What Are Star Charts & How to Use Them?


Star charts are a type of map used to depict the positions of stars and other celestial objects. They can be used to find your way at night, during a meteor shower, or when looking at the night sky in general. The most basic type of star chart is a coordinate system, in which each point on the chart corresponds to a certain number of degrees from the celestial equator. More detailed charts may include information on brightness, spectral class, and other characteristics of individual stars.

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Are Star Charts & Planispheres the Same?

Planispheres (or star finders) and ordinary star Charts are the two forms of star maps. Planispheres are spinning star charts that show the location of the constellations at any particular moment, day, and month. Star Charts are large fold-out maps of the sky that illustrate which constellations certain Deep Space Objects (DSOs) are in.

Remember that Planishperes and Star Charts function in tandem. Planispheres show which constellations are up and when, whereas they show which DSOs are in the constellations.

How Do You Use Them?

Set a planisphere to the current hour, day, and month to utilize it. Hold it over your head, 12:00 a.m. looking north. The Planisphere will display the constellations in their proper sky placements. To use a Regular Star Chart, first, use the planisphere to determine which constellations are visible in the sky at the moment, then look at those constellations on the Regular Star Chart. It will show you the locations of many Deep Space Objects in certain constellations.

Recommended Star Charts?

The Sky Atlas 2000.0, in the opinion of many amateur astronomers, is the greatest star chart. It’s more like an atlas than a large fold-out map. It depicts almost every Deep Space Object visible to amateurs. The Astro Pack is another nice “Star Chart” for beginners. It includes a Planisphere, a fold-out Star Chart, a book with the principal constellations of the seasons and months, and instructions for using your telescope.

Online Star Charts

There are also online star charts that you may print. http://www.skymaps.com has a printable star chart that is quite beneficial for new astronomers. It displays a star chart as well as a list of items to look for. If you’re a beginner astronomer, it provides useful stargazing suggestions as well as a list of objects viewable with the naked eye and those that need a telescope to see.

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