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Free Guide to Naked-Eye Astronomy 80

Tammy Plotner, president of Warren Rupp Observatory, writes "Are you looking for all the best of what's up in the night sky for the year 2007? Then be my guest and download my free — '365 Days of SkyWatching'! (Brought to you courtesy of The Universe Today.) Each day is specifically geared to give you the best of what can be seen with the unaided eye, binoculars, and small telescopes and even has challenge objects for seasoned observers. It's beautifully illustrated and contains many special features, such as anotated lunar maps. Please feel free to pass it along to anyone in the astronomy community and enjoy!" For anyone who'll be in that neck of the woods (central Ohio) next October, Warren Rupp's Hidden Hollow event looks really fun.
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Free Guide to Naked-Eye Astronomy

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  • This looks like something that will keep me occupado for quite a few nights.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:00AM (#17387278) Homepage Journal
    Even though the title says 365 days of sky watching, I feel I must let you in on a secret:

    Wait until night time to do your sky watching, it will be better than staring at a blue screen ;)

    Please note also, the police will not believe your story about downloading a book from the internet which told you to stand naked in the neighbours garden at 3am with binoculars and a camera (don't ask how I know this).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Naked... WOOHOO! Eye Astronomy? What? WHAT?
  • "Planet eye for the space guy". Or maybe not.
  • You'll need these (Score:5, Informative)

    by chanrobi ( 944359 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:10AM (#17387376)
    Although each day is fairly descriptive and tells you about a new object, it doesn't tell you where to find it. Here's what the book recommended:

    The first one is a downloadable program, the second is web based. For the open source crowd i'd recommend Stellarium. []

    Celestia is also interesting in that it allows you to travel off the surface the earth. More akin to Starry Night pro. Not as useful to accompany the guide but fun to play around with. Also open source. []

    Have Fun!
    • And for kde users there's kstars: []

      It usually comes bundled in the education package along with some other useful apps.

    • Here [] is an open-source planetarium applet I wrote. It can be convenient because you can just bookmark it in your browser, and you don't need to click around. In most cases, it does a pretty good job of guessing your location based on your language and timezone, e.g., since my language is English and my timezone is PST, it guesses I'm in Los Angeles, which is correct. Even if you were in, say, San Francisco, it would still be roughly correct.

      Here [] is a viewing guide I wrote for binocular astronomy. Doing

    • by Barryke ( 772876 )
      Smurfs rule.
  • Anyone got a mirror? Anyone? Bueller?
  • Unfortunately, there is too much light pollution where I live to make astronomy, naked eye or not, very productive. The best I've ever done was see Jupiter's bands + 4 moons with a little 5 inch reflector. (And I was happy I could see that much.)
    • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:24AM (#17387506)
      I'm with you on that one... if only cities would implement street lights and other infrastructure light fixtures that reflect light downward, they'd be able to use lower wattage bulbs and not only save lots of money in electricity, but give us darker night skies too.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
        My city did that. It's one of the most illuminated cities in the world. Five years ago you could see about six stars, if you were lucky. Now you can almost make out the Milky Way if the conditions are perfect.
        • by Apotsy ( 84148 )
          What city is that? Also, are they using the de-facto standard high pressure sodium vapour lamps, or something else?
          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
            Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

            They're supposed to be low pressure sodium vapour. They're low profile, so instead of a curved glass shield they have a flat one, that doesn't project out past the metal cover so all the light goes down. The metal cover is a different shape too, maybe it helps direct more light downwards.

            Apparently the city saves something like ten million a year due to the lower wattage bulbs.
            • How did it happen? I mean, what were the politics?

              I'm interested, as I would like to have a notion what it would take to organize people to get our city (Sydney) to adopt such a policy. And do you have any idea what the cost of the change had been? In other words, what are the economics?

