Day Four: Planning Day - What Will I Observe at Night?

Getting Ready
Today is when students plan what they will observe at night. Good targets for the first observing session include the Moon, bright planets, and open star clusters. These objects are very bright and easy to find.

Before class you should download the Galileoscope Observing Guide (link). The Galileoscope Observing Guide contains general observing tips as well as information on when planets are visible, Moon phases, and some of the brighter deep sky objects you can see with the Galileoscope.

A useful tool for students to have is a planisphere. A planisphere is a star chart that can be adjusted to show you what is in the sky on any night at given time. You can buy them commercially or download templates to make your own. Uncle Al’s Sky Wheel is one of the best free planispheres available on the internet. Download the planisphere and practice assembling and setting it to the date and time you will observe.

A planetarium program for your computer lets you plan observations with more detail. Stellarium is a free planetarium program available for Windows and Mac operating systems. You can install it on as many computes as you wish free of charge. Practice with Stellarium so you can set it to your time, date and location easily.

There are many other resources that will show you what is up on any given night. Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazines both have web sites that feature observing highlights.

The Galileoscope Observing Guide has a page where students can make sketches of their observations. You may print out these pages for the students. The students should fill in the page as much as they can with the name of the object and its constellation so they have a record of what they will observe the next night.

In Class
Tell the students they are going to make an observing list of what they would like to see through the Galileoscope. Tell them they need to be sure the objects they want to see are visible at this time of year from their location.

What happens in class depends on what resources you choose to use. If you have access to computers, you can use Stellarium and online resources for students to make their observing lists. The students should fill out their observing sheets with the names and locations of the objects they will observe.

If you chose to use Uncle Al’s Sky Wheel, lead the students through the construction process. Once you have built the Sky Wheels, show the students how to set it for the date and time they will be outside observing. Students will be able to see what constellations are visible and select observing targets accordingly.

Galileoscope Observing Guide (link)
Uncle Al’s Sky Wheel
Sky and Telescope
Astronomy Magazine
Clear Dark Sky