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Discussion: Naked Eye Observations


As you begin the course, it is very important that you sometimes walk outside and actually look at the night sky. If you cannot incorporate some naked-eye astronomy into the term, you will be missing out. You have easy access to observe many of the things discussed in the “Sky Basics” reading and the presentation on naked-eye astronomy. You need to see some things for yourself– planets, stars, clusters, asterisms, and constellations.


The class presentation mentions several resources for naked-eye astronomy, some of which are summarized here.

1. Star Gazers: A short, weekly video program designed to help amateurs with naked-eye astronomy. Browse through 3-4 past episodes up to and including week-2 of class for help with everything from phases of the moon to eclipses to seasonal constellations. Go to http://stargazersonline.org/index.html.

2. What’s Up?: A monthly program found on the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory website. There are many other worthwhile tools on this site, but this one is there to help you with naked-eye viewing. Go to http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/, scroll down to “What’s Happening Now,” and choose “videos,” or just search “jpl what’s up.”

3. Sky & Telescope: This website has many helpful features, including “This Week’s Sky at a Glance.” Stick to the features that apply specifically to naked-eye astronomy, such as… https://skyandtelescope.org/observing/sky-at-a-glance/

4. Astronomy.com: has a feature called “The Sky This Week.” Limit your use to naked-eye observing and not their hints for using binoculars or telescopes. Review several weeks leading up to the assignment as some observations can be made for extended periods on the calendar. Go to https://astronomy.com/observing/sky-this-week

5. Stardate.org: like several other sites, this one includes a “night sky” page to help point out important objects or events for a given week or month. Go to https://stardate.org/nightsky

6. Stellarium: This is a free simulation program that allows you to see what to expect in the night sky from any location and any time. Go to https://stellarium.org/ and download the program.

7. Sky Map Online: This website hosts an online planetarium program. See the sky from anywhere in the world at any time of day. Go to http://www.skymaponline.net/default.aspx.

8. Sky Maps: Each month, you can print out a free copy of these “maps,” with versions that correspond with any location on Earth. So while most of us would print out the “Northern Hemisphere” sky map, there are versions for equatorial and southern hemisphere viewers as well. Go to http://www.skymaps.com/index.html.

9. Space.com: another versatile website with lots of good content. Scroll through and choose the features that apply to naked-eye observations, such as maps of the night sky and summaries of the best objects to look for in a given month. To get started, go to https://www.space.com/skywatching

10. In-the-sky.org: this site has many features, so be sure to limit yourself to the tools that apply to naked eye astronomy. Go to https://in-the-sky.org/

In no fewer than 300 words, discuss the following:

First, discuss one (1) resource from the first five (1-5) options above. Clearly identify which one you are choosing. Include details about the resource, including what specific information was provided and how it is preparing you to locate objects during the module. Include details that are specific to the dates of our assignment. Make this the first paragraph of your thread.

Second, choose one (1) other resource from the second five (6-10) options above to discuss in your second paragraph. Once again, include details about the resource, including what specific information was provided and how it is preparing you to locate objects during the module. Include details that are specific to the dates of our assignment. Make this the second paragraph of your thread.

Third, in a final paragraph, discuss how you actually went outside during the module and applied these resources to locate specific objects (identify particular stars, planets, asterisms, constellations). Make mention of the time(s) and date(s) that you made your observations. Getting out more than one evening is ideal. The tools will prepare you to find many objects, and that should be reflected in this paragraph. It may take a couple of nights before you are ready to write this paragraph.

The goal here is to get you engaged in using tools to be a better astronomer. Share your own experience in the thread.

Once you have had the opportunity to read your classmates’ threads, follow up with a reply to a classmate of at least 150 words. How did his or her thread help you make use of more tools and tricks for enjoying the view from Earth? What different resource(s) did he or she recommend that you investigated for yourself and utilized? What additional observations (planets, stars, constellations, etc.) did you make thanks to what your classmate shared? Your reply should be made of at least two paragraphs, at least one to discuss the new resource(s) and at least one to discuss how you used the new resource(s) to go back outdoors and make more observations.

In the first part of the Discussion, you will look into resources on your own and work on becoming familiar with the night sky. In the second part, you will seek the benefit of collaboration as you get the added bonus of the experiences and recommendations of your classmates. The ultimate goal is to equip you to know the sky better by the end of the Discussion assignment. It is quite a sight! Commit to regular viewing on any clear nights of the term. Even a few minutes a night is enough to help you find your way around the sky.

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