              I appreciate any pointers (that save me googling time, as there will still be enough of that to do).
            • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
              Ah, Calgary... when I lived in Great Falls MT, we considered Calgary to be our northern sister-city :)

              I wish the city (Palmdale/Lancaster CA) would do something similar, but nooo, I swear they use the most light-polluting lamps they could find. I'm 15 miles out of town, and 5 years ago nights out here were dead-black. Now, what with all the new development and heavy lighting that's ONLY in these newer housing areas -- you can't even see the main swath of the Milky Way anymore. :(

              Conversely our new WalMart h
    • It has really become a problem in the last 20 years with the two great housing bubbles driving sprawl further and further out. I now have to drive 5.5 hours to get a real dark site ... one where you can clearly see the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye.
    • Luxury!
      We used to live in a wet paper bag 'long side the road.
      On those few days when we didn't have to get up half an hour before we went to bed, we'd polish large flat rocks with bits of sand, use those to gaze up at the sky. And we were happy we could see the sky!
    • If you could make out atmospheric bands on Jupiter, then you could easily make out the rings of Saturn or the phases of Venus. And with a nebula filter (and even without), you should have no trouble eeking out many deep sky objects. There are quite a few nebulae (such as those in Orion) and clusters (both open and globular) that are brighter than magnitude 6 and should be reachable under fairly light-polluted skies. Not to mention various double stars that can be split with a 5". Heck, the moon, an obje
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just wondering how many of those days will be clear. if you live in Manhattan you don't really see any stars

    Denis The SQL Menace []
  • by burris ( 122191 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:17AM (#17387430)
    Good luck getting your neighbors to turn off their "security" lights.
    • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:21AM (#17387470)
      Good luck getting your neighbors to turn off their "security" lights.

      Well, now that I got my Red Rider 200-shot lever action air rifle that won't be as hard as it was last summer.
      • Just be careful you don't shoot your eye out.
      • by dan dan the dna man ( 461768 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:40AM (#17387704) Homepage Journal
        From my local astro mailing list:

        "My real bug bear are security lights. I believe that the government has
        introduced legislation so that troublesome security lights can be removed.

        About 20 years ago, one of my neighbours - Brian - installed a security
        light over his garage. It provided no real protection for the house and the
        only real benefit was to provide Brian's dog with some illumination for his
        noctural pee.

        And every time Brian's security light went on, oops, there goes any dark
        adaption or time exposure. Discussions with Brian proved 'ineffective'. The
        only solution was the one recommended by Patrick Moore - an airgun. He
        could never figure why so many of his bulbs died so frequently and so
        spectacularly. (They really do go with a fearsome bang!)" :)
      • by Tongo ( 644233 )
        You're gonna shoot your eye out kid.
  • Anyone else accidentally mis-read the title? I certainly saw "Free Guide to Naked Astronomy", thought, "Who needs a guide for that?" and did a double-take.
  • I'm impressed... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:19AM (#17387448)
    Wow, a story that doesn't involve the **AA, bashing MS or being "censored" by the government? A story that actually involves geekdom beyond Star Wars? I'm impressed.

    Even the tin foil hat types will be at ease with this.

    BTW: I noted that the poster mentioned that they are from Ohio. I'm from Pittsburgh myself. Has anyone here gone to Cherry Springs for their star parties? It's only a few hours away and I hear it's fantastic because of a lack of light pollution. I'd be interested in hearing from others who have been there and how they felt about the area.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I've been to Cherry Springs several times and also attended the event at Spruce Knob in WV []. They sky is absolutely incredible to the point of the Milky Way actually casting a shadow. You'll often find dozens of astronomers on both fields during the new moon. []

      Check out the Yahoo group [] for Cherry Springs if you are interested in venturing up.
    • by dasimms ( 644188 )
      To eastcoast,

      I also live in 'daburgh. Unless you're already a member, I recommend joining the Pittsburgh Amateur Astronomers Association []. You'll get access to two observatories (Wagman and Mingo) and get to meet other stargazers. While the observatories are getting more light pollution you can still see a heck of a lot more than you might think. If you'd rather not join, or want to see what it is all about, you can go to a public star party. I believe the next one is Wagman's Winterfes

      • Thanks for the info.

        I actually live about 5 miles from Wagman. I use to be a AAAP member a few years ago but had gotten out of astronomy for a while and now I'm looking to get back into it again. In all likeliness I will rejoin.
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
      "Even the tin foil hat types will be at ease with this."

      Nonsense. As every tinfoil-hat wearer knows, Chicken Little may be RIGHT!!

  • by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:19AM (#17387454)
    read that as "Naked Astronomy" at first, or was it just me?

  • I tried it last year (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:28AM (#17387552)
    I used the 2006 ebook and I can say that this is pretty good stuff. There is content for many kind of instruments: double stars that require a 12" to separate to interesting phases of planets visible with binoculars. Did you know that you can see the Saturn rings with a 4"? Me neither but thanks to Tammy Plotner I was able to look at them. Next time that you are awake at 2am, take 30 mins, the ebook and binoculars and let the universe unravel before your eyes.

    You will want to upgrade your instrument after a few nights and you'll find plenty of tips on picking the right telescope in the ebook.
    • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @12:20PM (#17388214) Homepage
      Did you know that you can see the Saturn rings with a 4"?

      Absolutely. In fact, if the seeing is good, you can even make out the Encke Gap []. Not to mention detail you can make out in the atmospheres of both Saturn and Jupiter. Oh, and the phases of Venus. And a ton of deepsky objects, too (there are some lovely nebulae and globular clusters well within reach of a 4" reflector, even under light-polluted skies. Objects like the Wild Duck Cluster [] or Hercules Cluster [] are really quite breathtaking, especially after spending 20 minutes starhopping trying to track them down).

      Really, a decent 4" reflector coupled with a pair of lenses, which can be had for a few hundred bucks, can withstand many many nights of observing before a larger instrument becomes necessary.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by haystor ( 102186 )
      I was looking at Saturn last night with a 3" refractor. At only 80x magnification I could clearly see the rings (as one solid ring). There was clear separation of the rings from the planet. I was also able to see what I think were a few moons, I'm not too sure until I check the next few nights to see if they're moving with Saturn.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )
        Well, assuming the other poster was using a reflector, it's probably not a good one-to-one comparison, as refractors will provide a sharper image at a given aperture, which is why they're favourable for planetary observation (where their inherent problems with chromatic aberation are less of an issue).

        Reflectors, OTOH, allow for much larger apertures, making them favourable for deepsky observation.
  • Orange glow (Score:2, Funny)

    by PsyQo ( 1020321 )
    The only thing I see in the sky atm is an orange glow. Could it be a burning webserver?
  • I opened all articles of today in a tab and I saw: Free Guide to Naked and I was hoping for more interesting subjects
  • H.A. Rey (Score:2, Informative)

    by ajsnow ( 74369 )
    I flipped through a few pages (at amazon; it was already /.ed by the time I visited the link). Those star maps are ok. But for my money, by far the best guides to stargazing are the two books H.A. Rey wrote about it: The Stars: A New Way to See Them [] and Find the Constellations [] . I've never seen anyone else who actually makes stargazing as accessible they way he did -- his renderings of the consetllations actually make sense, unlike almost all the others I've seen. The books are for true beginners but
  • by Fraser Cain ( 203191 ) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @01:55PM (#17389434) Homepage
    Wow, I didn't think this would get onto Slashdot. Anyway, I enabled WP-cache, so the server can handle the load now.

    Here's a direct link to the book, just in case the server goes down again: s2007.pdf []
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 )
    Thanks, Tammy!
  • ...geared towards the naked eye, binoculars and small telescopes have pictures on the front cover of views that you'll never see with the naked eye, binoculars or a small telescope? Even "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide", the bible of backyard astromomers, has a stunning picture of the Andromeda galaxy on the cover that looks like it was taken by Hubble, or at least something the size of a truck.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fraser Cain ( 203191 )
      The cover picture was taken by R. Jay Gabany, using nice equipment, but nothing too extravagant - 20-inch reflector, I believe. The telescope he uses can be booked by the public, and controlled through the Internet.

      Here's more of his work: []
      • That's a $60,000 telescope in its own observatory in New Mexico. I'd love one of those beauties. It'll cost almost twice as much to do the upcoming remodel of the kitchen and bathroom in our house (SF Bay Area contractors...) but somehow it's harder justify that kind of expense on a telescope. Maybe in 20 years when I retire it won't seem so extravagant...
  • Personally, I found HNSky to be extremely helpful for finding the constellations, since it shows the sky as it looks at that exact moment in time, in reference to the horizon. It can also be used by any other level of astronomer, as it's very accurate and can be connected to a computer-guided telescope.
  • Is it really a good time to go looking for Iris (mag 7) when the nearly full moon is nearby in the sky? And worse, check out the Jan 4 story about observation of Sirius from the supposed island of Zylos [] in 11,542 BC.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham