portrait: This photo

was taken through a large tel
escope. In a small telescope
the image is much smaller but
these details are deor. Even
with a small telescope one can
notice the planet's equatorial
bulge, its rotation, and the
movements of its satellites.
Note satellite (upper right)
and its shadow on planet's
disk. (Mt. Wilson and Palo
mar Obs.)

and attaching the tu be to it. The location shou ld be level,

and where neigh borhood lights, trees, and bui ldings
wi l l not interfere (see page 29). If the telescope is put on
a platform or ta ble, this m ust be firm. The legs of a
tripod m ust be securely set to prevent sliding or vi bration.
With a n equatorial telescope, set up the tripod or
base fi rst, then attach the counterweig ht, and fi na l ly
fasten the tube in the crad le. In dismantling, the tube is
removed first, then the counterweight. For safety, a
heavy telescope should be disassembled before bei ng
moved from place to place.
Both a ltazim uth and
eq uatoria l telescopes can be set up and used i n a ny
position. But the equatorial will work better if the polar
axis points approximately to the celestial pole. For best
resu lts, set up the telescope in this way: Place the pedes
ta l or tripod legs on the ground so that the polar axis
points directly at the celestial pole. (In the northern
hemisphere, the pole is a bout at the location of the
North Sta r; see chart, page 1 49.) Clamp the declination



axis to prevent motion on that axis. Then, to check the

a lignment, look th roug h the finder as you move the
tube back and forth on the polar axis. If the pole
remains near the center of the field in the fi nder, the
alignment is good. If the a lignm ent is poor, it ca n be
improved by slight readjustments of pedesta l or legs.
The a lignment is good enough when the pole stays
withi n a degree of the center of the field in the finder
while the tube is moved on the polar axis.
Mark the pavement or ground in some way so that the
pedesta l or legs can be set up with less fuss next time.
Properly placed, the
equatorial is easy to use. With both axes undamped ,
there is free m otion in any direction. With the polar axis
clam ped, there is north-and-south motion on ly-con
venient for scanning the sky as the Earth rotates.
With the declination axis clam ped, there is east-and-west
motion on ly. Thus you ca n keep the telescope trained
on an object for a long
ti me simply by moving the
tube around the polar axis
to compensate for Earth's
rotation. You r hand or a
clock drive (page 138) can
provide this m otion.

Altazimuth mounting: Following

sky objects as Earth rotates is not so
easy with this mounting as with an
equatori a l . But a n altazimuth con
give good service. Note use of star
diagonal , needed with refractors for
viewing objects high above horizon.



Most telescopes come pro

vided with three eyepieces
for sky observing. An ad
ditiona l one may be in
cluded for terrestria l ob
serving, beca use celestial
eyepieces invert the image.
The terrestrial eyepiece is
not used for sky observi ng,
Ma gnification vs. field: A Moon
because the additiona l
crater as seen with eyepieces
lenses req uired to make
the image upright reduce the a mount of light received
by the eye.
In the eyepiece holder is an adapter-a meta l tube.
Into this the eyepiece is inserted, then moved back and
forth unti l you find the position that gives the best image.
With a refractor, the star diagona l is used for ob
serving objects high in the sky. Insert one end into the
adapter; i nto the other end goes the eyepiece. I n some
refractors the diagona l must be used at all times to get
the eyepiece far enough out for proper focus.
Beginners tend to use their most powerful eyepiece
too much. Seasoned observers know that magnification
is not all-importa nt. They choose the eyepiece that wi l l
do t h e particular j o b best. If a wide fi e l d o f view is
needed, use a low-power eyepiece. Low power is pre
ferred when "sweeping" la rge a reas of sky (as for
comets or novas), when looking at wide sta r clusters
such as the Pleiades, or when viewing the whole moon
rather tha n just part of it. Low power i best a lso for
h u nti ng an unfamiliar faint object; a more powerful
eyepiece ca n be substituted after we have found it.

giving low, medium, a n d high power (left to rig ht). As magnification

is increased, the field and fineness of d etail decrease.

High power is needed for splitti ng c lose double

sta rs, seei ng lunar details and pla net features, and
detecting individual sta rs i n close-packed clusters. Since
high power tends to da rken the sky background, it helps
us to detect very faint objects. However, as we use in
creasing power on a n object, details lose sharpness.
Specia l eyepieces have been designed for safe direct
observation of the Sun. See page 67.
An accessory that many sky observers have found very
satisfyi ng is the so-ca lled Barlow lens. This is used i n
combination with any eyepiece t o increase mag nifica
tion. At the sa me time it cuts down the f1eld.
An observer should learn the f1eld of view given by
each of his eyepieces. For an easy method see page 33.
Observing conditions put limits on telescope perfor
mance. The fai ntest magnitudes that we ca n detect vary.
One night we may be able to use 350x on a n object
before it "comes apa rt," a nd the next night the limit
may be 200x. Some evenings we "sp lit" the double sta r
Castor with 1 25x, and at other ti mes the seei ng may be
so poor that 250x wi ll not do it.

R e gion of nebulas: From this

area near the star Eta Carinae in
the southern heavens comes much
radio "noise," which is picked up
by radio telescopes. The illumi
nated nebulas and the many dark
nebulas, some of which are no
ticeable here, are interesting to
trace with optical telescopes.
(Harvard Obs.)



Sighting a telescope by
poi nting the tube is usua l ly
not accurate enoug h . Ord
inarily we need to use the
finder. This is likely to have
a field (inverted) of 5 or
6. If the fi nder has been
exactly lined up with the tube, a n object centered i n the
finder will be found to be centered in the eyepiece too.
Sighting bright objects through the finder is easy. But
for faint objects the step method may be necessary.
Consu lting our chart, we note the object's position with
respect to the nearest bright stars. Using these as sign
posts, we work our way to the object sought.
As the tube of a reflecting telescope is moved, it may
have to be rotated on its longitudinal axis i n order to
keep eyepiece and finder in positions comfortable for
viewing. I n all good reflectors a rotata ble tube is sta nd
ard. I n refractors the star diagona l a l lows comforta ble
viewing in any direction. Experienced observers have
the ha bit of esti mati ng dista nces across the sky in terms
of degrees, and of using the celestia l pole as the key
to directions. Dista nces between stars ca n be estimated
easily with the help of the finder (page 33).

A sector of sky seen in the finder or eyepiece is mag

nified as well as inverted. It differs from the sa me part
of the sky as seen by the unaided eye. The begin ner
may find this confusing, but sighting becomes much
easier with practice.
Observing with a
telescope is a consta nt test of our eyes-a nd of our ski l l
in using them. A good observer does not sta re hard a n d
long through t h e telescope; he looks carefully but briefly.
long, hard looking causes fatigue and loss of visua l


Finder and Eyepiece

on a Refractor

Finder and Eyepiece

on a Reflector



Seein g detai l on planets: This

painting, seen in normal light at
a distance of about 40 feet, sug
gests the appearance of Mars in
a small telescope.

s e n sitivity. A s e as o n ed
planetary observer may
watch half the night for
those few seconds when
the seeing is good enough
to reveal some delicate detail, such as a "cloud" or a
"ca nal" on Mars. Rests a re essential!
When looking into an eyepiece, keep both eyes open.
That means less fatigue for both eyes. You soon learn
to concentrate on what the observing eye sees. When
seeking a very faint object in the field, or very faint
details on a n object, look a little to the side. Averted
vision ma kes use of the more sensitive part of the reti na.
When comparing sta r magnitudes, variable-star ob
servers keep i n mind that the eye is particularly sensitive
to red. Red bui lds up on the retina as light bui lds up on
photographic fi lm . A red sta r, looked at steadi ly, seems
to get brighter.
Never look at the Sun without proper precautions!
(See pages 66-67.)
The fi rst experiences of a
beginner in hand ling sta r charts may be confusing and
exasperati ng. The star field on the chart never looks
q uite like the same field as seen through the finder
or eyepiece. The two fields are likely to differ in sca le.
I n the telescope the observer probably sees more stars
than appear on the chart at hand. Fina lly, depending on


the make-up of the instrument, the field as seen in the

eyepiece may be reversed or inverted, or both. Some
telescopes change the field i n such a way that, to use the
chart, we m ust look at its reverse side while holding it
against a lig ht.
Even the experienced observer is sometimes confused,
but the beg i n ner should not get discouraged . With a
little experimenting he soon learns what happens to a
star field in his instrument. The method that usua lly
works is si m p le: look at the sta r chart and choose a
bright sta r near the object being sought. Using the
fi nder, poi nt the telescope at this star. look i nto the eye
piece, identify the star, and notice the figure it forms
(triang le, arc, etc.) with neigh boring stars. Then hold
the chart so that the figure there is i n the same position
as i n the eyepiece.
Holdin g a star chart: In the northern hemisphere, when the observer
is facing east, the N side of the chart is toward his left, in tbe direction
of the north celestial pale. When facing south, the N side is up. Facing
north, the N side is up or down depending on whether the field is above
or below the pole. FaCing west, the N side is toward the right. In the
southern hemisphere, the procedure is the same, except that when fac
ing south, the 5 side is toward the pole.

Rieht ncention and decli

nation: Celestial sphere Is
mapped by -n of lines
Indicating right -nsion
and dedlnatfon. Lines of
rleht a-sian correspond
to -'dlans, or llna of
longitude, on Earth. Lines of
dedlnatlon corr01p0nd to
lines of latitude. This dla
gram represents only half of
celatlol sphere, as -n
other holf
-ld show llna of right
asconslan from VI to XV I I I.

Star Charts and Setting Circles

Sta r charts a r e t h e astronomer's maps. With t h e m he
locates stars and other objects whose positions on the
celestia l sphere change little from year to year. O n
t h e m he p lots courses o f S u n , planets, and other objects
whose positions change more noticea bly. like maps of
Earth's surface, star charts a re prepared according to
different sca les to show varyi ng amounts of detail.
The charts on pages 1 48- 1 57 are limited mostly to
sta rs and other objects that can be seen with unaided
eye and binoculars. The limit is, for the most part, a bout
5th magnitude. Special charts showi ng all the stars that
can be seen with sma l l telescopes have to be much m ore
detai led; some include objects to a magnitude of 1 3 or
1 4. A set of charts detai led enough to show a l l stars
visible in binocu lars ma kes a siza ble atlas.
Southern Cross and Coal Sack in Milky Way (left)

(Harvard Obs.)


looking north: If lines of right as

cension and decli'nation were printed
on the sky, an observer in the north
ern hemisphere , looking north, would
see a "wheel" (partly shown here).
As Earth rotated, the wheel would
turn counterclockwise and the "hours"
(shown by Roman numerals) would
increase clockwise. In a diagram for
the southern hemisphere, the wheel
would turn clockwise, and "hours"
would increase counterclockwise.

T h e bright stars on
most charts a re designated
by Greek letters:

y Gamma
ll Delta
e Epsilon
K Zeta




1 Iota
p Rho
" Kappa
u Sigma
X Lambda r Tau
p. Mu
v Upsilon
v Nu
X Chi
o Omicron ,.t. Psi
w Omega
'IT Pi

Except for a few examples such as Castor and Pol lux,

in Gemini, the brightest star in a constellation is given
the letter a, the next brightest {3, and so on.
Ancient sky observers gave names to the stars. Our
modern charts retai n the Greek letter designations and
name o n ly the brightest stars, such as Sirius, Procyon,
Arcturus, Betelgeuse. To identify a star, we may simply
use its name, such as Betelgeuse, which everyone knows
is i n the constel lation Orion. However if we designate
the sta r as a, we write or say a Orionis, using the Latin
genitive of the constel lation.

Most star charts, such as those

in this book, have a g rid of vertical and horizonta l lines,
indicating right ascension and declination . These cor
respond to the geogra pher's lines of longitude and
latitude. The li nes of right ascension are d rawn between
the celestial poles, and the lines of declination a re
drawn a round the celestial sphere parallel to the celes
tia l equator. J ust as any city on Earth ca n be located by
statin g its longitude and latitude, so any object on the
celestial sphere can be located by its rig h t ascension
and decli nation .



Declination, or distan ce from the celestia l equator,

is measured in degrees and min utes. Declination north of
the celesti a l equator is indicated by a plus ( + ) sig n ;
south, b y a minus t - ) sign. Right ascension is measured
in hours, min utes, and (if necessary) seconds, from 0 to
24 hou rs. It is measured eastward from a meridian that
passes between the celestial poles and th rough the
vernal equinox. The verna l equinox is the point where
the Sun crosses the celestial eq uator in its a pparent
northward journey in March each year.
The right ascension (" RA ") and declination ("Dec") of
an object can be written very simply, in the form of

Looking south : In the northern hemi

sphere, looking south, we can imag
ine this pattern of coordinates on the
sky. Motion of stars is from left to
right. South celestial pole is below
the horizon. For a southern-hemi
sphere observer looking north, hours
increase left to right and north celes
tial pole is below horizon.

what astronomers cal l "co

ordinates," thus:

a Canis Majoris


(Sirius) .............. 6 43m

a Orionis


...... s 52 m


- 1 6 391
+ 7


The coordinates of any

star, star cluster, or nebula
ca n be read from a sta r map
sim p ly by looking at the lines
of right ascension and dec
li nation. Coordinates of most
of these objects change little
over periods of years. But co
ordinates of planets, comets, and other objects in the
solar system, which are relatively near us, do change
regularly. They m ust therefore be obtained from a l
manacs and other up-to-date publications.
Suppose we want to have a
look at the sta r Foma lhaut. We don't know wbat con
stellation it is in, but we do know its right ascension is
22 55m, and its declination - 29 53'. We find a star
chart (page 1 54) with lines of right ascension and
decli nation near to the coordinates of Fomalhaut. On
this chart Foma lhaut is found easi ly i n the constel lation



1 9h

1 8h

1 7h

Finding M 1 3: Section of a

star map indicates how

bright stars can be used
for locating faint objects.
To find M13, find Vega,
then find the "square" of
Hercules to the west. For
a more etailed explana
tion, see text on facing

Piscis Austrin us. Then, with the help of the chart, if

necessary, we find the constel lation i n the sky and
identify Foma lhaut.
Now we spot a faint comet in the constel lation Cas
siopeia, and we want to report it. Noting the position of
the comet with reference to stars in the constel lation,
we plot the position as precisely as possi ble on a star
chart. Then, by reference to the lines of right ascension
and declination, we determine what the coordinates of
the comet are. The discovery of the object can then be
reported with a fair degree of accuracy, depending on
the sca le of the map used.
CIRCLES Ma ny eq uatorial telescopes are
equipped with setti ng circles. With these we can make
direct use of coordinates at the telescope, if it has been
set up properly (see pages 36-37) .
The so-ca lled hour circle corresponds to right ascen
sion; it is ma rked for hours and min utes. The other circle,
which indicates declination, is ma rked for deg rees and
min utes of arc.
To i l lustrate one way of using circles, suppose you
are seeking that faint sta r cluster M 13, in Hercules.


Your star atlas shows Vega as the nearest bright star; so

you use Vega as the starting point. The chart gives:

Vega ................ . . . . .............. . ........... 1 8h 35m

M 1 3 ................................................ 1 6h 40m

+ 38 44'
+ 36 33 '

Su btracti ng, the dista nce from Vega to M l 3 is 2 1 1 ' i n

Dec southward, a n d l h 55m i n R A westward .
Now get Vega in the center of the field and clamp
the RA axis. Watching the Dec circle, m ove the tube
2 1 1 ' southward. Then clamp the Dec axis and unclamp
the RA axis. Watching the hour circle, move the tube
1 h 55m i n RA westwa rd. That should bring you to M 1 3.
This method usua lly works well enough to bring the
desired object i nto the field of a low-power eyepiece
say, a l -inch. If the telescope is properly pointed, higher
power can be used, if desired.
Another method of using setting circles involves the
use of siderea l time. The siderea l time (ST) at any
moment is equal to the RA of any star that is on the
observer's meridian at that moment (see pages 1 36- 1 37).
To determine the siderea l time, pick out some familiar
star on or near the equator whose RA is known. The
Setting circles: With these, a telescope is easily sighted .

sta r should be slig htly east of the meridian. Point the

telescope due south and clamp it in declination equa l
to the Dec of the star. Watch the field of view, and
when the sta r is observed i n the center set your watch
or a clock to agree with the RA of the sta r. This wi l l
serve as a siderea l clock for the evening.
When the circles are properly adj usted, the RA circle
will read o when the teiescope is pointed due south .
Then, to find any star, simply find out how far the star is
from the meridian: that is, its hour a n g le (HA), east or
west. The HA ca n be obtained by fi nding the difference
between the ST a nd the RA of the sta r. (Remem ber:
siderea l time is reckoned conti nuously from 0 to 24
hours.) If RA is greater tha n ST, HA is east of the merid
ia n. If ST is greater tha n RA, HA is west of the meridia n.
Assume you want to sig ht the star Algieba (y Leonis) in
the constel lation Leo. You have the followi ng: RA l Oh
1 7m, Dec 2006', ST 07h
37m. Since RA is greater
than ST, subtract ST from
RA and get HA 2h 40m
east of the meridia n . That
is, the sta r is 2h 40m east
of the meridia n. Now as
sume ST is 1 3h som, which
is 3h 33m g reater than RA.
The HA (or star) is that fa r
west of the meridian .
Elusive objects: I n time exposu res
mode at observatories, many neb
ulas such as this one (M8 1 in Ursa
Major) become strongly p romi
ne nt. As seen i n small telescopes
they a re usua l ly faint. (Mt. Wilson
and Palomar Obs.)

For the telescope: This portion of chort used by observers of vorioble

stars covers a n a rea i n Triang u l u m . Divisions a re a bout 1 squa re
a typical field in a small telescope. Dots a re stars; magnitudes are given
with decimal poi nts omitted . Under best conditions, only two sta rs
wou ld be visible to unaided eyes-those marked 58 ond 56. Strong
(50mm) binoculars might detect sta rs as fai nt as 95. A 3-inch telescope
wou l d be needed for 1 1 6. (AAVSO)

Once you have the HA, clamp the telescope in the

declination of y leonis ( + 2006'). Then unclamp the
RA axis and turn tube east or west (as the case may be)
to desired a n g le on RA circle, and there is Algieba.
A different method of finding an object is possi ble
if the telescope has a mova ble hour circle ma rked from
Oh to 24h. Get a brig ht sta r in the center of the field.
Turn the circle to read its RA. To fi nd the object, turn the
telescope unti l the circle reads the RA of this object.

Earth's nea rest neighbor: This composite of the Moon, showing details
with exq uisite clarity, was made by combi n i n g photog raphs taken at
fi rst a n d last quarter. The shadows on the opposite hemispheres d iffer
i n d i rection. The Moon at full phase would look flat, show little de
tail, because of lack of shadows. (Lick Obs.)


