Master of My Backyard

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2021.

by Celsa Canedo *

image taken Dec. 17th, 2020, 6:03 pm –  Pasadena, TX using an iPhone6s

There is no darkness for those who love to look up to the skies.

The objective of this project is to get astronomers to look out in their own backyards when going to dark sites is not an option. It encourages naked eye observations so it is an activity any beginner could do while they gain mastery in using their scopes.

  1. Print the monthly Sky Chart.
  2. Go outside your backyard and using your printed Sky Chart try to find as many constellations and objects as possible. The Sky chart has instructions on how to use it properly.
  3. Sketch what you observed and create a log observation. This is a suggestion from the Universe Sampler (Astronomical League Observing program).**

OBSERVATION LOG: Object List 1 – Naked Eye Observers

  1. 15 Bright Stars

For seeing conditions and transparency, consult the weather condition section in the HAS website.

2020 was a very challenging year for me in many ways, but the one I will remember as the year when I became a real amateur astronomer. I’ve been a member for a while and was blessed to have a loaner Dobsonian 8” that barely was used because I was always busy or tired to take it outside or spend anytime figuring it out. But all that changed when I started working from home and every other place I care to visit was closed. When frustration was at its highest, I found Will Young, president at the Astronomical Society of Southeast Texas, livestreaming with Stephen Hummel from McDonald Observatory, coffee and astronomy. Wow! I had a blast and without missing a bit, I found myself following comets, finding supernovas, observing Messier objects, learning about all the different catalogs, and the wonder just keeps going…

Will inspired me to look up to the skies more often so I figure: I have a good chunk of skies in my backyard, I’ve only observed it on Summers, I guess now I can observe all I want!

So, I started going outside every clear night, working on as many objects from my Universe Sampler and quickly realized I couldn’t observe them all, since it includes some deep sky objects which are not easy to observe naked eye due light pollution. Again, inspiration strikes, and I decided to become a Master of my Backyard, I will know my backyard sky in the Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, I will see every comet, meteor that comes across, every star and every constellation.

I found this approach so much more productive giving my circumstances. Using what I have to the best of my abilities has been very rewarding and has helped me to eliminate the usual frustrations of beginning astronomy observations.

As I was attending more zoom meetings, I learned more about using my telescope, tips for traveling. Sketching the skies while observing really gives a good sense of the objects you are observing, and it helps to learn more names and kinds of objects.

I would encourage anyone to become Masters of their backyards, you will be surprised what you can actually see and the skills you learn.

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* Editor’s Note – Thanks to Celsa for submitting her first article to the GuideStar and passing her experience forward to help others get a good start as observers!

** The Universe Sampler observing program from the Astronomical League (created by HAS member Amelia Goldberg) is one of several programs designed for beginning observers that have naked eye and binocular observing requirements that can be completed from your backyard. You can check out this program and the others using the table listing found here: https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/LevelObservingClubs.html 

 

 

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