A pair of bright eyes, a small flashlight covered with
red cellophane and a
are all you need. Binoculars is a plus
but not a must. You don’t need
telescope unless you want to study the deep sky objects like nebulae and
clusters or the planetary features. But then you won’t
be able to spot a whole constellation as the field of vision is too narrow.
Don't forget to bring along a jacket with you as the temperature
will fall at night.
star map is best for beginners, while monthly
star map usually gives more details of the night sky.
Keep in mind that the
night sky changes from days to days and hours to hours. A monthly star map
shows the night sky at about eight or nine o’clock
of that particular month. For every two hours gone, use the star map for the
Star map is simple to
use. Just hold it over your head and turn it until the direction indicated
on the map points to the same direction in the field.
However clear the sky,
only about 3,000 stars at most can be seen with naked eyes. Astronomers rate
the brightness of stars by a system of numbers called magnitudes. The
fainter the stars, the greater the number they are. The faintest stars that
can be seen with naked eyes are of sixth magnitude.
Stargazing can be a
luxury in Hong Kong where light pollution and high-rise buildings are almost
everywhere. To look for a starry sky, the suburb of the city such as Lantau
Island and Sai Kung are ideal places. But for beginners, places where street
lights, buildings or trees are not obscuring your view too much will be
pretty good. Examples are beaches in Southern District on Hong Kong Island,
the Shing Mun Reservoir or even the recreational grounds nearby some housing
Clear moonless nights are
ideal for stargazing but these might be rare. Even with some moonlight or
clouds, you can still see quite a number of stars. They won’t be such a
nuisance for it could make the finding of the constellations more
Spotting a constellation
with star maps is similar to locating yourself in the field with a
terrestrial map. You have to take the bearings, understand the scale and
then look for any prominent stars.
To identify directions,
use a compass or just to remember the direction where the Sun sets. The
Dipper or the big "W" of Cassiopeia are also obvious signs of
directions if you already know something about stargazing.
The postures in the
diagrams (with arm stretching) illustrate how to measure roughly the
distance between two stars.
constellations can be made easy by observing the patterns formed by bright
stars in the sky.
curve stretches from the handle of the Dipper to Arcturus in Bootes all
the way down to Spica in Virgo.
constellations: Ursa Major, Bootes and Leo)
isosceles triangle is composed of Vega in Lyra, Altair in Aquila and
Deneb in Cygnus.
Bright constellations: Lyra, Aquila, Cygnus, Scorpius and Sagittarius )
This is the abdomen
of Pegasus, the Horse. The four stars just give the shape of a square.
Bright constellations: pegasus and Cassiopeia )
It looks like an
equilateral triangle. The three bright stars are Procyon in Canis Minor,
Sirius in Canis Major and Betelgeux in Orion.
Bright constellations: Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini and Canis Major )