The Moon
T h e Moon i s o u r nearest neigh bor, except for certai n
asteroids a n d man-made satellites. This bleak, airless
sphere is a bout 2, 1 60 mi les in diameter, and revolves
around Ea rth at an average dista nce of some 238,857
mi les, completi ng one revolution in a bout 27 days. The
lunar orbit is an ellipse, not a true circle; so the distance
of the Moon from Earth changes.
Since the Moon rotates on its axis i n the sa me time it
ta kes to revolve around Ea rth, the lunar hemisphere
visi ble to us remains a bout the sa me. Librations (appar
ent tilting due to the Moon's motions with respect to
Earth) make a tota l of about 59 per cent of the lunar
surface visi ble each month.
Sunlight fa lls on the
Moon as it does on Earth. But the Moon has no atmos
phere to fl lter the flerce rays. The lunar surface in day
lig ht, therefore, gets intensely hot-something like
250F., or h otter than boi ling water. (The dark side
proba bly gets to 243 F. below zero!) What we ca l l
"moon light" is simply sunlight which t h e Moon is reflect
ing towa rd Ea rth. Except during lunar eclipses, a full half
of the Moon is a lways lig hted by the Sun. But we see this
fu l l half only when Earth is between Sun a nd Moon-the
phase cal led full Moon. When the Moon is not in line
with Earth a n d Sun, we see o n ly pa rt of the lighted half.
J ust after n ew Moon, a thin bright crescent is seen .
The rest of the disk is faintly lighted. This faint light,
ca l led "the old Moon in the new Moon's arms," is light
reflected from Earth to the Moon's dark side, and is
known as earthshine.
The Moon rises a bout 50 minutes later each night


L u n a r h a l o : Refra c t i o n of
moonl ight by ice crysta ls i n high
atmosphere produces this spec
tacle. Usually the halo is of 22
rad ius, sometimes 46 .

on the average, but the

actual time from month
to month varies consid
era bly. For some eve
nings around fu l l Moon
nea r the a utu m n a l equi
nox (a bout September
23) moon rise will be
only about 20 min utes
later each night, beca use the angle between ecliptic and
horizon is then near the minimum. Thus we have moon
light in ea r ly evening longer than usua l . This phase is
ca l led Ha rvest Moon . The next fu l l phase after Ha rvest
Moon is known as H u nter's Moo n .
T h e lunar pathway stays n e a r t h e ecli ptic, or path of
the S u n . However, while the Sun rides high in summer
and low i n wi nter, the Moon rides low i n summer and
high i n winter. At the fu l l phase, the lunar disk may ta ke
odd shapes as it rises or sets, pa rticula rly when seen
through a dense or smoky atmosphere. Sometimes re
fraction ma kes it look ova l .
T h e M o o n i s o n e of t h e most satisfying objects f o r the
amateur. The best times to observe are between last
and fi rst quarter; then there is less g lare. The shadows
of the mou ntains and in the craters a re longest and set
off the rugged landsca pe in sha rp relief. Often the
Moon can be we l l observed during daylight hours.
When beyond the crescent stage, the Moon reflects
considera ble light. For eye safety during prolonged

telescopic observing, a fi lter should be used over the

eyepiece, or a fi lter cap placed over the objective, or
the a rea of the objective red uced by placing over it a
ca rdboa rd cap with a hole of the desired size. (See
pages 67 and 1 39- 1 40.) Another way to cut down g lare
is to use a n eyepiece of high enough power so that o n ly
pa rt of the Moon is in the field of view. Then less light
reaches the eye.
After a period of lunar observing, the sensitivity of
the eye to fai nter objects is m uch reduced. Pla n o b
serving sessions according ly.
Some mou ntain ranges, seas, and craters can be
seen even with binoculars. Much more can be seen with
a sma l l telescope. With a 3- or 4-inch i nstrument, use
a lower power-30 to 1 OOx. Don't use power beyond
what atmospheric conditions a llow.
For serious lunar work, a 6- or 8-inch telescope is
needed, with a power up to 300x or 400x. This wil l
clea rly show details o n ly a half mile a cross.
Atmospheric effects: The Moon moy o ppeo r reddish ond fl attened
when neor the horizon, because then the light comi n g from it to us
has a longer path through the atmosphere. Red rays penetrate the
atmosphere more easily than others. Refraction causes the flattening .




Mountains, Valleys, and Scarps




TtlfSCOpt, ()

SuM on a more detailed map published b)

copyright 1 9.56

bi Sky

Pllbfi$hlng Corp. , Clmbrldge, Mass.


A l p i n e Valley
A p e n n i n e Mts.
Carpath i a n
Haem us



Hyg i n u s C l eft
J u ra Mts.
Straight Range
Straight Wall

Al boteg n i u s
A r istil l u s
A r istote les
At lao
A utolyc u s
Gasse n d i
Gemma frisius
God in
Good acre
Herschel, J.
H eve l i u s


H i pporchus
Julius Caesar
long omonta nus
Mocro b i u s
Magin u s
Me rcator
Moret us
Oronti u s
Petovi us
Pickering, W. H.
Posid o n i u s
P u rbach
Rabbi levi
Regiomo nta n u s
Ricci a l i
Snel l i u s
Stevi n u s
St6fle r
Theo p h i l u o

Copernicus: Mountain-ringed plain

(right) has eight peaks; one is

2,400 feet high. Note rays around
Cope rnicus; also 11d rowned" era
ters (high center). (Mt. Wilson
and Palomar Obs.)

On the dry lunar su rface,

mountains rise to heights of over two m i l es, a nd among
the numerous craters are some as wide as 60 a nd 70
mil es. Vast flat a reas-the ma ria, or "seas"-are visible.
Great mountain ranges such as the Apen nines, Alps, and
Caucasus, a re a lways of interest. Numerous craters de
serve special attention-Plato and Archimedes, Coper
nicus and Tycho and Kepler. There a re the long, straight

Phases o f t h e Moo n : A t a l l times, a f u l l hemisphere o f t h e Moon is

lighted by the S u n . How much of the lig hted a rea we ca n see at any
time depends upon the position of the Moon i n its orbit at that time.
I n the no rthern hemisphere, the Moon appears to g row from right to
left, as i n this diagram (bottom). In the southern hemisphere i t g rows
from left to right. The full cycle covers 29 days 1 2 hours 44 m i n utes.

Straight Wall: This steep escarp

ment (near center), about 80

miles long, probably resu lts from
a fau lt in Moo n ' s crust. The
"drowned" craters (lower right)
we re perhaps fi lled by lava flows.
(Lick Obs.)

cliffs; deep, narrow, or crooked va lleys; wide cracks

sometimes extending hundreds of mi les; light-colored
strea ks or rays extending from some of the craters, the
most . striking of which are those from Tycho.
I n 1 650 the astronomer
Riccioli produced the fi rst map of the Moon. He is said
to have originated the system of naming that we use
today. The g reat plains or flat areas are cal led "seas"
(Ma re Nubium, Sea of Clouds; Mare Im brium, Sea of
Rains; and so forth). Most of the mountain ra nges bea r
some resem bla nce to those on Ea rth, such as the Alps
and Apen nines, and are named after them. Conspicuous
craters bear the names of ancient phi losophers and of as
tronomers-Plato, Archimedes, Kepler. Some features
are named for counterpa rts on Earth-bays and gulfs;
capes and la kes.

The Moon's far side-the 4 1

per cent never seen b y observers from Earth-was a n
unknown landscape until photographed b y a Russian
spacecraft i n 1 959. Photogra phs showed a cratered land
scape lacking the large "seas" observed on the lunar
surface that faces Earth. Since 1 959, photog raphs and
direct observations by U.S. astronauts, along with instru
ment read ings, have provided m uch detailed information.


L u n a r Apen n i n es ( l eft) : Here is part of a splendid ran ge, up to 1 4,000

feet h i g h , which runs 450 miles a r o u n d the west side of M a re I m b r i u m .
Big crater i s Archi medes, 70 mi les wide. (Lick Obs.)
Four l u n a r features (right): The crater P l ato, 60 m i l e s wide, d o m i n ates
the sce n e . xte n d i n g to the left a n d a bove P lato a re the Alps. To
Pl ato's r i g h t, near the edge of the p hoto, is the Stra i g h t R a n g e , a c h a i n
of a d o z e n peaks stretc h i n g 45 mi les. Above a n d s l i g htly to the right
of P l a to, the mountain Pice towers 8,000 ft. a bove Mare I m b r i u m .
CLick Obs.J

Tycho ( l eft) : T h i s is a mountain-ri n ged p l a i n like Copernicus, with

width of 54 m i les. The rays extend h u n d reds of mi les. (Yerkes Obs.)
Pickering (right): A meteoro i d a p p roac h i n g from the l eft struck the
l u n a r s u rface at a s h a r p a n g le, making a crater and strew i n g i m pact
d e b ris, v i s i b l e a s " rays" exte n d i n g towa rd the right.

The Moon h a s a r i g i d rock c r u st s om e 6 2 0 m i l e s t h i c k ,

cove r i n g a r e l a t i v e l y s o f t i n t e r i o r . The r o c k i s m a i n l y basa l t

a n d a n o r t h o s i t e , f o r m e d by c oo l i n g of m o l t e n m a t e r i a l s .

S a m p l e s d a ted b y rad i oa c t i v i t y a r e a s o l d a s 4 . 4 b i l l i o n

yea r s ( t h e s o l a r system i s a b o u t 4 . 6 b i l l i o n yea r s o l d ) . The

maria a r e s o l i d i f i e d l ava flows, s o m e resu l t i n g f r o m c o l l i

s i o n s o f t h e M o o n w i t h b i g meteoro i d s l o n g a g o . Mony
craters o re vo l c a n i c ; others res u l t from meteo r o i d i m pac t s .
I m pacts p r o ba b l y a r e respo n s i b l e a l so for the " r a ys , "
wh i c h c o n s i st of fra g m e n ted r o c k exten d i ng o u t f r o m c r a
t e r s l i ke s p r a y . N u m e r o u s s c a r p s a n d " r i l l s " (va l l ey- l i ke
depre s s i o n s ) r e s u l t from fau l t i n g .
Recent d i scove r i e s m a k e the Moon m o r e , n o t l e s s , i n ter
est i n g for a m a t e u r o b server s .

Meteo r o i d i m pac t s a r e

w a t c h e d f o r . A l p h o n s u s a n d o t h e r c r a t e r s a re i n spected
regu l a r l y for s i g n s of red d e n i n g o r h a z e t h a t wou l d i n d i
cate v o l c a n i c a ct i v i ty. Observers check the i r o b s e r va t i o n s
a g a i n s t m a p s a n d photog r a p h s to detect r e c e n t c h a n g e s
on t h e l u na r s u r fa c e . Occ u l t a t i o n s a n d ec l i ps e s a r e v i ewed .
P e r h a p s most of a l l , the a m a t e u r c a n sti l l e n j o y the face of
the Moo n , w i t h the p l a y of s u n l i g h t on i t s sto r k fea t u r e s , a s
o n e of t h e wo r l d 's g r a ndest specta c l e s .
O n c e i n o w h i l e , a t fu l l p h a s e , t h e Moon


passes through E a r t h 's s h a d ow, a n d we have o n e of na

tu re's

m o st

g lorious

phenomena :


ec l i pse .



TOTAL LU N A R E C L I P SE S, 1 9 8 5 - 2 000
1 985 May

1 989 Feb. 20

1 992 Dec .

1 996 S e p .

1 985 0ct . 28

1 989 Aug . 1 6

1 993 J u n .

1 997 Mar. 24

1 993 N ov. 29

1 997 Sep . 1 6

1 994 May 25

1 999 J u l .

1 99 1 Dec . 2 1

1 995 Apr. 1 5

2000 J o n . 2 1

1 992 J u n . 1 5

1 996 Apr.

2000 J u l .

1 986 Apr. 24

1 990 Feb.

1 98 6 0ct. 1 7

1 990 Aug .

1 987 0ct.

1 988 Aug . 2 7



Lunar eclipse: H e re, the S u n ' s

light comes f r o m the left. T h e

M o o n is eclipsed a s it enters
Earth's shadow. This is not
completely d a rk,
beca use
some sunlight is refracted i nto
it by Earth's atmosphere. Since
red rays penetrate the atmos
phere most easily, the Moo n's
disk looks red d ish.

one yea r there may be two or even th ree lunar eclipses,

or none. A tota l lunar eclipse lasts as m uch as 1 hour
and 40 min utes-much longer than a tota l so lar eclipse.
There is plenty of time to see it and observe the ever
changing colors. During an ecli pse, familiar lunar fea
tures ta ke on a new appearance.
I n a tota l solar eclipse, the disk of the Sun is com
pletely hidden by the Moon. But in a lunar eclipse, the
disk of the Moon can often be seen, even i n Earth's
shadow. Some of the sunlight passi ng throug h Earth's
atmosphere is refracted so that it fa lls on the Moon,
giving it a coppery h ue.

Occultation: J upiter and satellites

appea r afte r bein g occu lted by

the Moon . The sharpness of J upi
ter's image when the planet is
just at the edge of the Moon in
d icates that the Moon lacks an
appreciable atmosphere.


OCCU LTATIONS Now and then the Moon passes i n

front of a star or planet, h iding i t briefly. This event,
called an occultation, is of g reat interest to map ma kers .
I f the instants o f disappearance a n d rea ppearance ore
accurately timed by observers at different locations on
Earth, the data can be used to determine the exact dis
tances between those locations. Exact positions of many
geographical points have been checked i n this way.
Many experienced observers do occultation work. A
small telescope, a short-wave radio, and a good watch
or stopwatch are the essentia ls. Accurate time signals
can be obtained from Radio Station WWV. Dates when
occu ltations will occur can be found in Sky and Telescope

( 1 ) Observe occultations. (2) Make

detai led drawi ngs of Moon's surface. (3) Observe ecli pses.
(4) Watch sunrise over the l u nar mountains. (5) Watch
the ever-chang ing appearance of severa l particular lunar
features, night after nig ht. (6) Take photog ra phs (see
page 1 32). (7) Time the Moon's risi ng and setting times,
over a lunar month. (8) Study the rays. (9) Watch for
im pacts. (1 0) Watch Alphonsus and the area nea r Aris
tarchus for sig ns of volcanic activity.

The Face of the Sun: Sunspots appea r on the solar d isk (picture i n
cen ter). At lower r i g h t a group o f sun spots is compared f o r size with
Earth. At the upper left are several prominences-g igantic tong ues of
incan descent gases projected outward from the S u n ' s su rface.

The Sun
The Sun, like other sta rs, i s a giant sphere o f in
ca ndescent gases. Its diameter is a bout 864,000 mi les
over 1 00 times Ea rth's. It is the Sun's g ravitational at
traction, mostly, that governs the motions of planets.
The Sun is so large that if Earth were at its center, the
Moon wo uld orbit a bout halfway between Earth and the
Sun's surface. Earth revolves around the Sun in a path
that is an e l lipse, not a perfect circle. Hence our distance
from the Sun changes slig htly from month to month,
being greatest in J u ly (94.4 m i l lion mi les), and least in
J a n ua ry (9 1 .4 mi llion).


Ca ution! Protect your eyes!

Ma ny telescopes come equi pped with specia l fi lters,

eyepieces, or prisms for use in direct observation of
the S u n . Some telescopes a re fitted with an adjustable
screen so that the Sun's image ca n be projected . If
you r telescope has no such p rotective devices, they ca n
be made or bought. Gen era l ly it is better to buy the
specia l eyepieces, prisms, or fi lters than to ta ke a chance
on homemade devices.
The sun ca p , which is a fi lter mounted in an adapter
to fit over the eyepiece, can be used with 2 Y2- to 3-inch
telescopes. For larger i nstru m ents, special eyepieces
desig ned for the pu rpose a re necessa ry.
Some observers usi ng large i n stru ments red uce the
aperture by fitti ng a cap over the objective. T h e ca p
consists of a snug-fitti ng cardboard disk with a hole of
the size desired cut i n the center. But cutting down the
aperture a lso reduces defi n ition in sma l l detai ls, and
it does not prevent the eyepiece from getti ng h ot.
Do not observe through balsam or g e latin fi lters.
These ca n m e lt, and eye damage ca n ha ppen q uickly.
High power is not req ui red to see s u n spots-60x to
1 OOx is usua l ly sufficient. Bi noculars (use fi lters over the
objectives!) wi l l reveal the larger spots.
Proving the Sun's rotatio n : These ph otos, taken at two-day i n terva ls,
show a p p a rent movement of s u n spots across so l a r disk. (Yerkes Obs.)


The safest way to observe the Sun is to project its image

onto a screen held i n back of the eyepiece. A simple device,
easily made, i s shown on this page . It a l l ows several
person s to observe at the same time.
Don't try to set the telescope on the Sun by looking
through the finder or by gazing up the tube. That is risky
and awkward. If you a re using a screen , a i m the tube by
watc h i ng its shadow on the screen . If no screen is being
used, hold a card u p behind the eyepiece .
For observing without optica l aid, welder's glass # 1 2 is
safe; exposed film and smoked g lass are not .
Refractor and reflector equipped for solar observation: The Sun's
image is p rojected harmlessly onto a light screen. This is moved to a
position that gives an image of the size desired. Focusi n g is done with
the eyepiece. Observers MUST NOT look through either finder or eye
piece except with a solar filter of the proper density.

Sunspot cycle: Rapid in

crease in spots occu rs, then
a slaw decline. The time
from peak to peak is about
n years.

"' i-----+--.--+---+-4-+----l

; "' i----f-'H-----t-\t----1--il----+"'1

Lr---f- --11't--f---t-T---1r---t-\-- +---l

The best tim e to look at the Sun is in the morning,
before its full heating effect is felt. Then the atmosphere
is steadier.
vary from specks to giants 90,000 mi les
across. The largest can be seen without optical aid.
These odd features, disturbances of great violence, are
often referred to as "storms." Each has a dark core, or
umbra, and a n outer gray band, the penumbra . Bein g
cooler t h a n t h e surrounding surface, t h e spots appear
darker. Changing in size and position daily, some
disappea r after a day o r two, while others can be
observed crossing the solar disk, taking a bout 14 days
for the journey. This apparent crossing is due to the
Sun's rotatio n .
T h e num ber o f spots varies from j ust a few i n a year
to as many as 1 50 in one day. They come in cycles, the
period between maximums being a bout 11 years. Sun
spot n u m bers a re given in several publications, i n cluding
Sky and Telescope.
Through a telescope the Sun's surface has a g ranular
or mottled a ppearance. Near sunspots, and particu larly
toward the edge of the disk, whitish patches ca lled
"feculae" may be seen. Other phenomena thot can be
seen at times are flares, which a re bright flashes near
the spots. These a re rare but worth lookin g for.



Total ecli pse (l eft) : When the Moon is n e a r e n o u g h to Earth so that its
a p p a rent size is g reate than the S u n ' s, the l u n o r d isk can com p l etely
hide the solar disk. Then the wide, shimmering co rona c a n be see n .
Annular eclipse ( right) : W h e n Moon i s n e a r its maxim u m d ista n ce from
Earth, its apparent size is sma l ler than S u n 's. Hence a ring (a n n u l us)
of S u n remains visibl e, a n d S u n ' s coro n a cannot be see n .

I n creasing n u m bers o f sunspots are closely a l lied

to i n creasing a u rora l displays, and genera lly there is
i nterference with radio and television . W h e n ever you
observe increased a ctivity on the Sun, or notice u n usua l
i nterferen ce with radio a n d TV, watch for a u rora l dis
p lays a day or so later.
have a lways excited m a n ki n d . Super
stitio n has clothed them with stra nge a n d terrifyi ng
mea nings. Science has looked forwa rd to ecli pses a s
occasions w h e n certa in solar phenomena, s u c h as p romi
nences a n d the corona, which a re ordi n a ri ly invisi ble,
ca n be observed. Today the u nsuperstitious o bserver
looks forwa rd to an eclipse eagerly, and so does the
professio n a l astronomer, a lthough h e ca n use the coro
nagra p h to produce an a rtifi cia l eclipse in the observe-



tory. Natu re's own display remains u n riva led i n splendor.

A tota l so lar eclipse occurs when the Moon i s directly
i n line betwee n Ea rth and S u n . If it is not exactly i n line,
on ly a parti a l eclipse occu rs. An annular eclipse hap
pens when the Moon, though directly i n l i n e with Earth
and Sun, is fa r enough away from Earth so that th e
dark centra l pa rt of its shadow ca n not reach Earth.
There a re at least two tota l ecli pses a yea r, a n d
sometimes as many as five, b u t few people h a v e a
cha nce to see them. The paths a long which eclipses ca n
be seen a re narrow, a n d tota lity ca n last o n ly a bout 7%
min utes at most.
Among the features of a tota l eclipse are the so-ca l led
Bai ly's Beads. These a re seen j ust as the Moon's black
disk covers the last thin crescent of the Sun. Sun light
shining between the mounta i n s at the Moon's edge looks
like spa rkling beads.
The Dia m o n d Ring effect is a fleeti ng flash of light
i m m ediately preceding or fol lowi ng tota lity.
At the time of tota lity, the observer with a sma l l tele
scope ca n see the Su n's p rominences-long, fl amelike
tongues of i n ca n d escent gases, a ppeari n g a round the
Sola r eclipses: M a p s h o w s paths traced by Moo n ' s s h adow d u ri n g
ec l i pses, 1 979-2006.

edge of the Moon's disk. Also d uring tota lity we see the
glorious fl lmy corona, its g lowi ng gases stretching out
m i l lions of mi les from the blacked-out Sun.
To get the m ost out
of the few minutes of a n eclipse, preparations m ust be
made long in advance. Decide what you want to do and
get ready. Prepare equipment carefu l ly. Study the
charts that appear i n newspapers and other publications
to determine the path of the Moon's shadow. Try to
pick a good location near the area where the eclipse will
last the longest, and a long the center of the shadow's
path. A lso, if possi ble, flnd a spot at a high elevation so
that you ca n get an uninterrupted view to the horizon,
in the direction of the path of the shadow. Some o bserv
ers must travel thousa nds of mi les to view a tota l eclipse,
because the shadow path is only a bout 1 00 mi les wide.


Drama of Sun and Moo n : As o solar ecli pse nears totality, the l ast
c rescent of S u n d isappears. Sunlight at the rugged edge of the l u n a r
d i s k forms Boily's B e a d s (left) and Diamond Ring effect ( m i d d l e ) . With
tota lity, the spectacular corona appears. Tota lity seldom l asts more tha n
a m i nute or two. Ra rely, it lasts as long as about 7 Y2 m i n utes.

