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Identifying Constellations

Do not try to learn all 88 constellations on your first night. Instead, start out by picking out one of the brightest constellations such as the Big Dipper or Orion. Both of these have distinctive, easy to learn shapes and consist for bright stars. After you have identified one constellation, try to find one of its neighbors. You will find it easy to jump over to Taurus, once you know the location of Orion. Finding two constellations is more than enough for your first night.

Try to find an additional constellation the next night. Every subsequent night, first review all the constellations, which you have already learned, then find a new one. Learning only a single constellation a night may seem painfully slow at the beginning, but after a month you will have learned 30 constellations. This is easily enough constellations to obtain a good general knowledge of the sky, although you will have to wait months before you can see certain constellations and others will be permanently below the horizon from your latitude. There are also constellations without any bright stars. These dim constellations, whether large or small, are more difficult to spot. First learn the easier constellations around them, and gradually you will be able to point out the more difficult ones.

Here you can find: a suggested route for a sky tour.

Remember that you are trying to spot shapes and forms. Do not expect to see Taurus as a charging bull or Gemini as twin brothers. Binoculars are not going to be any help, although you might as well bring them in case something special catches your interest. Try not to learn more than one or two new constellations each night. It is always useful to spot the previously learned constellations, not only to reinforce your memory, but also to demonstrate how far your have advanced in learning the sky. Think of them as old friends who will introduce you to new acquaintances.

Learning the sky is a subjective experience. Nobody goes about it exactly the same way. Some people are drawn to certain constellations. Also, the time of year and your latitude determine which constellations will be overhead.


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