Find Your Inner Astronomer...
|ASTRONOMY GUIDE: | | | | ||
Star Charts, Maps & Atlases
Star charts are an essential item for backyard astronomy - good ones show you different resolutions of the sky - from the entire night sky for a given month, to a constellation, to all the galaxies, star clusters and nebula, to successively fainter stars. Astronomy software can provide this as well but nothing beats a good star char, a star atlas and a red flashlight at an observing site.
Star atlases are rated by their visual magnitude limit - each increase corresponds to a big increase in the amount of detail shown. For those just starting out in backyard astronomy, a 5th-magnitude set of star charts is needed. As you get more experienced in learning the constellations and locating deep-sky objects, a 6th-magnitude star atlas is recommended, which shows more detail.
Every astronomer needs a planisphere, which will quickly tell you which constellations and stars are above your horizon on any given time and day of the year. Planispheres are star charts that consist of 2 rotating disks that contain a star map of all the constellations.