What's the Right Ascension (RA) of stars due south right
now? Your Local Sidereal Time (LST) equals (RA) of stars on
your southern meridian.
Growing up on a farm north of Newton, IA in the 1950s, the
nights where still inky black. Our parents taught us about
the Big and Little Dippers, Orion, the Pleiades and a few
other easily recognizable constellations and asterisms.
Lacking a star chart I made up some of my own patterns. My
young eyes could easily resolve many close double stars
including Nu1 and Nu2 in head of Draco. I had no knowledge
of Draco at the time. In fact, the four stars of Draco's
head and a fifth star from Hercules formed a little house in
In the late summer evenings, shimmering to the south -
southeast in the re-radiating heat of the day, the pattern
of stars from Sagittarius reminded me of large metal power
The stars were then (and are now) comforting, always there.
Of course there are the migrations of solar system objects
and the occasional brightening or dimming of a star that
most of us don't notice. For the most part, the stars seem
to be unchanging.
Off to college, life got busy, not much time under the sky.
About 1984 I ventured (for the first time) to the fourth
floor (the Map room) of the Parks Library at Iowa State. I
stumbled across a copy of Wil Tirion's Star Atlas 2000.0
that would launch me into being a true amateur astronomer.
Star Atlas 2000.0 certainly helped me navigate the sky naked
eye and with 7x50 binoculars. I learning star hopping
techniques allowing me to following the dimming Comet
1P/Halley through the constellation Hydra in April and May
of 1986. What a wonderful way to explore the sky.
With these star charts I could explore (at least on paper)
south of the "Tropic of Ames", as I like to call it, the sky
beyond my southern horizon as if I was with Magellan
exploring new horizons around celestial sky.
Discovering Sky Atlas 2000.0 led me to subscribing to "Sky &
Telescope", acquiring and devouring many astronomy books,
joining the Ames Area Amateur Astronomers (AAAA), using
telescopes, and teaching astronomy for 17 years at
Marshalltown Community College.
Frostiana: "Choose Something Like A Star", Randall Thompson
Performed by the New York Choral Society with the Manhattan
Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Richard Auldon Clark
Choose Something Like a Star - Robert Frost
O star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud-
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
I call your attention to the Wikipedia page:
Wikipedia: Celestial cartography
Wikipedia: Uranometria (1603) Naked Eye Observations
This image is courtesy of the United States Naval
Observatory Library , who gives explicit permission to
use it so long as the attribution is attached.
The use of Brahe's catalog allowed for considerably better
accuracy than Ptolemy's somewhat limited star listing. The
stars listed in Uranometria total over 1,200, indicating
that Brahe's catalog (1005) was not the only source of
information used. Bayer took the southern star positions and
constellation names for the 49th plate from the catalog of
Dutch navigator Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser, who corrected the
older observations of Amerigo Vespucci and Andrea Corsali,
as well as the report of Pedro de Medina. Uranometria
contains many more stars than did any previous star atlas,
though the exact number is disputed as not all stars on the
charts are labeled.
1627, Rudolphine Tables - contains the first West[ern]
Enlightenment star table, based on measurements of Tycho
Brahe, 1,005 stars
"Tycho & Kepler" by Kitty Ferguson
Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5)
Sky Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion features 26 star charts plus
close-up charts and a grid overlay. It shows 81,312 stars to
magnitude 8.5 along with approximately 2,700 deep-sky
objects. ~James Forbes
Wikipedia: Wil Tirion
Wil Tirion is a Dutch uranographer. His most famous work,
Sky Atlas 2000.0, is renowned by astronomers for its
accuracy and beauty.
Wil Tirion was the sole author of the first edition of Sky
Atlas 2000.0, a masterpiece that was entirely drawn by hand.
Wil Tirion and Roger Sinnott collaborated on the second
edition of Sky Atlas 2000.0, which was computer generated --
with a huge amount of hand tweaking, like all good star
~Tony Flanders, Associate Editor, Sky & Telescope
All future atlases would have computer generated charts.
Sky Atlas 2000.0 includes 26 charts with 43,000 stars and
2500 non-stellar objects.
Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.7; 11.5 in selected
The second edition of Tirion's most complete work,
Uranometria 2000.0, was published in 2001 by Willmann-Bell.
