Complete List of Missions
When I was first getting started in amateur astronomy, what I really needed was for someone to give me explicit directions: this is what you’ll see, this is where and when to look, this is what you’re looking at. There are some great books for beginning stargazers that are organized exactly along these lines–Turn Left at Orion, by Guy Consolmagno and Don Davis, and Binocular Highlights, by Gary Seronik, are two that I benefited from and still use. But the former is aimed at people with telescopes and the latter at binocular observers (although it works just as well for people with telescopes), whereas I am aiming this blog at everyone, even–no, especially–people who have no optical equipment at all.
Some of the “missions” featured here are of the learn-the-sky variety and require nothing more than a clear sky and the Mark I eyeball. Others benefit from or occasionally require binoculars–which need not be anything fancy–or a small telescope, although most still offer something for naked-eye observers. All are designed to be completed in 10 minutes or less. I am certain that everyone has that much time to spare, at least one or two nights a week; I am hopeful that, having spent a few minutes on the night sky now and then, you’ll be seduced into longer appointments when the opportunity allows.
One warning: many of the missions will only work for the season in which they were posted. As I write this in January, there is no use looking for Sagittarius (Mission 6), because it is directly behind the sun from our point of view. On the other hand, the Big Dipper (Mission 4) and Cassiopeia (Mission 11) can be seen circling the north celestial pole on almost any evening the year, provided you either live far enough north or are willing to stay up late enough. To find out what’s up in the sky right now, please avail yourself of a free monthly sky map or free planetarium software.
Naked Eye Missions
- Mission 1: The Summer Triangle
- Mission 2: Eye of the Scorpion (Antares)
- Mission 3: Waxing Lyrical (Lyra)
- Mission 4: The Big Dipper
- Mission 9: The Mote in God’s Eye (Fomalhaut)
- Mission 14: Three Astronomical Treats (Pleiades, Hyades, Orion)
- Mission 15: Ring of Fire (bright stars of winter)
- Extended Mission: Follow the Moon
- Irregular Mission: You call this stargazing?
Missions For Binoculars or Small Telescopes
- Mission 5: Hail to the King (Jupiter)
- Mission 6: Not Everyone’s Pot of Tea (Sagittarius)
- Mission 7: Star Clouds of Sagittarius
- Mission 8: Neptune
- Mission 10: The Great Glob (in Hercules)
- Mission 11: Cassiopeia and the Double Cluster
- Mission 12: Nova in Eridanus
- Mission 13: Pegasus to Andromeda
- Mission 16: MARS!
- Mission 17: See an asteroid
- Mission 18: Diamonds from the Ring of Fire (winter clusters)
- Mission 19: Cross asterism near NGC 2281
- Mission 20: Beta Monocerotis, a triple star
- Mission 21: Nova in Sagittarius
- Extended Mission: AL Galileo Club
Missions to Messier Objects
- Mission 6: Not Everyone’s Pot of Tea (M7, M8, M22)
- Mission 7: Star Clouds of Sagittarius (M6, M7, M8, M21, M22, M24, M25)
- Mission 10: The Great Glob (M13)
- Mission 13: Pegasus to Andromeda (M31)
- Mission 14: Three Astronomical Treats (M42, M45)
- Mission 18: Diamonds from the Ring of Fire (M35-M38, M41, M44, M46, M47, M93)