Make Friends With The Stars

Published on Thursday, September 26, 2013 in , , , ,

Michael J. Bennett's night sky photoWhile going through Mental Floss' Be More Interesting columns mentioned in my previous post, their post on how to navigate with stars caught my attention.

I've posted on how to calculate the moon phase for any date in your head, so why not learn more about the rest of the night sky?

The advice in Mental Floss' star navigation post is good as far as it goes. Yes, there are really only a few constellations you need to know to find your way around the sky, but the column stops short of practical teaching.

A website called quietbay.net used to feature a great tutorial on finding the important constellations, but that site has vanished from the internet. Fortunately, the Internet Wayback Machine has come to the rescue!

Here is the archived version of quietbay's clear, visual, and interactive constellation tutorial. It only takes about 15-20 minutes for the full tutorial. Being an archived version, there are a few images missing here and there, and only once or twice are those missing images are essential to finding the stars in the tutorial, but overall, it's still quite workable, and will quickly teach you how to located Polaris, Betelgeuse, Orion, the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and even Jupiter, if it's in the sky.

You should also note that it's a northern hemisphere-based tutorial, so the constellation Crux isn't included. Unless you're viewing from the southern hemisphere or the northern tropics, you won't be able to see Crux. If you can see it, Crux is one of the easier constellations to locate.

Try out the tutorial, read the Wikipedia article on Crux, and practice with the real night sky, and you'll be amazed how quickly you can get a good, basic knowledge of the night sky!

UPDATE: This site goes as far back as 2003. This approach was turned into a book in 2010, titled Stikky Night Skies. It teaches 6 constellations, 4 stars, a planet, and a galaxy, and only takes about an hour to read. There is a sample tutorial on the book's website, teaching only about Orion and Betelguese.

If you'd like to learn more in this same way, I highly recommend Laurence Holt's Stikky Night Skies!

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