Stages of a solar eclipse: This striking series of exposu res plan ned a n d

made b y a news p hotographer suggests possibil ities f o r other camera

minded observe rs. (Roy E. Swan, Minneapolis Star)

Prior to tota lity, the on rush of the Moon's shadow

can be seen. Have a white sheet on the g round, and
just as tota lity begins, try to observe on it the so-ca l led
shadow bands-light and dark ba nds o n ly a few inches
across and a few feet apart. Last but not least, look for
stars in the sky during tota lity, and look for Mercury.
Notice the shadows and sunlight fi lteri ng through the
trees d uring the progress of the eclipse. O bserve the
effect of darkness on birds a nd anima ls. Carry a ther
mometer and watch the temperature. And by a l l means
use your camera !



As s u n light passes through Ea rth's atmosphere, the

rays of different colors-bl ue, yel low, red-a re scattered
and a bsorbed by the air to various deg rees. The sky is
blue beca use b lue rays scatter more than the others.
Notice how the cha n g i n g density and com position of o u r
atmosphere-how smoke, dust, a n d other p a rticles-make
colorful sun rises a n d sunsets. See how the atmosphere,
by scatteri n g light, gives us twi light. J u st after sunset
or before s u n rise, watch for the "sun p i l l a r"-a b ri l lia nt
col u m n of light of the sa me color as the sunset or s u n rise,
risi ng a bove the S u n .
Of a l l s k y color effects, the best k n o w n a re rai nbows.
These a re p roduced as rays of s u n light strike droplets of
water in the air. The droplets a ct as prisms, dispersin g
t h e l i g h t a n d separati ng t h e colors.
Rain bows appear opposite the S u n . Seen from the
g round, a rain bow is a lways less than half a circle.
The length of the bow depends upon the S un's a ngle.

Seen from an a i rplane, ra i nbows often are complete cir

cles. A s i n g l e ra i n bow has red on the outside, violet i nside;
but occasiona l ly a second bow forms outside the first, with
its colors reversed . Rarely, as many as five bows are see n .
Sometimes a round , g l owing spot is seen o n each s i d e of
the S u n . These mock suns, or "sun dogs , " are a l ways
associated with a halo around the S u n . The h a l o , usua l l y
22 i n rad i u s , i s due to refraction o f sunl ight b y ice parti
cles h igh i n the atmosphere (see p . 56) .
The aurora borealis (northern lig hts) i n the northern
hemisphere a n d aurora australis (southern lights) i n the
southern hemisphere a re produced i n Earth's atmosphere
by i m pacts of charged particles from outer space - some
of them from sunspots . Auroras are most freq uent i n the
higher latitudes, but have been seen as far from the north
pole as Mexico and as far from the south pole as Austra l i a
and N ew Zea land . L o o k toward t h e p o l e of you r h e m i
sphere . Often auroras a r e m ore spectacular after m i d
n i g h t . N o speci a l equ i pment i s req u i red - just a l ertness .
But auroras a re good subjects for the camera (see pages
1 30- 1 3 1 ) .

Zodiacal light: T h i s fa i n t glow n e a r the horizon, a l o n g the ecli ptic, may

be s u n l ig h t reflected from meteoric materi a l . look for it j u st after twi
light i n the west, and before dawn i n the east.

Auroras often look like thin patches of distant fog.

Many persons have seen auroras without recognizing
them. Look twice at any fog like g low seen toward the
pole. Rea l clouds hide stars; auroras do not. Watch for
any change i n a hazy g low near the horizo n . It may
become a n a rc, then break up into rays like search light
beams, then q uickly disappear.
Auroras come in many forms and colors-red and
g reen most freq uently. Particularly impressive a re the
irregu la r vibrating or pulsating bands or a rcs, a lso
ca lled draperies. The auroras ca l led flames may reach
high overhead like gigantic windblown ribbons. Another
spectacular form is the corona, or "crown," formed by
rays that seem to radiate from a point nea r the zenith .
Zodiaca l light and Gegenschein are phenomena of
the night sky that are not commonly recognized. They
a re appa rently light reflected from minute particles
perhaps meteoroids-in the band of the Zodiac. The
Curtain a u rora : No pointing or photograph ca n fully rep resent the
g h ostly, consta ntly shifti ng pattern of this grand natural spectacle.


Rayed a rc

Rayed arc



Types of Auroras

Rayed arc

Zodiaca l light is a hazy band rising from the h orizon

a long the ecliptic just after twilight in the west, or just
before dawn in the east.
The Gegenschein, or "counterglow," is a brightening
of zodiaca l light at a point on the ecliptic opposite the
Sun. Sometimes the Gegenschein is seen when the
zodiaca l light is invisible. Look for it a bout midnight and
toward the south, nea r your meridian.

Relative sizes of planets as seen from Earth : When i n best positi o n s

for observation, Ven u s, J u piter, a n d Satu rn a re large but shrouded i n

The Planets and Asteroids

Every observer should become fa miliar with t h e constella
tions of the Zodiac (page 25). Except for asteroids
(pla netoids, or minor planets), the pla nets genera l ly
fol low the Zodiac. When we see in the Zodiac a "star"
that is not accounted for on a star chart, it is quite
sure to be a planet-particularly if it doesn't twi n k le.
Planets shine with a steady light. I n the telescope, they
are sma l l disks, not mere points of light like stars. They
va ry in size, appea ra nce and apparent motion. All
revolve about the Sun and shine by reflecti ng sun light.
Mercury and Ven us fol low orbits nearer to the Sun
than Earth's. They are ca l led the inner, or inferior,
pla nets. All other planets have orbits outside Earth's, and

clouds. V e n u s a n d Mercury in fu l l p h a se show but s l i g h t deta i l . U r a n u s

a n d Neptu n e are m e r e dots. O n ly M a r s shows a l a n d sca pe.

they a re genera l ly ca l led the outer, or superior, p l a n ets.

At times a superior pla net appears to have a retro
grade motion. In moving through a conste l lation , it
seems to slow down a n d then go i nto reverse. After a
few months the forward motion may be resumed.
Actua l ly, p l a n ets do not "reverse." The a ppearance of
reversi ng is d u e to c hanges i n relative positions of Ea rth
a n d p' l anets as they move in their orbits.
Mercu ry a n d Venus a re the true morn i n g a n d eve n i n g
"sta rs," beca use they stay near t h e S u n . O n ly j ust be
fore s u n rise and j ust after sunset, a few ti mes a yea r,
can Merc u ry be see n . Venus is visi ble for longer periods,
and someti mes in daylight. Mars, J upiter, and Saturn
may be ca l l ed morning or evening sta rs when they
domi nate the sky in early morning or eve n i n g .

The relative positions of most

stars remain the same for decades. But planet positions
are changing constantly, and thus a re not shown on
star charts. To tlnd a planet, one must use a special
ta ble or list, as on page 92.
To locate Ven us, Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn o n a certain
date, you need to know only the name of the conste l la
tion in which to look. These p lanets ordinari ly are brig ht
enough to be distinguished easily from the nearby stars.
But the outer planets-Ura nus, Neptune, and Pluto-are
fainter and harder to distinguish. More exact informa
tion a bout their positions is available in astronomical
publications (see pages 1 46- 1 47). Uranus and Neptune
can be spotted in binoculars, if one knows exactly
where to look. But only a 1 2-inch telescope or better
ca n pick up an object as faint as Pluto.


TO LOOK Superior planets are seen best

when in opposition; that is, when Earth is directly be
tween the p lanet and the Sun. Then the planet is c losest


Opposition : S u perior planet i n

l i n e ( o r nearly so) with Earth a n d

S u n , Earth bei n g i n middle.
Quadrature: Superior p l anet at

right angles to Earth-S u n l i ne.

Conjunction : Superior planet on

Earth-Sun line, beyond S u n .


I nferior
planet at right a n g les to Earth
Sun line.
I nferior
I nferior
p lanet d i rectly between Earth and

conjunction :
I n ferior
planet on Earth-Sun line, beyond


Apparitions of Venus: Photos taken over a

two-month period show changes in the p l a n
e t ' s a p p a rent s i z e a n d i t s attitude. Apparent
size varies as d istance from Ea rth changes.
(Han s Pfleumer)

to Earth and we see its l i ghted side

ful ly.
Mercury a nd Venus, the i nferior
planets, are never i n opposition . We
see the i r l i g hted faces fully only when
the Sun is between them and Earth;
then their disks are q uite sma l l . They
appear brightest and largest at the
time of greatest elongation, when the
planet and the S u n , as seen by us,
are at their g reatest distance apart
- as much a s 48 for Venus a nd 28
for Mercury. Then we see only part
of the planet's lighted side.
The best time to observe p l a nets is
on moon less n ig hts, or when they a re
opposite i n the sky from the Moon ,
a n d when they a re hig h above the
horizo n . Atmospheric conditions i n
fluence seeing ( p a g e 2 9 ) . A t or near
fu l l Moon , observing is poor for both
planets and sta rs.
ta i l ed study of planets requ i res
spec ia l , and expensive
equipment; but one can see and do
much with a sma l l telescope. Cer
tai n features can be observed with

binocula rs, such as the fou r large moons of J u piter. With

very powerfu l binocu lars the phases of Ven u s and ri ngs
of Saturn are discerni ble. For rea l planeta ry work use
a 3- to 1 2-inch refractor or a 6- to 1 8-inch reflector.
Most reflecting telescopes operate at f/6 or fiB
that is, the foca l length of the primary m i rror is 6 to
8 times the m irror's diameter. But the best telescopes
for observi ng the planets a re of long focus, a bout f / 1 2
-the ratio of many refractors. The long focus cuts down
the fi e ld of view but i ncreases magnification . Experi ment
with your eq uipment to determi n e the magnification that
wi l l g ive the best results.
M E RC U RY, nearest to the Sun, is a n airl ess rock ball
scorched to 800 F. on the day side, frozen to - 280 F.
on the night side. Spacecraft photos show a mou ntainous,
cratered surface. Mercury is usually h idden in the Sun's
g l a re, but severa l times a yea r, near elongation, Mercury
is visibl e just after sunset or before sunrise. Mag n itude
va ries from - 1 .9 to + 1 . 1 . Times of visibility a re indi
cated in a l ma nacs, so metimes i n newspa pers.
Ma ny people have n ever seen Mercu ry, but it. is easy
to see if one looks at the rig ht time in the rig h t place.
Like the Moon, Mercury goes th rough phases that a re
visible in a sma l l telescope. Some astronomers claim to
Phases of an Inferior P lanet


An I nferior P la n et as "Morning Sta r" and as "Eveni n g Sta r"

(positions as viewed from above)

have seen vague permanent markings on the surface.

I nteresti n g to watch i s a passage of Merc u ry a cross the
Sun's disk-the phen omenon known as a "transit." It
occurs a bout 1 3 times i n 1 00 years. Mercury looks like
a sma l l black ba l l ro l ling slowly across the S u n . The n ext
tra nsits wil l be on Nov. 1 3, 1 986, and N ov. 6, 1 993.
(CAUTI O N : Protect the eyes! See pages 66-67.)
nearly a twi n of Ea rth in size, a lso goes through
phases. At its brig htest, a bout magnitude -4 (it varies
from - 4.4 to
3.3), it will be a thin crescent i n your
telescope. At its faintest, the entire disk i s lighted . This
peculiarity is d u e to the fact that the thin crescent phase
occurs when Venus is nea rest Earth, a n d the full phase
when it is fa rthest away.
The brightest planet, Ven us is at times visib le i n day
light. Observe in early even ing or just before daw n . Few
markings can be seen t h rough a telescope; the pla net is a l
ways s h rouded i n dense hot clouds of ca rbon dioxide.
Spacecraft p hotos show a rocky, probably vol c a n i c ter
rai n . Venus tra n sits the Sun rarely. The last tra nsit was in
1 882; the n ext wi l l be i n 2004.


Seasons on Mars: As a pola r ca p

s h r i n k s with the com i n g of s u m m e r,
the b rownish a re a s tu rn g rayish
g re e n . Each pol a r cap shows a full
cycl e of w a x i n g a n d waning d u ri n g
the Martian year.

The red color of Mars and its brightness (mag

nitude - 2.8 to + 1 .6) make it easy to recognize. It has
excited the imagi nation more than any other planet,
a n d some causes of a l l the controversy ca n be seen with
a sma l l telescope when Mars is near oppositio n . To
g l i m pse even the la rgest featu res, at l east a 6-inch re
f lector or a 3-inch refractor is needed. Either should
reveal the white po l a r caps rathe r disti nctly; a l so,
g rayish -to-green and reddish areas between the poles.
The pol a r caps (now known to be water ice) widen a n d
shri n k according t o the Ma rtian seasons. The northern
cap wi l l extend ha lfway to the equator d u ring wi nter in
the north ern hemisphere, fhen shrink fa r back i n summer.
The southern polar cap varies s i m i l a r ly. The g rayish a n d
g reenish a reas, but n o t t h e reddish ones, also s h o w sea
son a l changes. Occasionally a l a rge portion of Ma rs is
obscured by a g iant dust storm .


Rotation of Mars: The red planet's day is 24h 37 m - s l ig htly longer

than Earth's. Accord i ngly , a Ma rtian feature needs a little over 1 2 h o u rs
for its apparent motion from one side of the disk to the other.

1 ;6

M e r ury


1 0.9

diameter of d isk:
seconds of arc**


- 3 .3

+ 1.1


+ 1 .6


- 2.8

- 4.4

- 1 .9









1 0" 1 4m


yel lowt

+ 0.9

- 1 .4


+ 5. 7


- 0.4





1 8. 5


1 64 . 8




+ 7.6





3 1 ,000

32 ,000

75 , 1 00


+ 14




2 ,500


2,9 1 0

1 ,960




1 ,028





1 ,606

1 9. 1 82
1 ,782.80





886. 1 4



- 2. 5



1 7.9







24h 37m



1 1 . 86




4,2 1 8

365 .3





1 61







5 . 203



1 . 524
1 4 1.54



1 .000*




tColors observed by unaided eye.

*Astronomical unit = 92,897,000 m iles (mean distance to Earth from Sun).
**Approximate mean diameter of Sun = 3 1 ' 59". Approxi mate mean diameter of Moon = 31 '05".


Magnitude range

No. of moons
Visible in :
3-inch tel.
6-inch tel .


{ 88.0
{ 58.65

Diameter: m iles

Period of revolution:
Earth = 1 yr.
Period of rotation:
Earth = 1 day

Distance from Ea rth:

mil lion miles

astronomical units* 0.387

million m i les
3 5.96

Mea n distance from


I I 1 ..- .- .. _ ,. ,.. .. . ..,

In the past, some observers cla imed to have seen

"canals" on Mars, perhaps made by i ntel ligent beings.
But the planet is so indistinct and tiny even in a large
telescope ( 1 / 1 0 inc h in diameter at the focus of a 40-inch
refractor!) that proof was impossible. Spacecraft photo
graphs today show no ca na ls-just rugged, rock-strewn
l a n d with im pact craters, volca nic cones, d u n e a reas,
a n d ca nyons cut by streams i n the remote past, before
m ost of the planet's su rface went dry. No evidence of
higher forms of l ife is visible.
Mars often is observed through fi lters. With a red
filter the polar caps are not so brig ht, a n d the dark
areas are da rker. The opposite effect is apparent when
a green or blue fi lter is used.
When Mars is i n a favorable position, consta n t obser
vation is exciti ng. Use a bout 200X with a 3-inch refractor,
or higher power with a 6-inch reflector.
ASTER O I D S a re small planets with orbits mostly be
tween those of Mars and J upiter. Some travel withi n


., . ... ... ,,...

The face of Mars: As the planet

rotates, different featu res come

into view. Many can be seen by
the amateu r u n der good co ndi.
lions. Map exaggerates featu res
at top and bottom.

the orbit of Mars and come

nearer Earth than any
large planets . E ros comes
as near as 1 3 . 5 m i l l i o n
re loreum
m i les, as it did i n 1 975 a n d
will again i n 20 1 2 .
More than 3 , 000 asteroids have been identified , but
most of them are very sma l l and faint. To locate even
the big ones, we must know exactly where to look. S i nce
asteroids are not confi ned to the zod iacal pathway,
amateurs often m i stake them for novas (pages 1 1 4- 1 1 5) .
The position o f a n a steroid, however, w i l l b e seen to
change over a period of a few evenings, while the posi
tion of a nova remains the sam e .
Asteroids r a n g e from a few m i l es to m o r e t h a n
600 m i les i n d i ameter.
Radar images i n d i cate
Nov. 27, 1990
i rreg u l a r shapes, but no
features a re visible even





About every two yea rs,

Ea rth is between S u n a n d
Mars. Then observi n g i s
best. D i a g r a m (from U . S .
Nava l O bse rvato ry data)
sh ows o p p o s i t i o n s f r o m
1 978 t o 1 999, with Ea rth
Mars d istances in miles.

Feb. 1 2, 1 995

Feb. 23, 1 980


Mar. 1 7, 1 997
61 ,300,000

Sep. 28, 1 988


Dance of the moons: J upiter's four larg

est satellites make changing patte rns as
they circle the planet. Except when hidden
by the planet, all four can be see n with
binocu lars. They were discovered i n 1 61 0
by Galilee, who was the first to use a
telescope for astronomical observi ng.

through telescopes . Fou r - Ceres, P a l l a s , J u n o , and Vesta

- are l isted in the Astronomical A lmanac, which g ives for
each the right ascension and declination, d i sta nce from
Earth, merid ian transit time, and approximate magnitude
for every day i n the year. The positions of E ros are given
only for ti mes when it is most favorably situated for ob
servin g , for it is only 25 m i les in diameter. To l ocate an
astero i d , look up its position i n the A lmanac a n d check this
position i n your atlas with respect to easily identified
nearby sta rs. Then use telescope or b i noculars .
Ceres, the largest asteroid (diameter 623 m i l es), was
the first to be d i scovered . Pallas (378 m i les) was the next,
then J u no ( 1 53 m i les), and then Vesta (334 m i les) . Bright
ness depends on size, distance from Sun and from Earth,
and angle of reflection of the sun light.
the largest planet, is a ba l l of hydroge n , with
some hel i u m , ammonia, and traces of other gases . I t may
have no hard surface - just a shell of frozen gases thick
e n i ng toward the relatively sma l l core, probably roc k .
W i t h a magnitude o f about - 2 . 5 t o about - 1 . 4 , J upiter
is one of the sky's brig htest objects . I t has 1 6 sate l l i tes,
four of which, at a magnitude of a bout 6, are conspicuous
in a small telescope and can be seen with bi noculars. Two
J U PI T E R ,



satell ites requ i re a 1 2- i nch telescope; ten, a very l a rge

In 1 979, photographs taken by Voyager spacecraft
revea led a ring of dustlike particles a round the equator.
The four brig htest sate l l i tes, named l o , E uropa , Gan
ymede, and C a l l i sto, were d iscovered by Ga l i l e o . Their
chang i ng relative positions are published annually i n the
A lmanac and other sources (pages 1 46- 1 47).
One interesting sight is the shadow of a sate l l ite crossing
the planet's d i s k . Another i s the cloud - l i ke structures, or
"bands, " across the middle of the disk . These show changes
in color and extent. Among them , and visible in a small
telescope, i s the so-ca lled Red Spot - sti ll unexplai ned .
Ecli pses and occultations of the J ovian sate l l i tes make
good observing . I n fact, when the pla net is well placed for
observation, it is a rare night when some i n terest i ng phe
nomenon cannot be witnessed . J u p i ter is one of the most
satisfying of a l l objects for small telescope s .
second-largest planet, is a ba l l of frozen hydro
gen, methane, and ammon i a , probably with a rocky core .
Its magnitude varies from a bout - 0 . 4 to + 0 . 9 . When it
is near opposition, its steady yellow l ight makes it a com
mand i ng object i n the sky, and it vies with J u piter i n beauty


Tran sit of satellite across Jupiter's disk:

In fi rst two stages, both sate l lite (sm a l l
white object) e n d i t s s h a d ow can be see n .
I n other stages sate l l ite i s i n v i s i b l e .


and i nterest . The rings a re one of the most specta cular

celestial sights.
Saturn is wel l endowed with moons - seventeen . like
J u p i ter's larger moons, Saturn's bea r personal na mes .
Within the range of med ium-size telescopes a re Titan (the
largest), Iapetus, Rhea , Tethys, and Dione. These sate l l i tes
are not as active as J upiter's . Tita n , magnitude 8, can be
seen easily in sma l l telescopes .
Saturn's famous ring system consists of sma ll bits of ice.
It can be seen with a telescope as small as a 1 V2- i nch, with
relatively low power. For a rea l l y good view, a t least a
2 V2- to 4 - i nch refractor or a 6-inch reflector should be
used . With a good telescope and high power, the appa rent
solid band is seen to be divided i nto two rings sepa rated
by a dark line. This l i ne, discovered by J . D. Cass i n i i n
1 675 , is called Cassi n i 's D ivisi o n . I n l a rge telescopes sti l l
another d ivision h a s been seen i n t h e outer ring .
Over the yea rs we see first one side of the ri ngs, then
the other, as the planet's tilt with respect to our l i ne of sight
changes (see page 91 ). At times the rings are edge-on and
d ifficult to see, as was true i n 1 980. The complete cycle
repeats after about 291/2 years.

