VSO Methods

Things won are done, Joy's soul lies in the doing.

William Shakespeare

Grab your binoculars or telescope, your log or record book, as well as your star charts or star atlas and move outside, under the stars. As Mr. Shakespeare says, "Joy's soul lies in the doing."

Find a comfortable location that provides you visual access to the sky. Try and find a place that protects your eyes from glaring light. Street lights, security lights from your neighbor, and house lights coming out through windows are usually the types of light that will cause you some frustration. If you can move yourself out into a remote location, far from city lights, that will be great. If you can't, use a tree or building to block the light. It doesn't have to be perfectly dark for you to enjoy yourself. There can even be some clouds in the sky.

Get comfortable. Use a blanket on the ground, a soft patio chair or a fancy observing seat purchased specifically for astronomical observing. Use a pillow if necessary. The important thing is to get you head and eyes oriented to the sky so that you are not straining or uncomfortable. I'll mention this again.

After referring to an atlas or sky chart, look up and locate the field or region of the sky in which the variable star of interest is located. Again, as during the planning process, knowing the constellations will be very helpful. Take out your wide-field chart and orient it so that it matches what you see in the sky. Concentrate on the brightest stars first. Remember, when looking at a chart placed on your lap, east and west are reversed relative to the way you normally distinguish them. Also, on some charts, north and south are reversed. When you first start, hold your chart over your head, against the sky. It make orientation easier.

Your first surprise will be that you'll notice the stars in the sky look different from what you expect when compared with your atlas or chart. My guess is that when you first begin using a chart and your eyes leave the chart and slowly rise toward the sky ... you will become lost! Don't become alarmed. It's all just a matter of perspective. It won't be long before you make the mental adjustments automatically and it will seem normal. Give it time.

Once you get out under the sky, spend fifteen minutes or so just looking around. Let your eyes wander through the Milky Way near Scorpius and Sagittarius, Centarus, Orion or Leo, depending upon the season and latitude. Taking a few minutes to look around will allow your eyes to adapt to the night sky too. In just a short time, you will see many more stars than when you first walked outside. The point is, don't be in a hurry. Take the time to learn the positions of the constellations and stars. And don't forget to enjoy the sky; this is after all a hobby and you're doing all of this for enjoyment. Professional astronomers don't enjoy the freedom that you have as an amateur. Don't take it for granted.

0 0

Post a comment