What You Need to Be Successful

There are five basic things you need to become a successful deep sky observer. I've listed them below in order of importance, with the most important at the top. What I'm about to say may surprise you!

1. A Dark Observing Site
2. Knowledge and Desire
3. Skill and Patience
4. Good Finder Charts
5. The Choice of Instrument

A Dark Observing Site



Without a doubt this is the most important requirement. As they say, "location, location, location!" The vast majority of us live in or near a city and that is simply no good for deep sky observing. Your backyard may be convenient, but in all likely hood it is a very poor place to attempt all but the brightest deep sky objects due to the skyglow caused by lights. You will get much more out of this endeavor if you resign yourself to traveling at least 50 miles from the nearest large city. It amazes me how many people refuse to face this simple fact.

Start by making some weekend trips to a nearby range of mountains, desert, or countryside away from the city lights. It may take some work to find a suitable spot, but remember, this is the most important part of deep sky observing. Campgrounds often work well, and it may help to contact your local astronomy club. These clubs often have dark sky sites for members to use. Try to find a spot away from the road so headlights will not blind you.

The International Dark Sky Association has global nighttime satellight images available and a dark sky tool to help you find how dark a particular North American location is.

When you plan your vacation consider visiting locations that are far away from city lights and be sure to choose a time around new moon. If you take your scope to a campground, look for a spot that is as secluded as possible. Those ubiquitous Coleman lanterns can ruin an otherwise excellent night. You should also expect some of your neighbors to want to have a look, particularly in the early evening. That's ok--sharing the night sky is one of the most enjoyable parts of the hobby and the more friends you make the fewer lanterns you will have shining into your camp.

next --> Knowledge and Desire

1. A Dark Observing Site
2. Knowledge and Desire
3. Skill and Patience
4. Good Finder Charts
5. The Choice of Instrument
 

Other Links:
The Deep Sky Objects
Adventures in Deep Space

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