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

Missions For Binoculars or Small Telescopes

Missions to Messier Objects


  1. Wow! Very organized! I’ll have to show my engineer husband. Maybe this will help perk his interest in things above the computer screen. 🙂


  2. Inspired! Guru

  3. This is exactly what I am looking for as a beginner, thanks!

  4. […] mean for it to. I got my gig writing for Sky & Telescope because I’d been posting little observing projects for the readers of my stargazing […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: