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    Default I only know three things about astronomy !



    Hi

    I only know three things about astronomy:

    1- The planet Earth
    2- The Sun ... and ...
    3- The moon, just above me ... shining : )

    How can I locate the other planets (venus, mars, jupiter, saturn, ...)?
    I mean, if I take the moon as reference, on which direction these planets would be??

    Now you know I am a complete beginner!
    And, by the way, I am not shy in asking questions : )

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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    It is good that you are not shy about asking questions!

    As a start I would recommend downloading "Stellarium" which is planetarium software. If you explore it for a while it will show you where pretty much everything is that you could care about. It is really good stuff!
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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    Hello Tahir! I'll second OleCuss' recommendation of Stellarium. It will show you where the planets are located from your perspective (once you enter your latitude and longitude) and will be intrumental in showing you many other objects as well.

    Good luck on your astronomy endeavors!
    Bryan

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    Default

    For another free program, have a look at Virtual Moon Atlas - it's a very nice interactive moon map, with dynamic lighting .
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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    I give another vote to Stellarium...!!! Excelent software.

    If you have a smartphone or tablet, you could also use Google Sky app.

    And try to learn one constellation at a time, and how to use other stars or constellations to find it. The web is full of information on that.

    Hope this helps...


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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    The much recommended Stellarium program is free and a simple Google search will take you that spot in cyberspace where you can read all about it and then download it.

    Stellarium is basically a very pretty computerized simulation of what your night-sky might look like anywhere on Earth at any time, past, present or future. The simulation runs in real time or it can be accelerated going backwards as well as forwards. You can zoom in or you can zoom out. You can configure Stellarium to display, or not to display whatever or want. You want stars, then show the stars, you want the constellations to be drawn in stick figures with their cultural art images overlaid on them, then do it. Don't like the artwork, then change it to that of another culture or turn it off. You can superimpose the Equatorial or Altitude-Azimuth co-ordinate grids one at a time, or both together, or not at all. You want to see the obits of the planets, show those as well, or not.

    The coolest feature about Stellarium is that as you learn to use it step by step, you will also be learning about astronomy...one aspect at a time.

    Hear about some star of deep sky object that you think you might like, then Stellarium allows you to run a search for it and then plots it in the sky, rearranging its orientation so that you can see it. Like pictures of deep sky objects then Stellarium can show you those at the exact spot that the object is located.

    Unfortunately, except for screen-captures, Stellarium was never intended as a charting program so you will have to look elsewhere once you're ready to print your own. It is however such an effective visually appealing planetarium program that you'll quickly forget that you're not watching the real thing. On my much older WinXP computer, my copy of Stellarium runs almost full time...day or night.

    And if you don't want the Sun to shine in the daytime, turn it off in Stellarium. Unfortunately, you don't appear to be able to turn the Sun on during the night-time. Hee hee! But why would you want to. The Sun is our greatest source of light pollution...it basically wastes 12 hours astronomical observing time every day unless you're in either of the Arctic or Antarctic circles in the summer or winter and then things get screwed up again.

    In this short write-up there are several keywords that should give you a good starting point....and not a one of them was 'telescope'. Notice that I didn't mention the words 'refractor' or 'reflector" at all. Also, no mention of tripods, German Equatorial Mounts or Dobsonian bases. Some would think that eyepieces should also be mentioned here but I don't.

    I hope that you'll find astronomy sufficiently interesting to stick around long enough to learn something about it...and then spend the rest of your life doing it. I, for my part, started way to late....Oh, how I long for youthful eyes again and the insane ability to go for nights on end without more an hour or two of sleep.
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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    I learned how to do this before technology helped with various electronic tools. There are 5 planets that are often visible to the naked eye, and it's a great feeling of accomplishment to find them yourself. Right now in the night sky, Venus is blazing in the Western evening sky and Jupiter is moving just beyond opposition, visible all night in Leo. Mars is also visible close to Venus right now, though it is harder to see because it's so much less bright.

    Visible planets have identifying properties that draw your eye toward them. In the case of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and often Mars, they don't usually twinkle. That's because planets have enough angular size that variance of the atmosphere doesn't push the rays of light over enough to disrupt the major signal to your eye. Even though stars are larger, they are so far away that the signal you get from stars is a much narrower beam of light. So, stars twinkle. Venus, Jupiter, and usually Saturn are much brighter than typical stars.

    One of the most defining features of the planets is that they never stray far from the ecliptic, which is the plane of our solar system. When a flat plane meets a curved surface, it creates a curved line, so you shouldn't be surprised to see that the ecliptic in our sky traces out a curving, sinusoidal line. Sometimes the Ecliptic is high in the sky, where objects are much easier to see, and at other times it's low down where the light has to make it's way through a lot more atmosphere to get to your eye. From your latitude of 20deg N, the ecliptic won't stray very far to the north, at any time of year. So, you'll never see planets very far to the north. To identify where the ecliptic is, you should learn the 12 zodiac constellations, which highlight the area in the sky where planets hang out. That's the same zodiac constellations named for astrological predictions. Once you learn where those constellations are and what they look like, an abnormal bright star will jump out at you and scream, "I'm a planet". You can use tools to tell you where the planets are, but I can tell you that after a few years of experience you'll discard those aids and identify them yourself without any help.

    Another thing about planets is that they also go around the sun. The 'inferior' planets (Venus, Mercury) are closer to the Sun than we are, so you'll never see them far from where the Sun is. For example, it's geometrically impossible for the Earth to interpose itself between Venus and the Sun. So, if the Sun is to our west, then Venus will be there, too ie, Venus will never be at 'opposition', like Jupiter is now. Venus is sometimes a morning star to the east, or an evening star to the West. Of course the biggest problem with the inferior planets is that the Sun gets in our way, so for many weeks of the year our view of the inferior planets is obscured by the Sun, especially for Mercury. The Sun also gets in the way of superior planets but it's less of a problem most of the time.

    Another feature of planets that helps a lot is color. For example, Mars has an orange color, dim when far away and brighter when at opposition. The salmon color of Saturn is a useful clue, helping to distinguish it from Jupiter without need for optical tools.

    Learning the constellations takes time and effort, but after a couple of weeks you should be able to consistently identify the major constellations and about a dozen bright stars in the sky. It really helps a lot to go out every evening, refreshing your memory of stars from the evening before, and learning a couple more stars each evening. Notice how the stars move through the night, and how at identical times each night, the constellations seem to inch westward by about a degree each day. So, to see the constellations that will be visible this summer, get up early and see those constellations early one morning. Whether you do that with stellarium, another star program, a planisphere, an online magazine guide, or an atlas is up to you. But don't lose sight of the goal, to learn how to recognize the brightest stars without aids. The hardest thing about learning the constellations is it's, well, boring. Here's a text that will make it fun.

    When I lay out on the night sky, it's a reminder of what was done thousands of years ago, very close to where you live now. Indeed, invaluable records from that era were carefully preserved for the benefit of all of us. So in a way, a step out into the night is like a walk back in time.
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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    Hi,

    Welcome to the Astronomy Forum and to astronomy. We all started out knowing very little about astronomy just as you are now. One good thing about astronomy is you can make it as simple as you want it or as difficult as you want. It just depends upon what you like to see and do. Here is a short course on astronomy that will cost you nothing more than your time.

    http://www.astromax.org/pdf/a4primer.PDF
    Frequently Asked Questions - Fort Worth Astronomical Society
    http://www.astromax.org/pdf/a4primer.PDF
    Getting Started: A Beginner’s Primer | Stargazer Steve Telescopes
    JTW Astronomy - Tutorials

    Good luck and clear skies
    SXINIAS

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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    Another great Stellarium feature is the mobile app for smartphones. Enable GPS, and the phone will show you a labelled picture of the area of sky when you hold it up in front of you! Pan around, and it pans the sky with you, showing you whatever you are pointed at. Zoom in and out. Really handy.
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    Default Re: I only know three things about astronomy !

    Welcome !!

    "Stellarium" and "Turn left at Orion" are great to start off with. Getting a magazine monthly can help too "Sky and Telescope, SkyNews"
    Neil
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