He is also responsible for the sky charts found in many
other publications. He was originally a graphic designer.
The minor planet 4648 Tirion is named after him.
Uranometria 2000.0 is a star atlas for dedicated observers.
Its 220 two-page star charts show more than 280,000 stars
down to magnitude 9.75. ~James Forbes
Millennium Star Atlas (stars to magnitude 11)
The Hi-ppar-cos: an all-sky atlas of one million stars
to visual magnitude 11 (from the Hi-ppar-cos and Tycho
Catalogues) and 10,000 non-stellar objects included to
complement the catalogue data. The Millennium Star Atlas is
available as part of the Hi-ppar-cos and Tycho Catalogues
The Millennium Star Atlas is a remarkable map of the
celestial sphere, undertaken by Sky Publishing Corporation
in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the
Hi-ppar-cos scientific community. Very simply, the Millennium
Star Atlas comprises 1548 star charts, using them to show
the location of all 1,058,332 stars included in the Tycho
Catalogue. It superimposes on these stars a wealth of
material - from the Hi-ppar-cos Catalogue - illustrating their
proper motion, their variability characteristics, their
distance (if closer than 200 light years), and the details
of their close companions.
The information available now has exceeded that which can be
reasonably portrayed in a printed atlas. Therefore, the
most detailed charts are those that are available as
computer software. Recent examples currently include more
than 100 million stars.
SkySafari 6 Pro - Professional Telescope Astronomy Software
SkySafari 6 Pro will revolutionize your astronomical viewing
experience. It has the largest database of any astronomy
app, includes every solar system object ever discovered,
offers unparalleled accuracy, flawless telescope control,
Augmented Reality (AR) mode, and provides the very best
experience under the stars when you depend on it. Discover
why SkySafari 6 Pro is the #1 recommended astronomy app for
serious amateur astronomers since 2009.
Also available for iOS, iPadOS, and Android devices.
Continuing our comparison to printed atlases:
SkySafari 6 Pro 17.5° x 9.5°
SkySafari 6 Pro 4.8° x 2.6°
SkySafari 6 Pro 4.2' x 2.3'
Live Demos on Mac, iPad and iPhone
Couple of years ago I found a small astro-photograph that an
Ames Area Amateur Astronomer had given a long time ago. A
small portion of the sky with more than a hundred stars in
the image. I couldn't remember what the subject matter was
or who gave it to me. No markings on the back. But this
was a mystery I has to solve. Hidden among all those stars
were faint wisps of nebulosity with some curvature like an
arc. Nothin familiar to me. Using SkySafari 6 Pro and many
hours later I was able to verify stars from the image
matched to the star chart on my computer.
I'm thinking that Andrew Sorenson gave me his image he made
of the Eastern Veil Nebula, probably more than 25 years ago.
Not only do I thank him for his astro-photograph, but also
for providing me a challenge that made use of today's
computer generated astronomy charts and pattern recognition
on my part.
The Stars: A New Way to See Them
by H. A. Rey
This book contains the most lucid explanation of the
sidereal day I have ever read. If you are looking for a book
that explains the big bang theory and modern astronomical
theories, this is not your book. If you are want to look up
at the sky and recognize stars like old friends, then this
is your book.
Along the way, you will learn enough about the relative
motions of the earth, sun, planets and stars to understand
why different parts of the sky are visible at different
times of the year, and from various places on earth.
365 Starry Nights; An introduction to Astronomy for every
night of the year
by Chet Raymo
365 Starry Nights is a unique and fascinating introduction
to astronomy designed to give you a complete, clear picture
of the sky every night of the year. Divided into 365
concise, illustrated essays, it focuses on the aesthetic as
well as the scientific aspects of stargazing. It offers the
most up-to-date information available, with hundreds of
charts, drawings, and maps-that take you beyond the visible
canopy of stars and constellations into the unseen realm of
nebulae and galaxies.
This simple yet substantial text is full of critical
information and helpful hints on how to observe the stars;
describe their position; calculate their age, brightness,
and distance; and much more. Whether you observe the sky
with a telescope or the naked eye, 365 Starry Nights makes
the infinite intimate and brings the heavens within your
grasp. Keep this invaluable, informative guide close at
hand, and you'll find that the sky is the limit 365 nights a