Observing Items for Newbies. Suggesions from Jay, maybe others.

So in a continued theme, I thought I would offer some advice to a newbie just starting out. In comments, free to modify, add, or tell why you wouldn't recommend a certain program I've listed.

When I first started out I would observe even under a full moon. I learned quickly that the full moon isn't very good for anything, but from the waxing gibbous through the waning gibbous phases, there were plenty of objects to go after, and they were not your traditional deep sky objects like galaxies, planetary nebula, nebula, etc. What I learned was instead of not observing during the these two phases and before for the waxing crescent and First Quarter, why not get a lunar filter and observe the moon?! Noble idea. Then I found another project to do that let me observe a deep sky object, double stars. I know that double star observing isn't for everyone, but during this time I found I really enjoyed splitting doubles, and observing them. I also found out about carbon stars which have some wonderful shades of red or reddish orange to them that I just love. That will be for another post on its own, carbon stars. So here are some suggestions to those just starting out.

So you know, all links go to the Astronomical League and to one of their observing programs. If your a member of a local club, many are part of the Astronomical League and if you complete a program you can get a nice certificate and a pin for some of them. For me the goal isn't the certificate, its all the fun I get to have observing the objects that are part of the program. Also, personally I don't have a time limit, I get done when I get done. Last, don't be afraid to NOT observe from a program if you want. Sometimes always doing a program can get old. Mix it up! When you do finish a program and as long as your club is a member of the Astronomical League, just find out who you need to pass your logs off with to get your goodies. So with no further adieu, here are some recommendations:

When the moon is in the waxing gibbous to the last quarter stage:
Lunar Observing Club:

At full moon its hard to observe the moon unless you have a good moon filter but when the moon is bright, no need not to observe, and white light won't hurt your eyes while you observe it!

Double Star Club:
Some people like em (I do) and some don't. You can decide. More than viewable during the bright moon phases though.

FYI, the list of objects are in the PDF Format on the bottom.

Finally, when the moon is out of the way (from about wanning crescent through First Quarter) here are two suggestions:

The Messier Club
Make sure to click on the Messier Club List on the bottom and it will show you a list by season of what items to go after and you can download the list as a PDF and print it off.

The Urban Club

This provides a four lists of items to observe if you live in a heavily light polluted area. Look at the four links at the bottom and each provides either information for viewing in light polluted skies (if your new, please read that) or a list of items to observe. Check out each list or if you just want some Deep Sky Objects to do from home:

The Urban Club DSO List

I hope this helps anyone new to the hobby to get started with what to observe. If you need a quick Atlas for free look in the Stellar Media Thread over at CloudyNights. and there is a good one there, but it takes a lot of printing. I recommend the Pocket Sky Atlas for getting started. Also, in the Equipment Forum this a sticky thread called Links of Interests and one link there, Carol's Picks has great links to other info. For instance, about half way down are free Telrad charts that could help you in locating objects.

I hope the links do help someone wanting to get started on observing. Take what you want from them and go from there, or do nothing with them. Most of all, have fun and realize you need some patience as your just starting out. It takes time to learn everything but you learn from doing, so don't stop observing. Yes, may your equipment always work right, may your skies be clear and your seeing terrific, or in other words, Clear Skies to you!



  1. Hi Jay

    I'd also recommend the AL binocular programs, too. I finished the Binocular Messier one in 2008, and I have nearly completed the Binocular Deep Sky. These are great for those times when one feels disinclined to take a scope out or, indeed, for those who don't have a scope - I started using binoculars seriously when I was scopeless a while back and, even now I have a scope again, my binoculars still get a lot of use.
    For beginners, especially those without a scope but who do have binoculars, these would be ideal as they would really help people learn their way around the sky.

  2. FJ,

    Totally agree with you and that was an oversight on my part. I did my Messier Binocular also a while back (still need to turn in the log though). I haven't tried the Deep Sky binocular though and may have to give that a try also. Great suggestion!!! Thanks!!!