The rin ged planet: The a rtist

has p a i nted deta i l s af Satu r n
t h a t can b e seen w i t h small
telescopes. O n e may see also
the shadow of the g lobe fa l l
i n g across t h e r i n g s . Deta i l
d e m a n d s g o o d see i n g a n d
gaod optics.

Attitudes of Satu rn: The a n g le

of o u r l i n e of sight to the p l a net
changes accord i n g to a 29'12-year
cycle. (E. C. 5/ipher, Lowell Obs.)

U RAN U S , the third-largest

planet, is a nother ba ll of
frozen hydrogen , methane,
and a m m o n i a , p r o b a b l y
with a rock core . I t is s o far
from the Sun that its year
equa ls 84 of ours . Its mag
nitude i s a bout + 6; hence
it can be seen i n binoculars
and, if seeing is good , with
unaided eyes . N one of its
five major moons or surface
features i s visible in a sma l l
telescope. I n 1 977-78 eight
or n i ne evenly spaced rings
were detected by a irborne
o b s e r va t i o n s of o c c u l t a
tions o f sta rs.
To locate U ranus, plot its
coord i nates (from your Al
manac) on a star chart.
With high power, U ranus is a very sma l l , pa le greenish
d i s k . Its steady light d i stinguishes it from a star.
N E PTU N E , sim ila r to U ranus but slig htly sma ller, is much
farther from the Sun . Its annua l journey takes a bout 1 65
Earth years. With a magnitude of about + 8 , it can be
seen with good binoculars, but to spot it we must know its
exact position (check the A lmanac) .


PLANET LOCATIONS, 1 985- 1 990

positions of Mercur Uranus, N
ne, and Pluto, refer to Astronomical
Almanac or ot!.r astronamica handbooks , or to Sky ond Telescope
""'''!' Z ine. Asterisk J indicates morning star. Dashes indicate Planet is loa near
Sun for obMrvotion.
(Source, Solor and Plonetary Longitudes, by Stahlman ond Gingerich. )





* Taurus




1 985
1 986
1 987
1 988


1 989
1 990


1 985
1 986


1 987



1 988

Q!!!i! uchus


1 989
1 990
1 985
1 986
1 987
1 988
1 989
1 990
1 985
1 986
1 987
1 988
1 989
1 990

* Libra
* Sagittarius






* Sagittarius

T h e d i scovery of N e p t u n e , in









1 846,


w a s a tri u m p h

f o r m a t h e m a ti c a l a stro n o m y . I t s presence i n a certa i n

a rea o f t h e sky w a s p redi cted before i t w a s a ctua l ly dis
covered. Since t h a t t i m e it h a s tra v e l e d o n ly a little
more th a n h a lfway a ro u n d t h e S u n . Its two moons ca n


_ _ _

1 9'



1- - - - - - - - - I


e lji

- - - I - JI




1 8'_ 0"


_ _ _


- 30"

Path s of U ra n u s , 1 985- 1 995,

and Nept u n e , 1 985-2000
1 9"

- - - --1




:_ - - .:::. I

1 8h

1 7'

1 6'- 1 0"

- 30"

b e seen only i n very l a rge telescopes . T h i s pla net presents

noth ing of interest to the sky observer except the fun of
hunting for i t .
PLU TO , t h e p la net fa rthest from t h e S u n , i s the most
recently di scovered . Dr. Perciva l lowe l l , of lowel l Observ
atory at Flagstaff, Arizona , made the calculations, and a
young astronomer named C l yde Tombaugh discovered the
planet i n 1 930 by comparing photog raphs of the same
area of sky taken at different times. It i s a very fa int o bject
- 1 4th magnitude - and a 1 2 - i nch telescope may be
requi red to see i t . The smal lest planet, it has one moon .


Comet's path through solar system: The orbit of a comet i s a l o n g

loop. The comet's tail genera l l y poi nts away f r o m the S u n . The nearer
the comet is to the Sun, the more the tail trails out across the heavens.

The most mysterious mem bers of the solar system a re
the comets. They a re not reg ular visitors i n the night
sky, like planets; but they do visit us frequently-as
many a s five or more in a yea r. They usua lly a ppea r
sudden ly, stay i n view for a few weeks, then disappear.
Some return after a period of yea rs, but most do not.
The fi rst person to report a new comet is honored by
having his name given to it. No wonder a mateurs spend
so much ti m e seeki n g th ese el usive objects!
One of the most stri king comets of many yea rs was
the eig hth comet discovered i n 1 956. The discoverers
were Arend and Ro land. This was one of the few com ets
to exhibit a tai l both fore a n d aft. It beca m e so bright
that it cou ld be seen with the u naided eye despite city
lights, cha l lenging everyon e to look at it. But very few
comets become bright enough to be seen without
binoculars or a telescope.

Comets a re apparently planet-sized m e m bers of our

so lar system, but of u ncertai n origi n . They shine by re
flecting sunlig ht, as planets do; and they g low as sunlight
ion izes gases i n them. Besides gases, they conta i n
enormous concentration s o f larger particles, perhaps
meteoritic materi a l . Some comets have no tai l at all, but
i n others it is spectacular i n form a n d length. The tai l a p
pears to be made of materia l thrown off from the head.
Comets may appear i n
any part o f the s k y at a n y ti me o f year. M a n y a n ob
server sea rches for comets every clear night. By sca n n i n g
a differen t z o n e e a c h evening, h e ca n cover m u ch o f the
sky during a week. looki ng for n ew comets or for the
return of old ones is good sport.
Many observi n g g roups divide up the patrol work.
Bi nocu lars ca n be used, but a 3- to 6-i nch telescope is
better. Use low power for a wide field.
O n ce a comet is found, a camera attached to the

Comet Mrkos: T h i s n e w comet a p p e a red i n 1 957. The series of photos

was made over a span of several days. (Mt. Wilson and Palomar Obs.)

telescope will be usefu l . Because fil m can store up light,

m uch more of a comet ca n be seen on a photograph than
through the telescope . For long exposure, fol l ow the comet
(p. 1 32 ) . Si nce comets change positions against the back
g round of stars, stars i n the photograph will tra i l .
A comet ca n b e superb i n a small telescope . Usually it i s
a fa int, g lowing object with a hazy ta i l s o t h i n that stars
shine through it undimmed . I n the head the concentrated
pa rt is the nucleus; the hazy material a round it, the coma .
The n ucleus may be 1 00 to 50, 000 m i les in d i a meter; the
head , 30, 000 to over 1 , 000, 000 m i les across . The ta i l , if
a ny, inay spread widely and stretch out 1 00 m i l l i o n miles.
I t usua lly points away from the S u n , because of pressure of
light and the solar wind . Ta ils change in a ppearance d a ily;
changes can be sketched o r photographed .
Some comets travel i n e l l i ptical or
bits and, after a period of time, retur n aga i n . (Most comets
do not . ) Most famous of the "repeaters" is H a l ley's comet ,
observed closely i n 1 682 by Edmund H a l l ey, the Engl ish
He d iscovered that its orbit was e l l i ptical and
pred icted it would return i n
1 758 (it d i d ) . I t w a s seen
many times before Halley's
day, perhaps as early as
2 3 9 B . C . Its a ppearance i n
A . D . 1 066 is depicted i n the
fa m o u s B a ye u x t a pestry,
which chronicles the Nor
man conquest of E ngland by
William the Conqueror.
H a l ley's Camet, May 29, 1910:
Its many reg u l a r a p pearances
h ave made it the best known of
a l l comets. (Yerkes Obs.)



1 985
1 986
1 986
1 987
1 987
1 988
1 989

















1 900
1 975
- 239
1 786
1 904
1 873
1 847


1 989 (Nov)
1 990 (Moy)
1 990 (Sep)

1 990 (Oct)
1 990 (Dec)
1 99 1 (Nov)

-Wachmonn 3


1 980
1 930

1 948

1 786
1 963
1 843

(Courtesy Brion Marsden)

Comets may be bright during one visit, fa int the next,

and after many visits may va nish for good , perhaps d i s i n
tegrating to become meteor showers. Si nce a return cannot
be accurately pred i cted , star t hunting a month i n advance .
Consu lt a l manacs and handbooks {pp. 1 46-7) .
( l ) Observe a zone for comets regu
larly. (2) Check l i sts of recurring comets and watch for
them . (3) P l ot the course of a comet on your atlas . (4) Try
to pred ict the d a i l y positions of a comet. (5) Make d raw
i ngs or photographs of changes i n appea rance.

Comet anatomy: A sketch m a d e d u ring observati o n s by the Comet Re

corder of Association of l u n a r and Planeta ry Observe rs. (David Meisel)


End of

bolide: A meteor breaks


with a fl a re and a b a n g .

Meteo rs
D u ring every clea r nig ht, need le- like strea ks of light a re
seen cutti n g across the sky. One, two-a dozen or more
may be seen in an hour. Often ca l led "shootin g stars,"
the objects that m a ke these trails a re a ctu a l ly bits of
stone a n d i ron from outer space, ca l led m eteors or
meteoroids. They race into our atmosphere with such
speed-up to 44 mi les per second-that friction with the
air heats them to i n ca ndescence. Most turn to vapor
a n d dust long before they reach the g rou n d .
U n usually s low, b r i g h t meteors are ca l led "fireba l ls."
Frequently their tra i l remains visib l e for some time.
Fireba l ls that explode a re "bolides."
Most meteors a re no bigger than rice g rains, and they
become i n ca ndescent 50 to 75 miles u p . larger ones
brea k u p d u ri n g their fiery trip th rough our atmosphere,
and fra g m e nts of th ese hit the Ea rth . O n ce in few cen
turies a rea l ly big one hits, such as the m eteor that
made Meteor Crater in Arizona.

Some m eteor trails a re short, a n d som e a re long-20

or more. Most a re white, bl ue, or yellow. Fireba l l s a n d
bolides a re very bright. T h e i r strea k is thicker, lacking
the usual thin, needle-like a ppeara n ce. Sometimes thei r
path is crooked or broken, a n d several explosions may
mark their course.
Meteoritic materia l enteri ng Earth 's atmosphere daily
may total severa l tons. The num ber of m eteors actu a l ly
reaching the ground may be in the bil lions, but these are
so sma l l that their tota l weight is estimated at only one
ton .
Fra g ments of meteors fou n d on the ground are ca lled
"meteorites." They usua lly have peculiar sha pes and a re
h eavy for their size. Most consist m a i n ly of iron, som e
a re p redomina ntly stone, a n d sti l l others consist o f both .
Coba lt a n d n ickel, too, may be present.
Meteorites look fused, or melted, on the outside.
Hence they a re easily confused with bits of slag. O bserv
ers who want to be able to identify m eteorites should
study specim e n s on display i n planeta ri u m s and
Usua l ly m o re meteors
are seen near midnight
a n d i n early morning, be
cause then our p a rt of

Intruder a mong the sta rs: A bril

l i a n t meteor was caught on this
40-m i n ute exposu re of the C assio
peia region. A clock d rive kept
the camera tra i n ed o n the sta r
field . (Walter Pa/mstorfer, Petten
bach, Oberosterreich, A u stria)


Iron meteorite: This specimen,

about 8 i nches long, weighs 33
pounds. Hollows i n its su rface
were left by portions removed
by frictio n and heating d u ri n g
throug h
(American Mus. of Nat. Hist.)

Ea rth is facing forwa rd in

our journey around the
Sun and we a re heading
into the meteor swarms.
I n g roup observing for
meteors, each person has
his own section of the sky
to patrol. Binoculars a re
not necessary but help;
wide-field ones a re best.
Meteor trails make i nteresting photogra phs (see
page 1 0 1 ). Also, amateurs with a short-wave radio re
ceiver can "listen" to meteors. The set is tuned to a very
weak dista nt station, prefera bly a bove 1 5 megacycles.
The volume is kept very low. When a meteor in the upper
atmosphere ionizes a patch of air, creati ng a momentary
"reflector" for sig na ls, the volume of the station's signal
rises sharply. Doppler changes i n pitch may occur. On a
good morning, severa l h undred meteors may be heard.
I n certain pa rts of the sky, over
periods of days or weeks, "showers" of m eteors can be
seen. In an hour 1 50 may be observed. Showers occur
whenever Earth, i n its journey around the Sun, encoun
ters a vast swarm of meteors-perhaps remains of a
comet. A shower appears to radiate from one point in
the sky, and is likely to recur there a bout the sa me time

1 00

each year. Showers are named after the constellations

from which they seem to radiate.
( 1 ) Observe showers, a lone or with
g roups. (2) Count meteors seen in a n hour. If a shower,
count the n u m ber per min ute. (3) On a star chart, plot
points of beginning and end of meteor trails. (4) If a
meteor fa lls in your vicinity, try to flnd it. Watch your
loca l newspaper for report. Find persons who saw the
meteor fa l l and attempt to trace it. Cooperate with a
nearby observatory, if a ny.




Listed here are a few prominent "trustworthy" showers.

Many more are l isted in textbooks and hand books.
Approx. Approx.

Constellation (Max.)



Perseids . . . .


Orion ids...




Apr. 2 1

Aug. 1 1

Oct. 1 9

Nov. 1 5


D uration

No. per




Radiant Point

1 8 h04m + 33
3 hoom + 57
6 hosm + 1 5
1 0hoom + 22


Giacobinid meteor s ho w e r , 1 946: I n this time

exposure, a rotating shutter i n the camera broke
up the meteor trails but not the star trails. I n
d rawing af same field, meteor trails are extended to the radiant point. (Peter M. Millman)



::;:;,;: -::;;;( -\


" G

.- -


-'r AO' r---."1:-+-,-;;o;-:






Omega Centauri: This splendid globular cluster, visib le to u naided

eyes, g litters in the southern constellation Centaurus. I t r01sembles the
northern hemisphere's g reat M 1 3 cluster i n Hercules. (Harvard Obs.)

The ga laxies-the millions of isla nd u niverses in space
are made up of stars, planets and sma ller bodies, gas,
and dust. All the sta rs are spheres of g lowing gas; many
are millions of mi les in diameter. Some are 1 0,000 times
as thin as Earth's air at sea level, and some are so dense
that a cupful of their substa nce would weig h tons on
Earth. Star interiors have temperatures measured in
millions of degrees, and at their surfaces temperatures
up to 55,000 F . are com mon. Proba bly ma ny, if not
most, sta rs a re ringed by planets.
All stars visible in sma l l telescopes a re within our own
ga laxy. The nea rest one to Earth is 4% light years away
-26 tril lion mi les. Even this nea rest star, Proxima Cen
ta uri, is so dista nt that in the greatest telescopes it
is a mere point of light.
1 02

Sta rs differ in brightness, color, a n d size. U n like the

planets, they shine by thei r own light. Yea r after yea r
they mainta i n almost exactly the sa m e relative positions.
I n a n cient times people n oticed
that the sta rs seemed to form fi g u res. legends of kings
a nd q ueens, of h unters a n d stra nge a n i m a ls, were told
a bout them. During the thousands of years since, star
patterns have changed somewhat, but the n a mes linger.
Even the p rofessional astronomer uses a p p roximately
the old group outlines and calls them by the old n a m es
Cepheus the King, Cassiopeia the Queen, a n d Draco the
Dragon. I n the southern hemisphere, too, w here star
groups were n a m ed much later by seafarers, the old
names sti l l h o ld.
Scientifi ca l ly, constel lation s have no sig nifica nce ex
cept as names of a rbitrarily outlined pa rts of the celesti a l
sphere. Practi ca l ly t h e y a re the ABC's o f observin g .
O n ly when the observer knows the main constel lations
of his latitude ca n h e find his way around the sky.
All the constellations are
mapped o n pages 1 48- 1 57.
The maps t h e re i n d icate
the seasons when the con
stellation s a re conveniently
visible. To fi n d the map on
which a conste llation ap
pears, look u p the constel
lation in the i n d ex.

Double cluster in Perseus: This

open agg regation of stars is fa
mous. "C rosses" o n brighter stars
are due to optical effects i n the
telescope. (Lick Obs.)

MYRIAD SUNS Pick out any sma ll group of stars. look

at them with the naked eye, then through binoculars,
and then through a telescope with an objective of 3
inch es or more. You notice an almost u n believable in
crease i n the number of stars that a re visible, and the
stars look different, too. A star that to the eye looks
single may appear double
or even quadruple in the
T H I 2 5 I R I G H T I S T STA R S *
telescope. A small hazy
"....... ... ....... .. ... _
,.... , .., 57)
patch may turn out to be
a c luster of h u ndreds of
Mat"'" .....,.,..
stars. Certain stars, if
watched from night to
a Conlo Malorfs Sirius
night, show changes in
a Carinae
a Contourl
brightness; these a re ca lled
.. loll..
Stars that ap
a Lyo.o
pea r and vanish are novas,
p Orlonlo
or "new stars."
a Conls
The richest star fields
1 11
a Erlclonl
are in the Milky Way. On
p C.ntouri
Centouri) +0.6
a clear, dark night, far
letelgeuM +oA
a Orlonls
from city lights, parts of
a Tourl
a Crvcls
the Mi l ky Way look like
clouds. This seeming con
.. Scorpll
.. Vlrglollo
centration of stars is due
-lhaut + 1 .2
.. Plods
to perspective. Our gal
+ 1 .2
p 0..'-""'
axy, some 80,000 light
1 600
+ 1 .3
.. c.,. nl
{J Crvcls
rs in d i a m eter, i s
+ 1 .3
.. Leonlo
... . ...
shaped like a double con
+ 1 .5
vex lens, thi n at the edges
.. O..lnor
and thicker toward the
+ 1 .6
A Scorpll
+ 1 .6
y Orlonls
middle. Our solar system is
a bout 30,000 light years
*Fr- rhe OINetftr' Handlooolr, Royal ,.._
"-lcol Society of Conocla, r-to.
from the center. When the

1 04

Albireo in binoculars: The object

Albireo in a telescope: Now the

appears as a single sta r (the

large one near center of field).

star appears as a double. Magni

fication has red uced the field .

observer on Ea rth looks toward the Milky Way h e is

looking th rough the ga laxy towa rd a n edge.
Poi nt your telescope or binoculars to any part of the
Milky Way, particularly the neigh borhood of Sagittarius,
toward the center of our ga laxy. The stars a nywhere
present a colorful picture, from blue-white Vega and
Sirius to yellow Capella and red Arcturus and Antares.
See how many colors you ca n detect. Some double stars
are particula rly interesting because of the contrast i n
their colors-for exa mp le, Albireo ( {3 Cygni), one o f the
fi nest doubles.
In star atlases many variable stars and clusters a re
m a rked . These a re worth fi n d i n g , a n d many a re fo u n d

easi ly. For certain variabl e stars, detai led charts a re

Epsilon Lyrae in binoculars: The
sta r appears as a n o rd i n a ry dou
ble (nea r center) i n a starry field .

Epsilon Lyrae in a telescope: At

1 OOx with good seeing, the dou

ble becomes a pai r of doubles.

