If you are out in your backyard and watching the clear night sky with your binoculars, that is not astronomy. You can actually call that activity as stargazing. However, if you start to follow star maps and track down specific stars or constellations in the sky, that is astronomy.
A star map is a tool used by astronomers to map the night sky. It has been the result of the constant mapping of the sky by observers for thousands of years. The grids in this map allow people to easily navigate the sky for a better observation.
There are some important things about it that you need to know though to make your star hunting experience better.
How to Read a Star Map
If you already have your hands on a star chart, you are now ready to make some serious observations on the sky. But of course, you need a guide on how to use it.
Here it is.
– Find a spot where there is no light pollution. That means a place far from the city lights and where the sky is completely dark. In these places, the stars will be so much visible through your scope.
– Allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Once adjusted you will get surprised on how clear and how many the stars in the sky. This time you can start making observations with the guide of your map.
– If you are looking to the South direction, rotate your map so the South is at the bottom. You will see that your star map will correlate to the sky.
-Start by choosing a small portion of your map with one bright star. This will make it easier for you to find your way into the sky.
-Always consider the sky’s movement. If you are out for 6 hours, the stars would have moved 1/4 away from the sky.
Different Star Maps
There are actually different star maps out there are they have different characteristics. Let me introduce them to you.
The Night Sky 30°- 40°
A full-sized star map that is perfect for people who live in 30°- 40° latitude. Astronomers who are in the south part of the United States, Africa, and the Middle should use this. It has a guide in the bottom for you to know the symbols that are on the map. It comes in two sizes but both are pocket-sized.
Orion 04110 Star Target Planisphere
This star map is most known for its easy to use features. It has dials that make finding stars and constellations easier compared to other maps. Designed for astronomers living in the 30° – 50° latitude zone. It usually comes in 8.5 with a size of 8.5 inches in diameter, making it perfect for first-time observers using binoculars and telescopes.
Night Sky® Star Wheel
The Night Sky® Star Wheel is the perfect star map for beginners. They are actually made for kids who are quite interested in astronomy. Of course, adults who are looking for an easy way to navigate the sky can use it too. When using this, all you need to do is to adjust the wheel on the time and date that you want. And this star map will tell you which stars and constellations will be visible that day.