Naked-Eye Astronomy


As you begin the course, it is very important that you sometimes walk outside and actually look at the night sky. If you cannot incorporate some naked-eye astronomy into the term, you will be missing out. You have easy access to observe many of the things discussed in the Module/Week 1 reading and the presentation on naked-eye astronomy. During the term, you need to literally see some things for yourself, whether it is the position of the sun at sunrise and sunset; the phases of the moon; the planets; or the brightest stars, clusters, asterisms, and constellations. The Module/Week 1 presentation provides several resources about naked-eye astronomy, which are summarized here, but feel free to find other, similar resources on your own if you prefer.

1. Star Gazers: A weekly, 5-minute program designed to help amateurs with naked-eye astronomy. Browse through past episodes for help with everything from phases of the moon to eclipses to seasonal constellations. Go to
2. What’s Up?: A monthly program found on the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory website. There are many other worthwhile tools on this site, but this one is there to help you with naked-eye viewing. Go to, scroll down to “What’s Happening Now,” and choose “videos,” or just search “jpl what’s up.”
3. Sky Maps: Each month, you can print out a free copy of these “maps,” with versions that correspond with any location on Earth. So while most of us would print out the “Northern Hemisphere” sky map, there are versions for equatorial and southern hemisphere viewers as well. Go to
4. Astronomy Notes: This online “book” includes a chapter on naked-eye astronomy. There are multiple pages, and you will find links to even more sites. Go to
5. Sky Map Online: This website hosts an online planetarium program. See the sky from anywhere in the world at any time of day. Go to
6. Astronomy Applications for iPhones and tablets: There are dozens of these to choose from now. Some are free, and even those that come at a price tend to be inexpensive. Some titles to consider include “Star Walk,” “Sky View,” Sky Gazer,” “StarMap,” and “Star Chart” for iPhone.

In no fewer than 250 words, discuss any 2 of these resources (or others of your choosing) that have helped you navigate the skies more effectively. First, discuss the 2 resources themselves, how they assisted you, and how others might also find them useful. Then, briefly summarize what you have been able to find in the night sky as a result of using these resources. The goal here is to get you engaged in using tools to be a better astronomer. Share your own experience in the thread.

Sample paper

Naked-Eye Astronomy

The first resource in chose is Sky Maps, which is a guide that contains maps of stars, constellations, planets, and position of the moon at different periods. I downloaded the Northern Hemisphere sky map. This map assisted me by providing directions on where to look and the patterns made by various constellations. By sketching the patterns or counting the number of stars in the night sky, it is possible to identify certain constellations, particular stars and planets. Other people might find the map useful since it is very easy to use. The other resource that I used is the Google Sky Map. This application allows one to point his/her Android device toward the sky and identify stars, planets, constellations, and nebulae. The application was very easy to use since it is similar to playing games on your mobile device. The phone should have a compass for the application to work.

While using Sky Maps, I was able to locate a number of planets, stars and constellations. One of the planets that I could easily located was Venus. I could also be able to see Mars, which was not so distant from Venus. However, Mars appears less bright. I was able to observe Capella in the constellation Auriga. Sirius, the brightest star was visible in the South. Sirius is in the constellation Canis Major, which I also located. I was able to identify Polaris, the North Pole Star, and the constellation Ursa Minor in which it belongs. The Google Sky Map was the most useful as it could identify virtually any object I pointed. Using the application, I was able to find Algol in the constellation Perseus. I was able to locate planets Venus and Mars. I was also able to find constellation Rigel, and Orion, which is the brightest star in the constellation.


Naked-Eye Astronomy