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I found that looking at the sky without optical aid and a skychart works best. I know most of the Northern constellations and the names of the brightest stars by now. Then I started with binoculars. An interesting project is to see how many messier objects you can locate with binoculars. It seems to me that people are too quick to buy a telescope before becoming familiar with the night sky...

I can see where you’re coming from that some people do jump into quickly, and as a result some get disillusioned quickly if they’re not used to finding their way around. Dare I say though that tools like Stellarium are there to enhance and educate, as opposed to wholesale replacing ‘sky knowledge’. There are many users who do take the plunge though and buy a scope and in a relatively quick time can find their way around. I found planetarium programs much more useful in directly locating objects than sky maps say in Sky @ Night etc. A few years ago there weren’t these types of beginner friendly options available and people were forced to learn their way via star maps etc. It's just another means to an end.

Where I feel programs like Stellarium and Cartes Du Ciel etc come into their own is when you’re looking at objects too faint to be on beginner sky charts. For instance you’ll struggle to find some planetary nebulas and the likes just off a star chart, you sometimes need that ability to zoom right into an object and discern the object from the surrounding starfield. Often beginner star maps don’t go into enough detail if required. I have some really detailed star maps (ie down to 14th Mag) and I still tend to take the laptop out if I’m looking for something out the way. Also planetarium programs give you the ability to simulate views depending on your equipment, you’ll struggle to do that quickly with a star map. Bare in mind you don't have to have a telescope to get usage of Stellarium, I was using it long before I bought a scope, infact it's one of the things that pushed me into buying one!

Maybe it would be interesting to start up a discussion on the best beginner methods to find your way around. I think the aim of threads like this (ie specifically discussing Stellarium) is probably the wrong place to start that type of debate though!!

All the best

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So you've bought a big scope, more than likely been taken in by the Dob brigade (we are pretty persuasive ;-) ) and after a couple of sessions in the garden looking at Jupiter, Orion, and the moon you

We've been astronomying for over a year now used stellarium and had no idea you could do such things with it. Fantastic advice. Thank you.

Hey thanks, the oculars setting was pretty confusing on the older verison of Stellarium I had as it was very hit and miss what it saved, it caused no end of confusion and grief!! The night mode is muc

I would like to add my thanks for this excellent article. I never knew Stellarium had so many features.

I have set the program up as described but I do have one query. Having selected the Ocular view you say that you 'cycle through the eyepiece tab at the top right until you get the one you are using in your 'real telescope'. I get the eyepiece tab in the top right but cannot work out how I can cycle to select the correct eyepiece. Can you give me a clue please?

Many thanks

Martin

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I get the eyepiece tab in the top right but cannot work out how I can cycle to select the correct eyepiece. Can you give me a clue please?

I get double arrows either side of the eyepiece named, and the telescope. Just clicking on any of these arrows seems to do the trick.

HTH

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Thanks EntropyStar.

as a newbie to astronomy I have been using Stellarium to learn the constellations when the weather is bad (more often than not unfortunately) so this is a great tip for using this tool when we have clear skies!

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Hi EntropyStar

I just wanted to thank you for your excellent article. As a complete novice with just a pair of bins I had struggled to star hop and was therefore not confident of identifying what I was looking at. Last night however I went out, Stellarium in-hand so to speak, and had a cracking couple of hours finding M36,37 & 38 in Auriga, M31 and the double cluster NGC 869 & 884.

With pretty basic 10 x 50 bins I know I would not have been confident enough of the positioning with your kind instructions but could clearly make out the faint fuzzies.

Thank you !!

Harry

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One useful thing I've done to try speeding up starhoping is to create an EP in stellarium to display what I would see through my finderscope. For objects that are quite far from a reference star, having something show me where to go with the finderscope should narrow down the search abit, so I can then find something in the EP to hop more specifically from.

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To be honest so far Iv had hardly any problems whatsoever just using the finder that came with my scope, stellarium and a keen eye. Iv looked into telrads, but for how I do it at the moment it would seem to be something I wouldn't use. Im sure if I see someone using one I shall probably think its the coolest thing ever and rush out to buy one, but at the moment Im getting by just fine without :)

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Hi EntropyStar

I just wanted to thank you for your excellent article. As a complete novice with just a pair of bins I had struggled to star hop and was therefore not confident of identifying what I was looking at. Last night however I went out, Stellarium in-hand so to speak, and had a cracking couple of hours finding M36,37 & 38 in Auriga, M31 and the double cluster NGC 869 & 884.

With pretty basic 10 x 50 bins I know I would not have been confident enough of the positioning with your kind instructions but could clearly make out the faint fuzzies.

Thank you !!

Harry

Sorry I missed this!! I'm really glad it's helped you!!! Since then have you got any more out of it? The double cluster is amazing!!

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Thats one of my first experiences with it aswell, finding my way around Auriga. Now, everytime I observe I have a table with Stellarium running with my screen dark adapted as a matter of course.

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Very nice guide. Stellarium is a great tool. Note that for EQ star-hoppers like me, you can switch to EQ display mode rather than Alt-Az. I also added my 70mm finder and its 25mm EP to the data for Ocular, so I can also get views printed as seen through the finder. A final point, I get more accurate displays of the FOV if I enter the field stop rather than the focal length of the EP. It can really make a significant distance (of course, not all brands list the field stops).

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Iv found that having it on neither mount mode actually gives a more realistic view of what I can see in the EP, having it on Alt-Az mode, as you'd think I should given my mount, spins the image round too much for some reason.

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Iv found that having it on neither mount mode actually gives a more realistic view of what I can see in the EP, having it on Alt-Az mode, as you'd think I should given my mount, spins the image round too much for some reason.

What I do with my SCT is set the diagonal in such a way that the EP is at right angles to the Dec axis. I then tilt my head such that my scope is pointing "straight up" with respect to my head, and then the image in the FOV matches the simulated scope image very well. The same trick works for my 80mm refractor. In Newtonians this would not work (and EQ-mounted Newts require enough contortions already (or just tube rings))

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I often find the orientation doesn't quite match up, it's always a few degrees out and depends on the location of the object you're aiming for, on the whole though it's 'roughly' the right way up :smiley:

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I often find the orientation doesn't quite match up, it's always a few degrees out and depends on the location of the object you're aiming for, on the whole though it's 'roughly' the right way up :smiley:

True. I like to use paper printouts, rather than a live screen on Stellarium (any screen ruins night vision in my experience). It is very easy to rotate the paper to match the view through the EP. Same holds for a tablet or laptop screen.

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