1 05


A n d romeda
Can .. Venaticl
Capricorn us
Ca ul o pe i a
Corona Borealis
Tria n g u l u m
U r o o Major
Ursa Minor



a', ola





I In M42

& or 6




3.0, 5.0
4.4, 4.6
3.0, 6.3
4.4, 6.5
3.2. 5.7
4.0, 3.8
4.2, 7. 1 , 8 . 1
0.3, 1 .7
4. 1 , 5.0
1 . .ol, 1 .9
3.0, 5.3
...0, 5.0
4.6, 4.6
4.0, 5.2
4.0, 6.0
2.7, 3.7
3.0, 6 . 1
4,6, 4.9
4.6, 6.3
4.9, 5.2
1 .0, 8.0
4.0, 1 0.3
2.5, 6.3
4.0, 8.5
1 .2, 6.5
5.0, 6.4
4.5, 4.5
2 . .ol, 4.0
2.5, 8.8
3.6, 3.7


2, 7






C ol ors




1 4"43'"
1 2"54'"
20" 1 5'"
yellow, yel low
yellow, bl ue, blue 02"25'"
1 4"37'"
yellow, red
1 5"38'"
white, b l u e
1 2"24'"
blue, b l u e
1 9"29'"
yellow, blue
yell ow, grHn
1 7"3 1 '"
white, white
1 7"43'"
yell ow, p u r p l e
yell ow, blue
07"3 1 '"
white, white
1 7" 1 ,ora nge, g reen
1 8"43'"
yel l ow, blue
1 8"43'"
yel l ow
1 r43
05" 1 2'"
blue, blue

+ 42 . 1
- 00.3
+ 21.3
+ 29.0
+ 38.6
- 1 2.7:'
+ 67.2
- 60.6
+ 36.81
- 63.8'
+ 27.8'
+ 1 6.0'
+ 55.2'
+ 72.2'
- 03. 1 '
+ 32.0'
+ 1 4.4'
+ 39.6'
+ 39.6'
+ 39.6'
- 01.2'

1 6"26'"
02"1 0'"

- 02.6'
+ 55.7'
- 26.3 '
+ 30. 1 '
- 63.2'
+ 55.2'
+ 89.0'
- 01 .2'

yellow, blue
wh ile, white
ora nge, grMn
yellow, blue
blue, bl ue

(Quadru ple)

l'uillan ( 1 950)

yell ow, b l u e
red, wh ite
yellow, b l u e
blue, white
white, white
yel l ow, b l u e
white, yell-


1 3"22'"
0 1 "49'"
1 2"39'"

needed, or sets of coordi nates so that you can plot these

stars in your atlas. Detai led lists of sta rs with their
characteristics and positions a re g iven i n textbooks,
astronomica l h a ndbooks, and other publications (see
pages 1 46- 1 47) .
In many sta r atlases, certa i n objects a re la beled "M,"
with a n u m ber fol lowing. The M refers to the list of
clusters a n d nebu las prepa red by the o ld-ti me French
astronomer Charles Messier. The list includes a bout 1 00
i nteresting objects visible i n s m a l l telescopes. If your
1 06

atlas does not show them, refer to a list of Messier

objects and plot them in your atlas. Then see how many
you ca n locate.
Binocu lars wil l help you to view
sta rs and clusters, but the sma l l aperture and low power
are severely limiting. A 3- to 6-i nch refractor, or a 6- to
1 2-inch reflector, is far better. An eq uatorial with setting
circles is best, because when properly oriented it ca n
be trained on fai nt objects easi ly. The so-ca lled rich
field telescope, with its short focus and very wide field,
provides fine views of clusters and nebulas.
The best tim e to observe is when the atmosphere is
sti ll a n d clear, and when the ti me of the month is be
tween the Moon's last quarter and first quarter. O bserve
double stars when the seeing is especial ly good; that is,
when the stars look like steady points of light a nd do
not twi nkle much. All stars are best observed when well
a bove the horizon.
When at the telescope, keep both eyes open, to
relieve strain. learn to make the most of a q uick
g lance. If the observing eye tires, close it now and
then to rest it, a n d then
open it at the eyepiece.
When using a refrac
tor, observe with the
dew cap on. This helps
to keep out extra neous
light and darkens the


Why A l g o l w i n k s : W h e n one

of its two com ponents passes

in front of the other, the light
dims. The cycle takes 2 34 d ays.

background. Fainter objects ca n then be seen better.

A faint o bject that is stared at may seem to become
fai nter. The reason is eye fatigue. Look a little to the
side of the object, and it wil l be brighter and clearer.
Most of the stars ca l led "multiple"
are either double, triple, or q uadruple. Good eyes can
make out the famous double at the bend i n the handle
of the Big Dipper. The brighter of the two is Mizar; its
com pa n ion is A lcor. They revolve a bout a common cen
ter. I n a telescope, Mizar itself can be seen as a double.
Epsilon (e ) Lyrae can be seen with the unaided eye
as a very close double nea r the limit of visibility. It is
easi ly "split" with a pair of binoculars. Each of the two
stars can be split again with a sma l l telescope of good
quality at 1 00 to 200X. Epsilon Lyrae is a q uadruple
star, or "double double."
Polaris (North Star) and Castor (a Geminorum) a re
doubles. Each can be split with a 3-inch.
Besides being beautiful to look at, double stars can
be used to test the optics of your instrument (see page
1 7).

are groups of stars that travel together

through space. Mem bers of "open" clusters a re widely
separated and can be resolved easily i n sma l l tele
scopes. In "g lobular" clusters the sta rs a re closely
crowded toward the center and are difficult to resolve in
a sma l l telescope; the c luster is just a little hazy spot.
Many clusters a re a treat to see. They g lint and sparkle
like sprays, i n a way no photograph could suggest.
The Pleiades ("Seven Sisters") form what might be
cal led a visua l open c luster. Six of them are easy for
the unaided eye. I n a sma l l telescope the cluster shows


1 08

hundreds of stars, and in a

large telescope these appear
enveloped i n clouds of lumi
nous gas; The Hyades a re
another fine, wide c luster.
Best of a l l is the Double
Cluster in Perseus.
Some c lusters very faint to
the eye magica l ly turn into
thousa nds of stars when the
telescope is trained on them .
Look at M 1 3-one o f the best.
To the eye a lone it looks like
a hazy star. In binocu lars it is
a little round cloud. But i n a
4-inch telescope you begi n to
resolve the stars. This g lob
ular may have 1 00,000!
Contrast M 1 3 with M44, a
beautiful open cluster. In this
our large telescopes can de
tect a bout 400 stars.
The light
output of many a star varies.
Some stars show a regular
variation i n a few hours, some
over a period of many days,
and others over several years.

The effect of exposure: Photos of

Hercules cluster, M 1 3, were made

with exposures of 6, 1 5, 37, and 95
minutes (top to bottom) with 60-i nch
reflector. (Mt. Wilson)

M Mlr' lllt

A A M O U I ITA I C L U itlll

NOC-Do.,er' New 0--' c...lotw

...... ( ,,.,




+ su
Oil'.. + 32.6


.,.,.. + 20.2


1 3"..... + 21.6



NOC 3766

01"3G"' + .0.4
1 1 .,.. _ , 1 .3.


NOC 4155

1 3"2.. - ,g.o
1 2"51 - .0.1



. ... + .,tO


06'o6'" + 2"



c:- v.....w

c,.. ..
o-111 1





16'..- + 36.6



22"1r + ..,...
2 1 "21'" + 1 2.G0



,....... ..




.... ...

Ml 1



61 1






02'1r +56.,. o,..

02'W' + G.IJ" Open

1 7',.. - 1 t.o Opeoo

17'37"' - U,tO Open
17'51. -u.a Open
1 1".. -06.3 Opeoo
o3"U" + 24.0" Open
1 tw" -.o.6 Opeoo

IMI2P - 72A ow..w

...... ....

.... .,.. ......,

'YIIIIIe to .,.




Oollll leW with

.... .. ..... ....

. ...

Spill lar, ....._ Ill ti

l c.laof.l
...... ....
(.... ...,
... .., .....
l .... .......

.. ..


.... .

l ::::.
......, .... ...
.. ....

., ...
...... ...., ...... .. ari
.... ........, ... ......:
. ......, ...
... .., ...... .. .,.
......, ...... .. .,.

u,g y_.., ...... ..


Many are irregular; they have no defi nite period of

Regular varia ble stars differ in the amount they va ry
and i n the lengths of their periods, but thei r behavior is
fairly predictable. Irregular variables a re unpredictable.
They may remain at the same brightness for long periods
of time before they begin to vary; or they are continually
The short-period regular variables a re of two kinds
eclipsing and pulsating. The best exam ple of an eclipsing
variable is Algol ({3 Persei), for its variation can be ob1 10

served without optical aid. This star is actua l ly a double,

with two mem bers revolving a bout a com mon center. The
variation occurs as one member passes in front of the
other-thus cutting off part of its light-at regular in
terva ls. With Algol the eclipse occurs in a bout 4 hours,
at interva ls of a bout 2% days. At maxi m u m Algol is at
a bout 2.2 magnitude, and at minimum a bout 3.5.
Pu lsating varia bles are sin g le sta rs that contract and
expa nd at reg ular interva ls. Their light output increases
and decreases accordingly.
Omicron Ceti (Mira), one of the most fa mous of vari
ables, rises from a faint 1 Oth magnitude to 3d (at times
even 2nd) in a bout 1 50 days. It takes a bout 1 80 days
to fade again to minimum. Beca use of this g reat ra nge
in brightness it has been mista ken for a nova .
Beehive (Praesepe) cluster: This open star group (M44), a fine show in
binoculars, is located about 14 southeast of Pol lux. (Yerkes Obs.)

AAVSO cha rt: The observer estimates the brightness of the variable
sta r Omicron Ceti (smal l dot i n <ircle, low right cente r) by reference
to indicated magnitudes of nea rby stars that do not va ry in brightness.

Observation of variables is a field of research i n

which t h e sky observer excels. Continual observations
of nearly a thousand such stars are made by members
of the America n Association of Variable Star O bservers
(AAVSO), who live a l l over the world. These o bservers
1 12

periodica l ly send to headq uarters their estimates of the

current star magnitudes, and these estimates are used to
prepare so-ca l led light curves. Mean curves of regular
variables can be used to predict the approximate times
of maxim um and minimum brig htness . (See page 1 1 4.)
The o bserver has a special chart which helps him to
locate the variable. This chart shows the magnitudes
of nearby stars that do not va ry in brightness. By com
paring the varia ble with these other stars, a n estimate
of the varia ble's present brightness can be made. This
estimate is recorded with the time of observation.
Some varia b les a re easy to find and check. Others
offer a cha l lenge to the experienced o bserver. Red
variables, for exa mple, are deceptive; they tend to look


Centa urus









00 1 838



6. 1

1 4.9

00"2 1 + 38.3
oP".c.c - 62.3

long period


1 33633

1 .2



o2".c.c + 69.4
1 3"3r - 33.4

Ecl ipsing binary



2 1 0868
02 1 403



1 1 .0
1 0. 1

2 1 "09'" + 68.3
22"2r + 58.2
o2 1 r - 03.2

long period
long period


1 54428
1 94632
0942 1 1
0455 1 4







.: ]... =-


l :!






(1 950)

5.8 1 4.8 1 5"46

3.3 1 4.2 1 9"4r
5.4 1 0.5 o9"4r
5.9 1 0.5 04'5r


+ 28.3
+ 32.8
+ 1 1 .7
+ 1 4.9

1 84633 1 2.9
1 84667 9. 1


4. 1

1 8'4r + 33.3
1 8'5 - 67.3

030 1 40




o3'0r + 40.8"


1 8'4r

1 46


1 84205

023 1 33
1 23307


- o5.8"

1 2 .6 o2"34 + 34.0
1 2. 1 1 2"36 + 07.3


I rreg ular
long perlocl
Lon g Period
Long Period
("The Crlm
san Star")
Edlpslng binary
Eclipsing binary
Long period
long period

Designations are derived from 1 900 RA (hours and m i n utes) and dedi
nation (degrees only). Star positions have since changed slightly.
Underlined numbers Indicate minus declination.

brighter than they a re. Any va riable that is extremely

close to a m uch brighter sta r ca n be deceptive. Some
va riables a re mem bers of pairs that a re h a rd to sepa rate
even with h i g h power. The g reater the difficu lty, some
observers say, the g reater is the sport.
Conti n u e d observation of vari a b l es by a m ateurs for

60 years

towa rd


hel ped

p rofess i o n a l

k n ow l ed g e o f t h e structure,

a s t ro n o m e r s

c o m p os i t i o n ,


evo l ution o f t h e u n iverse. D a ta provi d e d b y the AAVSO

c o nti n u a l l y used in astron o m i c a l resea r c h .

Novas are a special class of variab les. They usua l ly
rise swiftly from obscurity, then slowly fade-sometimes
beyond the limits of the g reatest telescopes. Some fl a re
up again later, but most become faint va ria bles or
disappea r from view e nti rely. They are undou bted ly
m a nifestations of explosions of vast proportions.
One nova that "rose again" was RS Ophiuchi. It
b u rst f o r t h i n 1 8 9 8 , 1 9 3 3 , 1 9 5 8 , a n d 1 9 6 7 , r i s i n g to a
m a g n i tu d e of a b o u t 4 . I n l a t e A u g u s t of 1 9 7 5 a s t a r i n
C y g n u s f l a r e d u p from fa i n ter t h a n m a g n i tu d e 2 1 to
2 n d m a g n i t u d e a n d w a s d i s c o v e r e d i n d e p e n d e n t l y by
a re

l i g h t cu rve (cha n g i n g l i g h t output) of O m icron C e t i ("Mira"), a

reg u l a r varia ble star: Each dot represents an observation by one of
AAVSO's observers. At bottom of chart a re J u l i a n day n u m bers.
1 979

' .

1 0 . ";";;-


. . . =; :

-'- 3
- 36ii--o;
3 ,>;;;



Nova Herculis: Before a n d after 1 933 outbu rst. (Yerkes Obs.)


Nova Constellation

Desig- Magnitude
nation Max. Min.


1 55526
1 74406
09003 1





Corona Borea lis

Oph iuchus

1 1 .0
1 1 .5
1 4.0

Observed Dates
of Maximum

1 866, 1 946
1 898, 1 933, 1 958, 1 967
1 890, 1 902, 1 920, 1 944,
1 967
1 863, 1 906, 1 936, 1 979
Fai nter
than 1 7

h u n d re d s o f o b s e rve r s . S o m e o b s e rv e r s fo r m g ro u p s to
p a t r o l t h e s k y fo r n o v a s , e a c h o b s e r v e r b e i n g r e s p o n
s i b l e fo r t h e a rea of s k y a s s i g n e d to h i m . N i g h t after
n i g h t the i n d i v i d u a l o b s e r v e r ta k e s a look a t h i s a re a .
He h a s a s g o o d a c h a n c e of m a k i n g a d i s covery a s a n y



( 1 ) Observe t h e Mi lky W a y at a l l
times of the yea r. (2) T r y t o split doubles n e a r t h e
li mit o f resol ution (page 1 7) of y o u r telescope. (3)
Observe va ria bles and plot thei r c h a nges i n brightness.
(4) When a nova has been a n n o u n ced, o bserve it a n d
m a k e your own l i g h t c u rve. (5) S e e h o w m an y Messie r
objects y o u can find with y o u r telescope. (6) With a sta r
chart such as the one on page 1 1 2, test the capacity
of your eyes to detect faint sta rs.


1 15

Many sky objects a ppear in a small telescope as hazy
masses. Because of their c loudy a ppearance they have
been ca lled nebulas (from Latin nebula, "mist" or
"cloud"). Not until the advent of the large telescope
and the astronomical camera was the nature of these
nebulas discovered.
Ma ny so-ca l led nebulas, as resolved in our
great telescopes, appear as enormous swarms of distinct
stars. Some of these nebulas have a spiral form; others
are elliptica l or relatively form less. Today they a re more
correctly termed "ga laxies" or "island universes," for
they a re outside our own star system, a nd a re themselves
great systems.
The Andromeda nebula M3 1 can be seen without opti
ca l aid. It is like a very tiny, thin cloud. In binoculars and
sma l l telescopes it is visible as a n elliptical, hazy mass
like a light held behind a dark curtain. A time-exposure
photograph taken with a very large telescope shows M3 1
to be a pinwheel-like crowd of individual stars seen a l
most edge on. The Andromeda nebula is considered simi
lar to t h e ga l axy or u niverse of stars i n which our own
S u n a n d pl a n ets exist. It is a bout 2 . 2 m i l l io n l ig ht years
d i sta nt, and 1 8 0,000 l i g h t years across.
Southern-hemisph ere observers are fa m i l i a r with th e
Mag e l l a n i c C l o u d s . These pro m i n ent objects are i s l a n d
u niverses of irreg u lar form . The l arg er c loud i s a bout
1 60,000 l ig ht years- d ista nt; t h e smaller c l o u d , 1 90,000 .

Island universe: The And romeda nebula, M3 1 , is the only spiral galaxy
visible to unaided eyes i n the northern hemisphere. It is about 8 north
east of the 2d-magnitude star fJ Andromedae. Binocu lars g reatly aug
men! it. The two satel lite nebulas seen i n this photo are visible i n small
telescopes. (Mt. Wilson and Palomar Obs.)

1 17

Planetary nebula ( N GC 7293) in

Aquarius: L i ke the R i n g N e b u l a
i n lyra (M57), t h i s p l a n et a ry i s
a c l o u d of expa n d i n g gases from
a n exploded star. (Mt. Wilso n)


i n our galaxy a re g reat
clouds of gas and dust
ca l led "d iffuse , " or "ga
lacti c , " neb u l a s . Some are
dark, some bright. Typica l
of the dark ones are those
i n the conste l l ations Crux,
Cepheus, Cygnus, and Scorpiu s . They look l i ke ragged
black patches on the sky, hiding stars beyo n d .
I n t h e "sword" o f O r i o n i s t h e t y p i c a l b r i g h t nebu la
M42 , faint to the eye but i mpressive i n binoculars and
sma l l telescopes (see pages 7 and 1 25 ) . It is about 26
light years across and 2 , 000 l ight yea rs d i sta n t .
Diffuse nebu las are usua l l y l e s s d e n s e than t h e a i r
t h a t rema ins i n t h e best vacuum t h a t man c a n make
i n the laboratory. Their gases and dust may be ma
ter i a l from which sta rs a re now form ing . These nebu las
shine by refl ecting the light
of nearby sta rs, or by
g lowing l i ke fluorescent
lamps as starlight stri kes
them .
The so-ca l led pla neta ry
nebu l a , a common type,

R h o O p h i u c h i regio n : Stro ng co n
trasts betwee n sta rs a n d d a r k
n e b u l a s a re brought ou i i n l i me
exposure p hoto. (Harvard Obs.)

The Crab Nebula (M 1 ) in Taurus: The spectrum of this diffuse nebula

indicates an expansion rate of about 700 miles per seco n d. C h i nese
astronomers in the 1 1 th century reported a nova (exploding sta r) at
this location. M 1 is faint but rather wel l defined i n sma l l telescopes.
Calor appears o n ly i n time exposu res. (Mt. Wilson and Palomar Obs.)

consists of gas apparently blown out by a star during

catastrophic change. The gas forms a n envelope or
"shell" around the star. This shell may appear to us as
a ri ng, as does the Ring Nebula in Lyra.
Diffuse nebulas within the a mateur's ra nge i n clude
the Cra b Nebula i n Taurus, the Great Looped Nebula in
Dorado, and the Lagoon Nebula i n Sagittarius.
Messier listed as nebulas many objects which we know
now are g lobular clusters. Modern lists of Messier
objects classify these objects according to our p resent
knowledge of them.
1 19


M Mealer's list
NGC Dreyer's New General CGialogue


And romeda

M3 1






1 00".0"


4 Dunlop's catalogs
H Sir William Herschel's catalog

+ 4 1 .0 v Spiral gal.

1 3"2r + 47.4 Spiral gal.
NGC 2070 05"39'" - 69.2 Diffuse neb.
or 4 1 42

"Great Nebula";
visible to eye
"Whirlpool nebula"
"Great looped
Nebula"; visible
to eye
lrlght blue disk

NGC 6543 1 7"59'" + 66.6 Planetary neb.

or H37
1 8.52'"
33.0 Planetary neb. "Ring Nebula"
M42 or I 05"33 f- 05.4 Diffuse neb.
"Great Nebula"




f+01"39'" f+- 51 .3 Planetary neb.

1 7"59'" t- 23.0 Diffuse neb.
1 1"0 1 t- 24.4 Diffuse neb.



1 1 1 a 1- 1 6.2 Diffuse neb.

Una Major
Una Major


09"52'" f+- 69.3
1 1 1 2'" f+- 55.3




0 1 "3 1
1 9"58

f+ 22.0

Diffuse neb.
S piral gal.
Spiral gal.
Planetary neb.
22.6 Planetary neb.

"Trifid Nebula"
"lagoon Nebula";
visible to eye
"Omega" or "HorNshoe" nebula
"Crab Nebula"


"The Great Spiral"

"Owl Nebula"
"Dumbbell Nebula"

FOR O BSERVERS Galaxies can be re

solved i nto individua l stars only by means of time
exposure photog raphs taken through large telescopes
Nevertheless, telescopes of 3 to 6 inches wil l bring many
such ga laxies into view. Telescopes of 6 to 1 2 i n ches
wil l add many more and increase their beauty.
Most nebulas ca n be wel l observed o n ly on clear,
dark, moon less nights, away from city lights. The
Magellanic Clouds and the great nebulas i n Andromeda
and Orion are bright enough to be observed under
a lmost a ny conditions, but the darker the sky, the better.
These g reat nebulas are easy to locate. For others you
may need an atlas. Determine the exact position of
the nebula in relation to nearby bright stars; then
work you r way to it. With a n eq uatorial you may be

1 20

able to locate the nebula by means of its coordi nates.

Spira ls seen broadside may look like round c louds.
If tipped with respect to our line of vision, they may
appear ova l . If we see them edge on, a g lowing mass
may be visi ble in the middle of a double convex lens
shaped structure. The a pparent shape of any nebula
depends on its position with relation to ou r line of sight.
Diffuse nebulas may a ppear as luminous veils. In
some there is a star surrounded by a luminous material,
like a neon light in fog. Typica l is M42 i n Orion. The
Crab Nebula i n Taurus suggests a thin splash of light.
A planetary nebula, such as those in Lyra and
Aq uarius, may a ppear as a g lowing cloud-like ring or
wheel. The usua l star in the center may or may not be
visible. M27, in Vulpecula, looks elliptical .
T h e Magel l a n i c Clouds: These enormous c l u sters of stars , a bout 1 75 ,000
l i g ht years d i sta nt fro m o u r Milky Way gala xy, are separate syste m s .
They are prominent a n d easily visible t o una ided eyes i n t h e southern
hemisphere. This photo suggests the spiral structu re. Bright object at low .
er left, overexposed on the plate, is the star Acherna r. (Harvard Obs.)

a Moon cra te r: Drawings of C l ovius show how Moon's

l i brations (apparent nodding) can change the look of l u n a r featu res.

Two views of

Drawing Sky Objects

The drawing of sky objects demands no g reat a rtistry,
but it sharpens our perception of the variety in celestia l
objects. Drawings lead to i nterestin g discussions with
fellow-observers and may have scientific va lue.
A good 2- or 3-inch instrument can revea l enough to
make drawi ng worthwhi le, especially as to the Moon.
An eq uatorial mounting with a clock drive enables us to
draw without stopping freq uently to re-sight the tele
scope. Use of a Ba rlow lens (page 1 39) gives high mag
nification with a comforta ble low-power eyepiece.
Materials for drawing can be as simple as a pen
light, penci l, and notebook. Worth tryi ng are 3 B Wolff
penci ls, 2B lead penci ls, cha rcoa l, i ndia ink, stomps,
kneaded ru bber, and a spi ra l-bound sketch book of
heavy, good paper. A spray of fixative will keep a penci l
drawing from smudging. A compass ma kes neat ci rcles;
1 22

or any round object may do. For drawing the Moon, a

street or porch light may provide enough extra illumina
tion. For fainter objects, a small flashlight ca n be
shielded and clamped to the sketch pad.
Moon features (see pages 58-59) a re clea rest when
near the terminator, or boundary between the light and
da rk lunar a reas. Then their shadows p rovide high
contrast. lig htly indicate the over-a l l area a n d propor
tions; then add details. locate details i n relation to other
details nea rby. Make drawings large enough-don't be
cramped. For exam ple, a good length for the Moon
crater C lavius is 5 or 6 i nches. Set boundaries with light
penci l marks at the start.
A series of drawi ngs of an object should be on the
same sca le. Then the drawi ngs ca n be compared and
better appreciated. A lunar feature may change its
appeara n ce from time to time beca use of the Moon's
librations, or a pparent ti lting.
Work on a sma l l a rea at one time. A Moon crater
such as Copernicus wi l l provide work -f or an evening.
Try for deta i ls and accura cy; let bea uty take care
of itself. If delicate shadings a re hard to get, try the
simple type of renderi ng shown below.
Artist's sketch a nd finished drawing: The sketch of Mars (left) was

made at the telescope. The finished d rawing was made i ndoors later.


ij- O

- l 't

( ....i.)S.. ;

.;. _ ,, ..., Sf
, , ,vA-L_ -a ,.., +
').. \ W\.Jtllt..t..

For Mars and other planets, start with a 2-inch circle.

Rough i n large areas first, then work on details.
Incl ude all detai ls seen, however fleeting. Work as fast
as good standards perm it, because of the planet's
rotation. When the essentials are done, take the drawing
indoors and refine it whi le your impressions are fresh.
When Mars is near opposition, interesti ng features
can be seen with a 6-inch reflector. The observer dis
cerns l ittle at first, but the ability of the eye to make out
deta i l i m proves. A polar cap may g radua l ly appear as
a l ig hter spot on the planet. Other brood features may
be visible. A red fi lter is worth trying. Recom mended
power for Mars is 200 to 300x. A 6- to 8-inch telescope
is needed for even fleeting g l impses of the markings.
Sketch the changing positions of J upiter's larger
satellites during an evening. Record the passage of a
satel lite's shadow across the disk. An 8-inch reflector
with high power ca n break down som e cloud belts i nto
delicately colored festoons, red spots, and other forms.
The Cassin i division in Saturn's rings will appear in
a 3-inch. With a 6-inch reflector, fai ntly colored cloud
ba nds can be distinguished, and sometimes the shadow
of the g lobe agai nst the rings.
With every drawing, record the essenti a l data-date,
hour, phase of Moon or planet, stage of rotation of
planet (which meridian is at the center), longitude and
latitude of feature (if your chart gives this information),
seeing conditions, size of telescope, magnification used,
and any pecu liarities n oticed-such as a "cloud" on
Ma rs or an apparent meteor hit on the Moon.
Comets present a n i nteresting cha l lenge. So do the
filmy arms of nebu las, sunspots (caution !), a u roras, a nd
eclipse phenomena.
-John and Cathleen Polgreen
1 24

Backyard photo: Great Nebula in Orion as photog raphed by time ex

posure th roug h telescope pictured on page 9. (Clarence P. Custer, M.D.)

The Sky Observer's Camera

The human eye is defi nitely limited as to the faintness
of the sky objects it can detect. But as photographic
fi l m is exposed longer and longer, it ca n register the
images of fai nter and fai nter objects. This is the main
reason why astronomers today can probe fa r deeper
into space than could astronomers of a century ago.
Pictures of sta rs, Moon, and other objects can be made
with any kind of camera-even an old box Brownie. For
more striking pictures, use a camera with a long-focus
portrait lens or a telescopic lens. Adva nced work demands
a telescope and film holder, or telescope and camera.
1 25

Objects such as planets are m ere

specks in pictures taken with a ca mera a lone. A tele
scope m ust therefore be used, with either a n a stro
camera or a n ordinary camera . An astro-ca mera, which
can be bought or made at home, is essenti a l ly a light
tig h t box a few i n ches long, pai nted flat black i n side,
with a film holder at the rea r. At the front it has a mova
ble adapter tube which fits into the eyepiece holder. The
telescope objective serves a s the ca mera lens.
To find the proper position for the fi lm holder, remove
it a n d su bstitute a g round-g lass holder (ground side
towa rd objective). Adjust the ca mera so as to get the
best obtainable image on the g lass (wear your eye
g lasses, if you use them, while adjusting). Then replace
the film holder. For a larger image use a n eyepiece in
the adapter. Focus with a g round g lass.
If the astro-camera lacks a reg u l a r shutter, control the
exposure by using the slide that protects the film i n the
film holder. But exposures of less than a few seconds
can not be made i n this way. For pictu res of Sun and
Moon, which req uire very short exposures, a sh utter from
an old ca mera ca n be built i nto the astro-ca mera . Or a
ma keshift shutter can be
made out of a large piece
of ca rd boa rd . In this, cut
a slit a bout 1,4 or % inch
wide, longer than the diT H E ASTRO-CAMERA

H o w it w a s d o n e : F o r p icture on
next page, camera was mounted
on equator i a l te l escope. In final
phase, photographer watc hed
g u ide sta r throu g h s m a l l tele
scope o n the mounting, turning
a m i crometer screw to keep the
object s i g hted . Thus stars d i d
nol lra i l . (John Stofan)

Star trails: Constel lation Orion

was photog raphed by letti ng stars
trail far 21h hou rs, then interrupt
ing exposure for 5 minutes, and
finally exposi ng fi l m again for 3 0
min utes with camera "followi n g . "

ameter of the objective.

With the card boa rd, mask
the telescope while the
slide is removed from the
fllm holder (careful ly, so
as not to move the tele
scope tu be) . Then the slit
is moved across the open
end of the tube to expose
the fi lm, and the card
board again masks the
telescope while the slide is rep laced . Obviously this
method req ui res experi menting for proper exposures.
I n a n astro-ca mera that has a lens, focus the lens as
you wou ld a n eyepiece, using a g round g lass.
A camera used to take
pictures through a telescope should be of the reflex type,
which ca n be focused by looking through the lens, or it
sho u ld be a model which uses a film holder and thus
can be focused with a ground g lass.
In the telescope eyepiece holder insert a low-power
eyepiece and focus it as if for ordinary viewing (using
your glasses if you wear them). Attach the camera to
the telescope by means of some sort of camera holder
(see picture on page 1 28). Set ca mera for infinity and
fu l l a perture, and focus through lens or with ground
g lass. To keep out extra neous lig ht, con nect eyepiece
and camera lens with a sleeve of black paper.

1 27

Camera holder on a telescope (left): Devices such as this one a re avail

able from commercial sou rces. Some observers make thei r awn.
Mounti n g for camera (right): This simple type of equatorial mounting,

hand- or clock-d rive n, is suitable fo r a camera used without a telescope.

First efforts at photog raphing objects through the

telescope a re li kely to have poor success. With careful
experimenting excel lent results become possible.
T H E O BJ ECT Earth's rotation ma kes
little difference in exposures of 8 seconds or so made
with camera a lone, or i n exposures of a bout V2 second
or less made through the telescope. I n the longer ex
posures needed for faint objects, these objects wil l blur
or trail unless there is a compensati ng motion of the
ca mera . An eq uatorial mou nting ca n give this needed
motion. With camera or astro-camera attached to an
eq uatoria l telescope, the photographer can keep his
i nstrument sighted on the object by keeping some chosen
guide star centered in the finder. (This is done m ore
easily if a high-power eyepiece is used in the fi nder.)
If an eq uatorial telescope is not avai lable, a simple
mounting can be made for a camera (see picture a bove).
It should be equipped with a fi nder or sights.
If the eq uatorial mounting has a clock drive, the
observer does not need to move the tube by h a nd except
for an occasional corrective touch. A clock d rive makes
exposu res up to severa l hours practicable.

1 28

A plateholder for a sma l l tel
escope usua l l y takes 2 V4 x 3 V4 or 3 1/4 x 4 V4 fil m ; for 6- to
1 2- i nch telescopes, 4 x 5 fil m . I n cameras, use rol l fil m .
For black-and-white photography, panchromatic fil m i s
recom mended . Si nce few commercial firms deve l o p and
print black-a nd-wh ite wel l , the amateur might learn to do
this h i mself. For color, commercial l a b work i s usua l l y
accepta b l e . F i l m s range from low-speed (ASA 25), with
high color i ntensity, to ASA 1 000 or h i gher, which is
gra i n ier. Color prints can be i nterest i n g , but s l i des show
more deta i l .
The faster the fil m , the shorter the exposure can be at a
g iven magnification . (If using an eyepiece that e n l a rges
two times, m u ltiply exposure time by four; if three ti mes,
Partial lunar

ecl i p s e : S u ccessive e x p osu res s h o w M o o n r i s i n g p a rti a l ly

e c l i p s e d , t h e n g ra d u a l l y e m e r g i n g f r o m s h a d o w of E a r t h .
were m a d e at 5 m i n ute i n t e rv a l s .

E x p o s u re s

(American Museum of Natural History)

Ring Nebula in Lyra : Time expo

sure was made through a small
telescope. (Hans Pfleumer)

by n i ne; and so on . ) With

a lens u p to 1 35 m m on
a camera , pictures of Sun,
Moo n , constellations, au
rora s , and c o m et s a re
practicable, exposing about
8 seconds, without guiding .
Sma l l objects - pla nets,
nebu las, g l obular cl u sters
- requ i re a telescope, with
high magnifi cation, long exposure, and guiding .
On a moonless night, load camera with
ASA 1 00 or 200 . Using tri pod , point camera at a group
of bright stars. Open dia phragm wide; set at infinity; take
series of pictures at 1 second , 5 seconds, 1 0 seconds, and
so on. Then expose about 5 m i n utes . Meanwh i l e , don't
adva nce fil m ; a l l ow 1 or 2 m i n utes between exposures .
When the fil m is developed , place it over an opal g l ass
viewer. Each star w i l l appear on the fil m as a chain of
i mages of i ncreasing size. The l onger the exposure, the
longer the tra i l s . This experiment will teach you about
exposures for sta rs, the power i n you r lens, and the field
of view of your camera .
N ow fix the camera on a tri pod . Point it at a bright star
group nea r the celesti a l equator. Expose 20 m i n utes . In
this time the stars w i l l move 5. Thus the lengths of the tra i l s
on you r negative w i l l indica te t h e fie l d o f view o f your
camera . N ext, point the camera towa rd the celest i a l pole.
On a clear nig ht, expose 2 or 3 hours to record the
appa rent motion of stars around the po l e .

1 30

For auroras any camera is

usefu l . The 35mm cameras with fast lenses and fast films
g ive res u l ts with short exposures . Try color as wel l as black
and white, exposing from 1 /25 second up to 30 m i n utes,
depending on the b r i l l i a nce of the aurora , a perture, and
fil m type . For a n average a u rora , try 2 seconds on E kta
chrome 400 fil m , with fu l l a perture. Sti l l faster fil m may
show a u roral patterns that b i l low and flicker.
Plan to photograph meteors when a shower i s due (see
p . 1 0 1 ). Keep camera pointed a little to the side of the
radiant point. U se ASA 200, exposing 1 0 to 30 m i nutes .

The brighter open star clus
ters, such as the Pleiades and the Double C l uster i n Per
seus, can be photographed by camera , using fast fil m (such
as E ktachrome 400), telescopic lens, and tr ipod . Most
globular c l usters and nebu las req u i re a telescope with a
good equato r i a l mounti n g , preferably with setting circles.
A hand s l ow-motion drive i s usable; a clock d rive i s better.
With high-speed fil m , try 1 5 m i n utes or more . With a
superfast Schmidt-type telescopic camera , amazing re
sults are poss i b l e with a 1 0m i nute exposure. I n gen
era l , the faster the fil m ,
the fa i nter t h e object that
can be registered . With
sma l l telescopes, only the
brighter g lo b u l a r c l usters
and nebu las can be photo
gra phed satisfactori ly.

Comet Arend-Roland i n 20-sec o n d

e x p o s u r e w i t h a S p e e d G ra p h i c
( C h a rles C u ev a s )

CAUTIO N ! Read pages 66-68 .

When using camera a lone, place a gray filter over the
lens. When the Sun i s i n full eclipse, no filter is necessar y.
With ASA 1 00 color fil m , expose 1 /25 second at f/8 for
promi nences; V2 second to 3 seconds at f/8 for the corona .
Any exposure over 1 second w i l l req u i re g u i d i ng .
For the fu l l Sun, slow fil m , small apertures, and short
exposures a re ca l l ed for. Exposures va ry, but a good guide
is 1 1 1 000 second at f/64 for the primary i mage on an
ord inary day. This wou ld mean a n aperture of on ly 3/4 inch
for a sma l l te lescope . For sunspots, photog raph the en
larged image. Use the telescope with a d i a phragm (see
page 67) to reduce the aperture to 2 inches or less.
Experiment with d ifferent apertures .


The Moon i s bright

enough for slow panchromatic fil m and col or. Expose
1 I 1 00 to 1 0 seconds at f/ 1 2 , depend ing on phase of the
Moon, eq u i pment, and enlargement attem pted . For a
sta rter, try the Moon at first qua rter on ASA 1 00 fil m at
1 /50 through the telescope.
Mars, J u piter, Saturn, and Venus are the most photo
genic planets. U se the telescope with a n eyepiece . Try fast
and panchromatic film - 2 seconds and longer. Guid i ng
is necessa ry. It is a l most impossible to get a good photo of
Mercury, but U ranus, N eptune, P l uto, and the asteroids
can be photographed like stars.
A l l photos of the heavens shou ld be carefu l l y exam i ned
for any trace of a comet . Fa int comets usua l l y appear on
fil m as a more or less shapeless haze. To shoot a comet
with your camera , use fu l l aperture with fast color or
panchromatic fil m , and expose severa l m i nutes . Guiding is
necessary. For a sma l l , fa int comet, use the telescope and
increase exposure time.

1 32

Comet Bennett 1961 i, showi n g seco n d a ry ta i l . Photo g ra p hed on A p r i l

8 , 1 970, w i t h a 1 35 m m l e n s at f / 4 . 7 , usi n g Roya l X Pa n fi l m . Expos u r e :
1 0 seco n d s . (Dennis Milo n )
A u r o r o : A rema rka b le p hotog ra p h of a c o r o n a ta k e n o n A u g ust 1 6,
1 970. The exposure was 5 seco n d s at f / 2 . 8 on Tri-X fi l m . (Richard

Berry and Robert B urn ham, Sky and Telescope)

Meteor shower: This p h oto g r a p h of the 1 966 leonid meteor shower

was ta k e n from Kit! Pea k, Arizona, o n Nove m b e r 1 7 a t a bo u t 1 2 h
U nive rsa l T i m e . T h i s shower is the g reatest for w h ich there a re a c c u
r a t e records, with a pea k ra te of 40 meteors p e r secon d for a si n g l e
observer. The shower h a d a s h a r p p e a k b u t the rate was ove r 1 ,000
meteors per m i n ute for a s i n g l e o bserver for one h o u r . On the orig
i n a l pri nt, 70 leo n id meteors a re seen on t h i s J V2 m i n ute exposure.
Two p o i n t meteors a re seen right at the rad i a n t i n the Sickle of leo.
The bri ghtest sta r i s Reg u l us. This p h otog ra p h wa s ta k e n with a
1 05 m m l e n s at f / 3 .5, using 1 20 size Tri-X f i l m that was d eveloped
far 1 2 m i n utes i n D - 1 9. (Dennis Milan)

Time zones of the world: When it is noon at Greenwich, England, the

sta ndard time i n each other zone is as indicated by this m a p .

Using Astronomical Time

Every sky observer should b e familiar with the main
princip les of timekeeping, which are based on Earth's
rotation and its journey around the Sun. These motions
govern our solar day, which is the interva l between two
successive crossings of the Sun over the sa me meridia n .
T h e solar d a y varies throug hout t h e yea r, beca use of
cha nges in Earth's rotation and its dista n ce from the
Sun. So we use a n average, or mean, solar day for
everyday timekeeping.
For scientifi c pu rposes, various "kinds" of time a re
disting uished:
Mean Time (MT): Clock time based o n the average, or mean, sola r day.
Apparent Time (AT): True Sun t ime-not the averag e or mean.
Equation of Time (E): Difference between Mean Time a n d Apparent

Time. I t varies, a n d a m o u nts to a s m u c h as 16 m i n utes.

Standard Time (ST): The Mea n Time i n one of the world's sta ndard

time zones. These 24 zones (one for each hour) are formed by 24

1 35

meridians (north-south l ines) about

1 5 apart. The Standard Time in a

place is the local mean time of a standard merid ian near the center of the
zone . ST meridians beg i n at

0 longitude (Greenwich, England).

Greenwich Civil Time (GCT): loca l Mean Time (LMT) of 0 longitude.

U n iversa l Time (UT): Greenwich C ivil Time. U sed i n astronomy and

J u l i a n Period (JP): A period devised to make it easier to calcu late the

exact time interva l between dates. The period beg i n s January

1 , 471 3

B . C . It counts the days si nce then regardless of changes made meanwhile

i n our everyday civil calendars .

J u l i a n Day ( J D ) : N umber of the day si nce the beg i n n i ng of J P. The Julian

Day begins at noon UT and continues right through the night, measuring

24 hours consecutively, to noon UT of the next day.

Astronomical Day: J u l ian Day. Begins at noon UT.

Side rea l Time {ST or SidT): "Star t i me . " U sed i n astronomy and naviga
tion . Based on Siderea l Day (explanation below) .

The J u lian Day number for January 1 , 1 985, is 2446067;

for January 1 , 1 986, it is 2446432; and so o n .
T h e J u l i a n Day represents a conven ient w a y to keep
observing records. If you used our everyday (Gregorian)
ca lendar, you wou ld write "night of January 1 -2 , 1 986, "
but by using the J D n u m ber
you only have to write the
last 3 or 4 figures, l i ke this:
067 or 643 2 .
Siderea l Time, or "Star
Time, " i s based on the in
terva l between two succes
sive crossings of a star
over the same merid ian .
This i nterva l is the Siderea l
equal to about
23h 56
a bout 4 m i n utes
short of a solar day. This
m -

1 3h 1 8m

S iderea l Time

1 36

C a mbridge, Mass.

4-minute difference is due to Earth's daily progress i n

its journey around t h e Sun.
A clock that keeps Sidereal Time gains a bout 4
minutes a day compared with ordinary clocks. I n six
months it gains 1 2 hours; in 1 2 months, a whole day. A
g la n ce at the siderea l clock tells the astronomer the
a pproximate location i n the sky of any object of which
he knows the coordinates (RA and Dec). For exa m p le,
Sirius has an RA of 6h 43m; so if the observer's sidereal
clock shows 5h 40m, Sirius is l h 3m east of his meridian
(see page 1 50) . If the siderea l time is 1 4\ Sirius is west
a n d below the horizon. If the siderea l time is 23h, Sirius
has not risen.
The siderea l clock shows the hours from 1 to 24 hours
consecutively, whereas ordinary time is read from 1 to
1 2 hours in two series. The use of siderea l time is ex
plained on pages 5 1 -53.
Clock time: The hour hand on a sidereal clock completes its circuit in

23h 56m. Thus it is out of phase with the hour hand on ordinary clocks.
But the time a s shown by ord i n a ry clocks i n Cambridge and Greenwich
differs only with respect to zones and the onehour d i fference between
sta ndard time and daylightsaving time.

May 1 5
9:30 p.m. {2 1 30) E.S.T.

May 1 6
2:30 a . m . (0230)

Cambridge, Mass.

Greenwich C i v i l Time
Greenwich, England

Barlow lens: By its d iverg i n g effect on light !raveling from objective

to eyepiece, the Ba rlow lens in effect i ncreases the focal length of the
objective. According ly, magnification is increased by as much as 3X.

Accessories and Maintenance

Few sky o bservers a r e content t o use t h e s a m e o l d equip
ment year in and year out. Althoug h there is a lifetime
of pleasure in a good eq uatoria l telescope, with its full
com p lement of three reg u la r eyepieces and a solar
eyepiece, the observer eventua l ly wants something more.
Astronomica l magazines offer many suggestions.
A mechanical d rive, one of the
most usefu l accessories, is used on eq uatorial mou ntings.
It compensates for Earth's rotation, and thus enables the
observer to set the telescope on an object and keep it
there. Some observers have drives with variable speed
for fol lowi ng Moon, comets, and planets. A drive makes
observing by oneself and with g roups easier. It ma kes
possi ble long photographic exposures for deep-sky
wonders. Even with the best mechanica l drive, small
inaccuracies occur. Occasional hand guiding is needed.

1 38

which look like the lens turret on

a home movie camera, a re offered under numerous
names, such as turret eyepiece, Unihex, and triple eye
piece. This device accommodates two or more eyepieces
in one mounting, so that you can change eyepieces by
simply turning the unit. The fuss of removing, inserting,
and focusing eyepieces again and again is avoided.
With some telescopes, a m u ltiple eyepiece would
hold the individual eyepieces too fa r from the objective.
Before l:>uying the device, determine whether it can be
used without any modification of your telescope.

for specific purposes are offered

usua l ly under the names of their i nventors, such as Kell
ner, Ramsden, and Abbe. The Kellner is recommended
for wide fields with accurate color and images good to
the edges. The Ramsden is used by many for planetary
observin g . The Abbe orthoscopic eyepiece is favored by
observers who m ust wear their g lasses at the telescope.
The image is formed farther out from the eyepiece. The
Abbe gives a large, highly corrected field.
The Barlow lens, designed to be used with regular
eyepieces, can be adjusted so as to m u ltiply the magni
fying power of any eyepiece by as much as three. It re
duces the field of view, and does not raise the limit of
useful magnification as determined by the objective. Zoom
eyepieces have but limited usefulness.


"stop" certai n colors and a l low others

to come through . Certain details ca n be d istinguished
only if a color fi lter is used to i ncrease the contrasts.
Fi lters transmit the color of the fi lter; thus, a red fi lter
transmits red, and other colors such as g reen or blue
appear dark. Since fi lters a bsorb some of the light, they


1 39

What a filter does: M a rs as seen

without a fi lter (a bove) a n d
through a red filter.

may be used to cut down

g lare, such as Moon glare
or the g lare of the sky
when you a re observing
Ven us i n daylight. Red,
green, and blue fi lters a re
contrast fi lters.
A solar eyepiece has a
very dense g lass fi lter
fitted to the cap of the eyepiece. For planets, colored
optica l g lass fi lters can be pu rchased from optica l goods
supply stores. Or you ca n make fi lters out of Wratten
gelatin fi lter sheets. To make a fi lter, unscrew the cap of
an eyepiece and cut a piece of the gelatin sheet to fit it.
Then screw the cover back on the eyepiece, just tight
enough to hold firm ly but not so tight as to wrinkle the
fi lter.
Gelatin fi lters are perfectly safe with Moon, p lanets,
and sta rs. Do NOT use them when looki ng at the Sun
th roug h a telescope (see page 67).
For the Moon, neutra l fi lters cut down g lare. Pola rizing
fi lters, or Pola roid, reduce i ntensity of backgrou nd light
when you a re observing in daylig ht.
For planets, use red, g reen, and blue fi lters. For
Jupiter and Venus i n daytime, use Wratten K2 or Polar
oid to reduce sky light intensity.
Some sky observers treat
themselves to an extra telescope. The owner of a long
focus instrument, used for p lanet study, gets himself a

1 40

short-focus "rich-field" for viewing broad star fields.

Another observer's 8-inch reflector is too big to take on
vacations; so he acquires a 50 mm. refractor. The
wou ld-be satellite tracker or meteor watcher whose
genera l-purpose 6-inch reflector provides a field of 2
o r less brings home a wide-field portable tracki ng scope.
Two telescopes of widely differing types mean variety
in observing. They a lso facilitate group observing.
Many amateurs have made their
own observatories, with peaked or flat roofs that can be
removed, opened, or slid out of the way. Some even
have domes. An observatory saves time a n d energy that
ordi narily go into carrying a n i nstrument a round and set
ting it up. A shelter gives p rotection from the wind, and
ma kes a convenient place for storing books, maps, and
equipment. Astronomical magazines give plans.


All equipment should be

i nspected frequently. Reflectors req uire q u ite frequent
checking of the collimation
(a lignment) of the diag
onal m irror or prism with
the objective and eye
piece. Improper a lignment
causes distortion.
Alignment is poor if the
objective lens or mirror is

Backyard observatory: T h e rota!

able dome, 8 feet wide, houses a

4-i nch refractor. Observatories
are usually u n heated, because
warmi ng would ca use a i r turbu
lence. (Gordon W. Smith)

Field of

Finder improperly a l igned: Sta r

is centered in the eyepi ece but
not i n the find er. The fi n d e r
s h o u l d be a d j u sted so t h a t the
object is centered in both.

not set exactly at right

angles to the tube; or if
the eyepiece is out of line;
or, i n reflectors, if the sec
ondary mirror needs ad
justment. Scratches on the
surfaces of objective or eyepieces a lso can blur i mages.
A fi nder should be checked often. Improper adjust
ment makes it hard to sight the telescope when high
powers are used and the field of view is, therefore, small.
There should be no p lay in the telescope mounting.
When moved to the desired position, the tube should
stay there without any springing back. If springing oc
curs, check the counterweight adjustment.
If the optica l surfaces of a telescope a re good, if
everything is a ligned, and if seeing is favorable, even
bright stars wi l l appear as sma l l, neat dots of light. In a
refractor, around these dots you may see one or two
faint concentric rings of light, ca l led diffraction rings.
These are normal in a n instrument of good qua lity.

If a telescope is taken from a warm

house out i nto the cold, it may perform poorly for 1 5
min utes o r more-until it becomes adjusted to the tem
perature change. The same is true if the instrument is
taken from a cold place to a warm one. Some observers
arrange a safe place for the telescope in an unheated
garage or barn.
I n winter, don't try to observe from a warm room with


1 42

the telescope pointed out the window. Mixing of cold

and warm air currents wil l make the images boil.
After observing, the open end of the tube of a re
flector should be covered with a bag or cap for protec
tion against d ust. (Protectors can be made with card
board, chamois, or p lastic.) A refractor should be simi
larly protected. If the reflector is open at the mirror end,
this shou ld be covered, or the mirror itself capped.
If you ta ke a telescope from cold air into a warm
room, don't cover it u nti l any dew that has formed on
the lens or mirror has disappeared. Otherwise spotti ng
of the optical surfaces may occur. Do not try to remove
the moisture with a cloth . Wait until it has evaporated;
then remove dust with a camel's-hair brush.
Make a box in which the telescope tube ca n be snugly
stored. Remove the eyepiece before storing. Keep eye
pieces in a sepa rate, padded, dustproof box. Remember
that jolting tends to put optica l parts out of line, espe
cially in reflectors.



Misa lign ment is the

most com mon ai lment of
reflectors, but well-made
o n e s h a v e a d j usta b l e
parts, so a lignment ca n be
corrected. In a Newtonian
reflector (the most common

Alignment of optical system: A

good i nstrument properly a ligned

shows stars and planets as neat
points or d isks (left). Poor align
ment causes ragged or distorted
images ( right).


1 43

type), take measurements to see that the diagona l

mirror or prism is centered in the tube. Next, look into
the tube from the open end. The diagona l should be
centered against its en larged reflection in the mirror;
if not, adjust mirror. Final ly, look straight through the
eyepiece-holder opening at the diagona l. If its reflection
is not centered, adjust diagona l (see drawings below).
Cleaning of lenses
and mirrors must be done properly. A tiny piece of grit
on cloth or paper used for wipi ng the lens or mirror may
leave scratches that permanently impair performance.
Never rub a lens or mirror; never touch the optica l sur
face with your fi ngers. Remove dirt by dusting with a
camel's-hair brush . If further cleaning is needed, the lens
or mirror can be dabbed (not rubbed !) gently with a
mild soap-and-water solution, then rinsed thoroughly i n
clear water and a l lowed t o dry in the air.
Eyepieces should not be imm ersed . They a re p recisely
assem bled and should not be ta ken apart except by a
person who knows how. For instructions on cleaning eye
pieces and objectives, consult books on te lescopes.

Align ment of ob jective in a New

tonian reflector: Both the diag
o n a l a n d its reflection m u st be
centered when viewed th rough
open e n d of the tu be.



Distance of diagonal from objec

tive in a reflector: Reflection
be centered as seen
throug h eyepiece-ho l d e r opening
with eye close to holder.

lightly d ust optica l pa rts frequently. Beyond that,

freq uent cleaning can be as bad as none at a l l . lenses
and mirrors that are subjected to no more than normal
dust, dewing, and chemical action of the atmosphere
may need cleaning only once a year.
Remem ber: slight soi ling is not so bad as scratched
g lass or a badly worn mirror coati ng due to excessive
zea l a bout cleaning.
Eventual ly the mirror of a
reflector wi l l need recoating. Si lver coati ngs may last as
little as six months; aluminum coatings may do for many
years. The coating of mirrors is a job strictly for the pro
fessionals who advertise i n astronomical magazines.
When your telescope is in use, be sure that all parts
move easi ly. If any part works hard, never try to force
it. Find out what is wrong before using it any further.
Hint: check clamps in right ascension and declination.
Some moving parts may req uire lu brication. This
should be done with the freq uency and kind of lubricant
recommended by the man ufacturer.
Most refractors come equipped with a dew cap that
fits tightly over the objective. Use it while observi ng. It
helps to keep dew from forming on the lens. If a dew
cap is not i ncluded i n your equipment, you can make
one out of a card boa rd tube. Paint the i n side black-a
flat black. Make sure of a tight fit, a n d let the tube
extend beyond the objective a bout 6 to 9 inches.
Proper care and maintenance wi l l add to the life of
equipment a n d vastly i ncrease the p leasure it gives you.
If you want to make your own reflecting telescope,
check relia ble magazines or books (pages 1 46- 1 47) for
suitable designs. Such a p roject wi l l tax your ski l l and
your patience, but it can be very rewarding.

1 45

Incidental Information
S o m e Amate u r O bserv i n g G ro u ps
American Association of Va riable Sta r Observers (AAVSO), 1 87 Concord
Ave. , Cambridge, MA 0 2 1 38. Worldwide; largest group of amateurs doing
ser i ous wor k . Members' observations of variable stars ore processed and
made available to astronomers throughout the worl d . Other divisions:
sunspots; photoelectric photometry.
American Meteor Society (AMS), Dept. af Physics and Astronomy, State
U niv. , Geneseo, NY 1 4454 . Stresses visual and telescopic observations of
Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO), Box 3AZ, U n iver
sity Park, NM 88003 . Informal i nternational group studies Moon, planets,
etc. Section recorders supervise systematic work .
Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ), % Carter Observ
atory, P. O . Box 2909, Welli ngton C. 1 , N. Z . Sections do variable-star
observing, telescope making, lunar and planetary observing, and computing.
For Refere nce

The Astronomical Almanac (Superintendent of Documents, Washington,

D . C . 20402) : U p-to-date i nformation about Sun, Moon, planets, occulta
tions, and ecli pses .
Observer's Handbook (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto,
Canada): Handy gu ide to celestial events. Many tables .
Astronomical Calendar ( Dept. of Physics, Furman U n iversity, Greenville,
N C 296 1 3): Ca lendar of celestia l events plus many useful tables and charts.
Atlases Eclipticalis, Boreal i s, and Austra l i s (Sky Publishing Corp . , Cam
bridge, MA) . E c l i pticolis contains 32 charts, from + 30 to - 30, and stars
to 9th magnitude. Spectral types indicated by color. Borealis, a companion
to Ecliptica lis, has 24 charts, from + 30 to + 90. Australis has 24 charts,
from - 30 to - 90.
Atlas of the H eavens, by A. Becvar (Sky Publishing Corp . , Cambridge,
MA): Charts of entire sky show stars to magnitude 7. 75, with c lusters,
nebulas, double stars, and variables.
Norton's Star Atlas and Telescopic H a ndbook, by Arthur P. Norton (Sky
Publishing Corp . , Cambridge, MA): Maps of entire sky show stars to
magnitude 6, with c lusters, nebulas, galaxies, and variables. Many pages
of valuable information .
Pop u l a r Star Atlas (Ga l l and lngliss). A fine small atlas, based on Norton's,
showing stars to magnitude 5Y2.

1 46


Astronomy ( 6 2 5 E . St. Paul Ave . , Mi lwaukee, WI 5 3 2 0 2 ; monthly): A

magazine for the amateur; recommended for beg inners.
Sky a n d Telescope (Sky Publishing Corp . , Cambridge, MA; monthly): Fore
most popu lar magazine on astronomy. News; authoritative; illustrated
articles; departments.
The Stroll i ng Astronomer (Walter Haas, Box 3AZ, University Park, NM
88003): Journal of Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. Articles
on planets, Moan, etc .


Amate u r Telescope Making, compiled by Albert G . Inga l l s (Scientific Amer

ican, Inc . , 4 1 5 Madi son Ave . , New York): Rich in practical information
about telescopes. 3 val s .
Astronomy, b y Fredrick and Baker (Van Nostrand Reinhol d , N e w York, N Y ) :
Standard text.
Astrophotogra p hy Basics (Eastman Kodak Co. , Rochester, NY 1 4650): One
of the best i ntroductions.
Burnha m's Celest i a l H a n d book ( Dover Publications, New York): Descrip
tive catalog and reference book . Each constel lation with tables, descriptions
of objects, many maps and photographs.
Celest i a l O bjects for Common Telescopes, Vol . I I , by Rev. T. W. Webb
(Dover Publications, New York): Describes nearly 4 , 000 i nteresting objects.
A Field Guide to the Stars and Pla nets, 2nd ed . , by Donald Menzel and
Jay Pasachoff ( H oughton Mifflin Co . , Boston): Exceptionally good maps;
useful combinations of photographs with atlas; fine maps of Moon; tables.
Ma k ing Your Own Telescope, by Allyn J. Thompson (Sky Publishing Corp . ,
Cambridge, MA) : Directions for 6-inch reflector.
Skyg uide: A Field Guide for Amateur Astronomers, by Mark R. Char
trand (Golden Press, N ew York): Technical explanations and constellations
vividly i l lustrated ; many practical h i nts on observing; mythological and
historical origins of constel lations.
Skyshoot i n g , by R . N. and M. W. Maya ll ( Dover Publications, New York):
Layman's guide to photography of heavens.
Stars, by H . S . Zim and R . H . Baker (Golden Press, New York): Pocket guide
with much practical i nformation. Richly i l l ustrated.
Stars of the Southern Heavens, by J ames Nangle {Angus and Robertson,
Sydney, Austra lia): For observers in southern latitudes .
The Stars Belong to Everyone, by Helen Sawyer Hogg ( Doubleday, Inc . ,
New York): Enjoyable book o n events i n astronomy.
Va riable Stars, by W. Strohmeier ( Pergamon Press, New York): Excellent an
variables; describes types; many tables and l ight curves.

1 47

Maps of the Heavens

T h e c h a rts o n t h i s a n d the
f o l l o w i n g p a g e s have been p re
pared expressly for use with this
book. T h e accu racy of t h e c h a rts
is con siste n t with t h e i r size.
A b o u t 1 ,500 stars, d own to 5th
m a g n it u d e ,
a re
pl otted
Epoch 1 900. A l l t h e v a r i a b l es,
d o u b l e stars, n ovas1 g a l a x i es,
and n e b u l a s l isted el sewhere in
the book are located. Symbols
a re e x p l a i ned i n keys beneath
the cha rts.
Where two stars a re too cl ose
to s h ow sepa rately, a s i n g l e d i sk
with a l i n e t h r o u g h it r e p rese nts
bot h . Both may be d e s i g n ated,
e . g . ' '.; o r only o n e may be
d e s i g n a t e d , e . g . 2
Some of the c u stomary con

stel l a t i o n o u t l i n es have been

altered. C o n n ecti n g lines be
tween stars a re d rown more to
help t h e observer "gel a r o u n d "
t h a n to represent myt h o l o g i c a l
fi g u res.
The c h a rts a re i n fi ve pa rts:
three for t h e e q u a to r i a l reg i o n ,
f r o m + 46 to - 46 , a n d two
for the pol a r regions, f r o m
+ 90 to + 44 a n d from - 90
to - 44 .
A l o n g the lop of each e q u a
t o r i a l c h a rt a p pear i n d ica t i o n s
of r i g h t asce n s i o n , a n d at e a c h
s i d e , decl i n a t i o n . O n t h e p o l a r
cha rts, r i g h t asce n s i o n i s m a r k e d
a r o u n d the e d g e , a n d decl i n a
t i o n whe re conve n i e n t .

1 48

{continued on


1 56)

Nebula +



Double star ....

N o va

+ Noo

Star magnitudes

3 5











J\l n r

Y,( {

North C i rcumpolar
Constel lations

+ 30'




-30 '

y e Cae


1 50

Stor magn;tvdes

3 4

- - -

--- -- I


L v --


/3 L _ -,


Nebula +
Cluster ;f.

ll e



+ 40 '

+ 30 '

+ 20 '

+ 10

I '



r ei




- -


Constellation boundaries - - - Star paHerns -- -- --


Double star ...

Nova +No a

Variable stors





Cor Corol1


Nebula +

L ---,





1 - - __)

, - __

Constellation boundarie' - - - Star pattern,.- -- --


Double star Nova + NoYo

1 >-

Y .c 1

Variable stars


Vor T Vor

Star magnitudes

3 4 5

Nebula +


A U G U ST 1

Constellation boundaries
Star paHerns -- ___

Double star ...

Novo + Noa

Variable stan

Vat +


Dates a l o n g t h e bottom of
each e q u a torial c h a rt show the
time of y e a r when each con
ste l l ation is m ost conveniently
p l a ced for viewi n g ; that is,
when it reaches its hig hest point
a bove the horizon (the merid i a n )
a t 9 p . m . A sta r a r rives at the
merid ian 4 m i n utes e a r l i e r each
n ig ht.
E q u atorial c h a rts are used
when you are fac i n g away from
the poles; polar c h a rts, when
facing t h e poles.
O n l y observers at the eq uator
can see all pa rts of the heavens
shown by these c h a rts. Obse rv
ers in t h e northern hemisphere
c a n n ot see some part of the
southern skies, a n d to observers
in the southern hem isphere some
part of the northern skies is
A n observer at + 40 latitude
theoretic a l l y has a southern h o
rizon that c uts the celestial
sphere a t - 50 declination.
But seldom c a n we satisfactorily
obse rve a n y o b ject within 1 0
of t h e horizon. Therefore the
usefu l
+ 40 l atitude w o u l d be at
a b o u t - 40 d e c l i nation . For o
southern observer at - 40 l ati
tude, the usefu l northern horizon
would be at + 40 .
Drew a horizontal l i n e on
each eq uatorial c h a rt to show
your useful observing horizon.
Then y o u c a n always tell at a
g l a nce which objects are too far
south or north for you.

1 56


Nebula +
Cluster ;f.

Double star ...

Star magnitudes

3 4 s




South C i rcumpolar
Conste l lations



\ :1.



Variable stars



Vor e

Constellation boundaries
Star patterns --

__ _

Among topics l isted in this i ndex are the 88 constellations s h own o n
t h e sta r m a p s (pages 1 48-1 57), wit):. their common names. P a g e n u m
bers in boldface i n d icate pages where su bjects are i l l ustrated .
AAVSO-see A m e r i c a n
Association of
V a r i a b l e Star
A c h e r n a r , 1 04, 1 57
Ad h a r a , 1 04, 1 50
A l q i reo, 1 05, 1 06, 1 55
A l c o r a n d M i z a r , 1 06 ,
1 08, 1 48
A l d e b a r a n , 1 04, 1 50
A l g o l , 1 07, 1 1 0- 1 1 3, 1 49
A l i g n me n t , c h e c k i n g ,
1 43 - 1 44
A l m a n a c s , 1 46
A l p h a C e n ta u r i , 1 04,
1 57
Alpha Crucis,
26, 1 04, 1 57
A l p h o n s u s , 63, 65
A l t a i r , 1 04, 1 55
Altazimuth mounting,
1 8, 3 5 - 36, 3 7
A m e r i c a n Assoc i a t i o n
of V a r i a b l e Star
Observers, 1 1 2 - 1 1 3 ,
1 46
A m e r i c a n Meteor
Society, 1 46
Andromeda, 1 48 , 1 5 1 ,
1 54
Andromeda n e b u l a ,
1 1 6, 1 5 1
Antares, 1 04, 1 55
A n t l i a ( T h e P u m p ) , 1 53
A p u s ( B i r d of

Parad ise), 1 57

A q u a r i u s (Water
C a r r i e r ) , 24, 25, 1 54
A q u i l a ( Ea g l e ) , 1 54,
1 55
Ara ( A l t a r ) , 1 57
Arcturus, 1 04, 1 52
A r i e s ( R a m ) , 24, 25, 1 5 1
Ari starc h u s , 6 5
Assoc i a t i o n of L u n a r
a n d P l a netary
O bservers, 1 46
Aste r o i d s , 24, 26, 86-88
Astra-camera, 1 26- 1 27
Astronauts, 6 1
A t l a ses, star, 1 0- 1 1 ,
45-50, 1 46

1 58

Atmospheric effects,
29 -30, 39, 56, 57
Auriga ( C h a r i otee r ) ,
1 49, 1 50
A u roras, 70, 75-77;
d r a w i n g , 1 24 ;
photogra p h m g ,
1 30- 1 3 1 , 1 33
B a r l o w l e n s , 39, 1 22,
1 38, 1 39
Be l l a t r i x , 1 04, 1 50
Beta Centa u r i , 1 04, 1 57
Beta C r u c i s , 26, 1 04,
1 57
Bete l g e u s e , 3 1 , 32, 34,
1 04, 1 50
Big D i pper, 22, 33,
1 48 , 1 53
B i n o c u l ars, 7 1 1 - 1 2, 33
Books, 1 0, 1 4o - 1 47
Bootes ( H erdsm a n ) ,
1 48, 1 52
C oe l u m ( B u r i n ) , 1 50,
1 57
C a m e l opard a l i s
( G i ra ff e ) , 1 48
C a meras, 8, 1 25 - 1 32
C a n c e r ( C ra b ) , 25,
1 50, 1 53
Canes Venatici
( H u n t i n g Dog s ) ,
1 48, 1 52
C a n i s M a j o r (Great
Dog ) , 1 50
Canis Minor ( little
Dog ) , 1 50
C a n o p u s , 1 04, 1 57
C a pe l l a , 1 04, 1 48 , 1 50
C o p r i c o r n u s (Goa t ) ,
2 5 , 1 54
C a r i n a ( Ke e l of S h i p
Arg o ) , 1 57
C a s s i o p e i a , 1 49, 1 54
Ca stor, 1 04, 1 06, 1 50
C e l e s t i a l sphere, 2 0
C e n t a u r u s ( C e n ta u r } ,
1 52, 1 53, 1 57
C e p h e u s ( K i n g ) , 1 49
Cetus ( W h a l e ) , 1 5 1 , 1 54
C h a m a e l e o n , 1 57

C h a rts-se e Sta r s :
cha rts
C i rc i n u s (Compasse s ) ,
1 57
C l o c k d r i v e, 1 28 , 1 38
C l u sters, 32, 50-51 , 1 05,
1 08- 1 09, 1 1 0 ( t a b l e ) ;
photog r a p h i n g , 1 3 1
C o a 1 Sack, 44
C o l u mba ( D ove ) , 1 50
Coma Berenices
( Be r e n i c e ' s H a i r ) , 1 52
C o m ets, 4 , 94-97, 1 00,
1 3 1 , 1 33
C o n j u n c t i o n s , 80
C o n ste l l a t i o n s , 3 1 -32,
1 03; c h a n g e w i t h
s e a s o n s , 23; maps,
1 48- 1 57 ; zod iac , 24-25
C o o i n ates, u s e of,
47, 48, 49-53
C orona A u stra l i s
( S o u t h e r n C rown ) ,
1 55
Corona Borea l i s
( N o rthern C row n ) ,
1 52, 1 55
C o r v u s ( C ro w ) , 1 52, 1 53
C o u nterg l o w , 77
C r a b N e b u l a , 1 1 9, 1 20,
1 21
C rater ( C u p ) , 1 52, 1 53
C r u x ( C r o s s ) , 1 57

Cyg nus (Swa n ) , 27,

1 48, 1 54, 1 55

Dawes' l i m i t , 1 7
D e c l i n a t i o n , 45; c i r c l e ,
Delphinus (Dolphin) ,
1 54
Deneb, 1 04, 1 48, 1 54
Dew cap, 1 07, 1 45
D i a g o n a l star, 1 4, 37
D i rect i o n s in s k y , 3.4
D i stances, e s t i m a t i n g ,
3 2-33
D o rado ( G o l d f i s h ) , 1 57
D o u b l e c l u ster, 1 03,
1 09, 1 1 0, 1 47
D o u b l e stars, 1 05, 1 06
(tab l e ) , 1 07 , 1 08

Draco ( D ra g o n ) , 1 49
D r a w i n g sky o b j ects,
1 22 - 1 24

H y d r u s , 1 57

E a rth s h i n e , 55
E c l i p se" d r a w i n g , 1 24;
lunar, 63-65 ;
p h o t o g ra p h i n g , 1 29,
1 32 ; s o l a r, 70-73, 1 3 2
E c l i p t i c , 24-25
E l o n g a t i o n , 80
E p s i l o n lyrae, 1 05, 1 08,
1 55
Equatorial mounting,
1 0, 35, 1 3 8
E q u i n o x , v e rn a l , 48
E q u i p m e n t : basic,
1 0 - l 9 ; c a re of, 1 4 1 1 45 ; extra, 1 3 8- 1 4 1
E q u u l e u s ( C o l t ) , 1 54
E r i d a n u s ( R i v e r ) , 1 50,
1 5 1 , 1 57
Eta Carinae nebula, 40
Even i n g star, 79, 83, 92
Eyepieces, 1 5- 1 7, 3 8 - 3 9 ;
m u l t i p l e , 1 39;
s e l e ct i n g , 3 8 - 3 9 ;
speci a l , 3 9 , 1 39 ;
s t o r i n g , 1 43
E y e s , use o f , 30-3 1 ,
4 1 -42

J u l i a n d a y , 1 36
J u p aer, 4 , 36, 79, 88;
d ra w i n g , 1 24; m o o n s ,
7, 8, 88-89; occu l t a l i o n , 64-65

F i e l d of v i e w , 1 2 , 3 8 - 3 9
F i l m s , 1 29 - 1 32
F i lters, c o l o r , 1 39- 1 40
F i nd e r , 4 1 , 1 42
F i re ba l l , 98
Focal l e n g t h , 1 5
F o r m a l h a ut, 49-50, 1 04 ,
1 54
Fornax ( Furnace), 1 5 1
Ga l a x i e s, 1 02 , 1 1 6,
1 1 7, 1 20 ( t a b l e )
Geg e n s c h e i n , 7 6
Ge m i n i ( Tw i n s ) , 2 5 ,
1 50, 1 53
Greek a l p h a bet, 46
Grus ( C r a n e ) , 1 54, 1 57
Halo, lunar, 56
H e r c u l e s , 1 48, 1 52 , 1 55;
c l u ster, 4, 32, 50
( m a p ) , 1 09
H o ro l o g i u m ( C l oc k ) ,
1 57
H o u r a n g l e , 52
H o u r c i r c l e , 53
H yades, 1 09, 1 50
H y d ro (Sea Serpe n t ) .
1 52, 1 53

I n d u s ( I nd i a n ) , 1 56

lace rta ( l i z a rd ) , 1 49,

1 54
leo ( l i o n ) , 25, 1 53
leo M i n o r ( l i t t l e l i o n ) ,
1 48, 1 53
l e p u s ( H a r e ) , 1 50
l i bra (Sca l e s ) , 25, 1 52
l i g h t - g a t h e r i n g power,
1 4, 1 5 , 1 7
l i t t l e D i p per, 26, 1 49
loca t i n g objects, 3 1 -34,
low e l l , Perciva l , 9 3
lunar p h e n o m e n a -see
l u p u s ( W o l f ) , 1 52 ,
1 55, 1 57
l y n x , 1 48, 1 50, 1 53
lyra ( l y r e ) , 1 55
M 1 3 c l u ster, 4 , 32, 50,
1 09, 1 53
M 3 1 n e b u l a , 1 1 6, 1 1 7,
1 20, 1 49
M42 n e b u l a , 3 1 , 1 1 8,
1 25, 1 48
M44 custer, 1 1 0, I l l ,
M 8 1 n e b u l a , 52, 1 47
M a g a z i n e s , 1 47
M a ge l l a n i c C l ou d s ,
1 2 1 , 1 57
M a g n i f y i n g power,
1 2, 1 3 , 1 5- 1 7, 27,
M a g n i tu d e s , 26; v i s i b l e
i n objectives o f
various sizes, 1 4
M a p s , star, 1 48 - 1 57
Mars, 5, 78, 84-87;
d e ta i l s o n , 43, 86;
d r a w i n g , 1 24 ; f i l te r
used for, 1 40 ;
o p p o s i t i o n s , 87
Mec h a n i c a l d r i ve s ,
1 28, 1 3 8
Mensa ( T a b l e
M o u n ta i n ) , 1 57
Mercury, 78-83;
transit, 8
M e s s i e r l i st, 1 06
Meteorites, 99, 1 00

Mete o r s, 4, 98-1 0 1 ,
1 30 - 1 3 1 , 1 34
M i c roscop i u m
( M i croscope ) , 1 54
M i l k y W a y , 44, 1 04 - 1 05
Minor p l a n e t s , 24, 26,
M i ra ( O m icron Ceti ) ,
1 1 1 , 1 1 2, 1 1 4, 1 5 1
M i rror o f reflector, 1 4,
1 6, 1 43 - 1 44
M i z a r a n d AI cor, 1 06,
1 08, 1 48
Monoceros ( U n i co rn } ,
1 50, 1 53
M o o n , 4, 54-65;
c o l o r s , 56-57;
craters, 58-63, 1 22 ;
d ra w i n g , 1 22- 1 23;
e c l i p s e , 63-65, 1 29 ;
far side, 6 1 ;
features, 60-62 ; h a l o ,
56; magn ifications,
1 2 , 38-39; mop, 58;
p h a s e s , 55, 60;
p h otog ra p h i n g , 1 3 2
Morn i n g star, 79, 83,
92 ( ta b l e )
M o u n t i n g s-see
A l ta z i m u l h ;
M u sca ( F l y ) , 1 57
N e b u l a s , 4, 40, 52,
1 1 7- 1 2 1 ; d r a w i n g , 6,
1 24; p h o t o g ra p h i n g ,
1 3 l ; r i n g , 4, 1 1 9, 1 30
N e p t u n e , 79, 9 1 -92, 9 3
( ma p )
N o r m a ( le ve l ) , 1 52, 1 57
N o r t h Star, 26, 1 49
N o r t h e r n l i g htssee A u roras
Novas, 4 , 1 1 4, 1 1 5
Objective, 1 2- 1 7
Observatory, 1 4 1
Occu l t a t i o n s , 64-65
Octans (Octa n t ) . 1 57
O m i cron Ceti-see
M i ra
O p h i u c h u s (Serpent
Beare r ) , 1 55
O p p o s i t i o n , 80- 8 1
Organizations, a m ateur,
9, 1 1 2 - 1 1 5, 1 46
O r i o n , 3 1 -32, 1 50 ;
n e b u l a , 3 1 , 1 1 8 , 1 25
1 48; s t a r t ra i l s , 1 27
Pavo ( P e a cock) , 1 57

1 59

Pegasus ( F l y i n g Horse) ,
1 5 1 , 1 54
P e r s e u s , 1 48, 1 50, 1 5 1 ;
d o u b l e c l u ster, 1 03 ,
1 09, 1 1 0, 1 47
P h o e n i x , 1 5 1 , 1 54, 1 56
Photography, 8 ,
1 25- 1 32
P i ctor ( P a i n ter o r
E a se l ) , 1 50, 1 57
P i sces ( F i s h e s ) , 24
1 5 1 , 1 54
P iscis Austrin u s
( S o u t h e r n F i s h ) , 1 54
P l a n et o i d s - s e e
Aste r o i d s
P l a nets, 78-93;
b r i g h t n e s s , 27;
deta i l o n , 42 ;
d ra w i n g , 1 23 - 1 24;
i n fe r i o r , 80; l oca t i n g ,
8 0 , 92 ( t a b l e ) ; m i n o r ,
24, 2 6 , 8 6 - 8 8 ; m o t i o n ,
24; p h otogra p h i n g ,
1 3 2; s u pe r i o r , 80,
t a b l e of data, 85
P l a n i sphere, 1 1 , 3 1
P l e i a d e s , 2 8 , 1 08 - 1 09,
P l u to, 93
P o i nters, the, 33, 1 47
P o l a r i s , 26, 1 49
P o l l u x , 1 04, 1 50
Procyon, 1 04, 1 50
Prox i m a C e n ta u r i , 1 02
P u p p i s (Stern of s h i p
A r g o ) , 1 50, 1 53, 1 57
P y x i s ( C o m p a s s ) , 1 53

Q u a d r a t u r e , 80

R a i n bow, 74
Ref l ector, 7 - 8 , 1 0, 1 4,
1 6, 4 1 , 1 42 - 1 45 (see
a l so T e l e s copes)
Refractor, 7 - 8 , I 0, 1 4,
1 6, 4 1 , 1 42 - 1 45
( see a l so Tel escopes)
e g u l u s , 04, 1 53
esol v i n g power, 1 7, 1 8
R e t i c u l u m ( N e t ) , 1 57
Rho Ophiuchi region,
R i g e l , I 04, 1 50
R i g h t a s c e n s i o n , 45
R o y a l Astro n o m i c a l
S o c i e t y of N e w
Zea l a n d , 1 46

1 60

Sag itt a (Arrow ) , 1 54,

1 55
S a g i tta r i u s (Arc h e r ) ,
25, 1 54, 1 55
Satu r n , 1 9, 79, 8 9 - 9 2 ;
d r a w i n g , 1 24
Scorp i u s (Scorp i o n ) ,
2 5 , 1 52, 1 55
S c u l ptor, 1 5 1 , 1 54
S c u t u m ( S h i e l d ) , 1 55
See i n g cond i t i o n s ,
Serpens ( S e r p e n t ) ,
1 52, 1 55
Sett i n g c i rc l e s , 1 8 , 50-53
Sexta n s (Sexta n t ) , 1 53
S h a u l a , 1 04, 1 55
Shoot i n g stars-see
Sidereal time, 5 1 53,
1 36 - 1 37
S i r i u s , 1 04, 1 50
S k y : d i rections, 34;
d i stances, 32-33;
motion a n d appear
ance of, 2 1 -25
S o l a r observ i n g , 66-73
Solar p h e n o m e n a - see
S o l stices, 25
Southern C r oss, 26, 44,
1 57
Southern l i ghts-see
Au roras
S p i ca , 1 04, 1 52
Star d i ago n a l , 1 4 , 37
Stars, 1 02 - 1 1 5 ; a t l a ses,
1 46 ; b r i g htest
( ta b l e ) , 1 04 ; b y
seasons, 23 - 24 ;
c h a rts, 34, 4 3 , 5 3 ,
1 48 - 1 57 ( m o p s ) ;
c l u sters, 2 8 , 3 1 , 3 2 ,
5 0 , 1 08, 1 1 0 ( ta b l e ) ,
1 1 1 ; colors, 1 05, 1 06;
d e s i g n a t i o n s , 46;
d o u b l e , 1 05, 1 06
( ta b l e ) ; m a p s ,
1 48 - 1 57; m o t i o n s ,
2 1 - 24; m u l t i p l e , 1 05 ,
1 06 ( ta b l e ) , 1 08 ;
n a m e s , 46; tra i l s , 1 27 ,
1 30 ; v a r i a b l e , 53
( c h a rt ) , 1 09- 1 1 5, 1 1 3
( ta b l e ) . See a l so a s
l i sted by n a m e .
S u n , 66-73; c h a n g i n g
p a t h, 23; d e v i c e s f o r
obser.v i n g , 67-68;
d o g s , 75; e c l i p ses, 4 ,
70-73, 1 3 2; photo
g ra p h i n g , 1 3 2 ; p i l l a r ,

7 4 ; s p o t s , 4, 6 7 , 69-70
T a u r u s ( B u l l ) , 24, 1 50 ,
T e l e s c o p e s : a l i g n m e n t,
1 43- 1 44 ; d e s i g n s , 1 3 1 8; homemade, 7 , 8 ,
9 ; m a i ntenance, 1 4 1 1 4 5; m o u n t i n g s , 1 0,
1 8 ; o r i e n t i n g , 35-37;
refract i n g v s . reflect
ing, 7-8, 10; r i c h
f i e l d , 1 07, 1 4 1 ;
s i g h t i n g , 40- 4 1 ; s o l a r
o b se r v i n g , 66-73
T e l e s co p i u m
( T e l e s c o p e ) , 1 56
T i m e , 1 35 - 1 37; s i derea l ,
5 1 -53, 1 36-1 37; s i g
n a l s , 6 5 ; zones, 1 35
Tom b a u g h , C l yde, 93
T r a n s i t s , 8, 83
Tria n g u l u m (Tria n g l e ) ,
1 51
T r i a n g u l u m Au stra l e
(Southern Triangle) ,
1 57
T u c a n a ( T o u ca n ) , 1 56

U r a n u s , 79, 9 1 , 93
U r s a M a j o r ( G reat
Bea r ) , 22, 33, 1 48 ,
1 53
U rsa M i n o r ( l i tt l e
Bear) , 2 6 , 1 49

V a r i a be stars, 1 09 - 1 1 5
Vega, 5 1 , 1 04, 1 55
V e l a ( sa i l s of s h : p
A r g o ) , 1 53, 1 57
V e n u s , 78, 79, 8 1 - 8 3
Vernal equinox, 48
V i rg o ( V i rg i n ) , 25, 1 53
V i s i o n , 30- 3 1 ; averted,
3 1 , 42
Volens ( F l y i n g F i s h ) ,
1 57
V u l pecu l a ( F o x ) , 1 54,
1 55

Z o d i a c, 24-25, 7 8
Z o d i a ca l l i g h t , 75-76



NEWTON and MARGARET MAYALL are well known

among both professional and amateur astronomers. Mr.

Mayall, who is a consulting engineer, has been active in
astronomy since youth . Mrs . Mayall, formerly Pickering
Memorial Astronomer at Harvard Observatory, is Direc
tor Emeritus of the American Association of Variable Star
Observers (AAVSO), the largest organization of active
amateurs .
JEROME WYCKOFF has edited many popular books on

science. He is the author of The Story of Geology and co

author of the Golden Guide Landforms. An amateur as
tronomer himself, Mr. Wyckoff has been a member of
AAVSO for many years.

The late JOHN POLGREEN, a devoted amateur astrono

mer, once made his own 8-inch reflector. Mr. Polgreen
and his wife Cathleen, both members of AAVSO, spent
countless evenings sketching moon and planets . Mr. Pol
green's paintings appear in The Golden Book of Astronomy
and other popular books . With Mrs. Polgreen he wrote
and illustrated The Earth in Space.
HERBERT S. ZIM, Ph . D. , Sc . D. , an originator and former

editor of the Golden Guide Series, was also an author for

many years . Author of some ninety books and editor of
about as many, he is now Adjunct Professc;>r at the Uni
versity of Miami and Educational Consultant to the Amer
ican Friends Service Committee and other organizations.
He works on educational, population and environmental