Last updated: 29 January 2001

Seasonal Star Name Index for ETX Alignment, High Precision, Star Directory Charts

[The Winter, Spring, and Summer charts have been updated to correct a minor typo.]

From: sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)

Following this explanation and introduction of them are eight (8) j-peg files that are at your disposal for use with your ETX or LX telescope during observing.

Even a seasoned observer can become confused with the many sound-alike and similar star names associated with our brightest stars. Yet we must make use of these stars to guide us through the sky, particularly in telescopic use. Don't be fooled for a minute about your knowledge of the sky and the star names within it.

With the new computerized GO TO telescopes that practically observes for you now, it would seem that our knowledge of the names of naked eye stars might not be as important as it was when, say, setting circles were in common use....or when we did not even use setting circles!

But nothing is further from the truth. With your computer-automated tracking system, you perhaps need the backup knowledge of constellations, stars, and star names MORE NOW than you did before. Consider the following:

1) You are aligning your telescope in Alt-Azimuth for tonight's computer tour of the sky. Once your scope is in "Home Position" you select "Easy" two-star align and press "Enter." It goes to the first star, say Capella, which you access and center easily and rapidly, then hit "Enter" again at which time it slews the telescope for you to align on.....DRAT! It went to Deneb, and Deneb is behind the neighbor's house! So you hit the Scroll key and the computer selects ANOTHER star for the second alignment and goes to it. Only this time, the telescope moved ALL THE WAY TO ORION! Looking at your message, it is asking you to "Center Alnilam" ALNILAM? Yes, you sort-of remember the star name, and you know it is somewhere in Orion. But then you look up, naked eye. Orion is FILLED with bright stars and all you know for sure is Betelgeuse and Rigel! Look through your tiny finder and - again - there are at least six stars that could be "Alnilam."


If you guess, and you choose the WRONG star of those six and press enter, your alignment will be off by that star's angular measure from "Alnilam" all night long. And you'll wonder what's wrong.

2) You, like me, like to find objects and appreciate the more accurate GO TO and tracking via "High Precision" whereby the telescope moves to the closest bright star to your desired object. The computer - thanks to the new 2.1ek Autostar version from Meade - actually tells you which star (by NAME) to look for! You look in the finderscope again, and several bright stars are there and you center the brightest. WHAT if that star is not the one? Say you were searching for a new comet near the constellation of Corvus in the southern sky at High Precision. Likely, the computer will move you to either "Gienah" or "Alchiba" in Corvus and tell you which one its chosen. Do YOU know which is which? Bet you don't! If it asked you to center "Alchiba" and you were confused (or simply didn't know) and instead centered "Gienah," and pressed "Enter," the telescope will miss the comet by ALMOST FIVE DEGREES! Unfortunately, of you do not stop observing and re-align to north from scratch, you will be off that amount with every subsequent GO TO for the rest of the night. Most people do not even know what has happened, and quickly blame the Autostar or servos.

This introduction is merely to let you know that this has happened to me since I have owned my ETX 125.....many times. It will throw off your entire night's observing if you mistakenly align or High Precision to the wrong star.

The eight charts present all of Meade's Autostar bright stars in the "star directory" of the Autostar for northern mid-and-high latitudes (the southern sky is coming next month).

Note that there are FOUR SEASONS: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer. Each Season has TWO (2) files you can open: the first file for each season contains TWO star charts for stars seen in northern latitudes - one for early evening and another for later that night or following morning. The second file is clearly marked by the number "2" at the end of each file name. These files contain a star chart (two for summer) for high declination and circumpolar stars that northern observers should have quick reference to. So, if you want to cover the upcoming Spring sky, you will need to open BOTH "ETXSPRINGSTARS" and "ETXSPRINGSTARS2" for a complete set of star charts giving proper names of all the reference stars that Autostar can throw at you.

Keep in mind, that the stars names given on the charts are directly from the Meade star directory in Autostar, and hence may not be the name you might be accustomed to; most are Arabic on these charts. Nonetheless, regardless of what they are called, you will never again have to remember which of the three "belt stars" in Orion is "Alnitak" or "Alnilam" or "Mintaka." Just have your chart handy, packed in with your flashlight, eyepieces and other accessories.

It was necessary to utilized the Autostar entries so that they would correspond with the star directory and, hence, 1) the alignment star selection, 2) the High Precison selection, and 3) the star reference listing under "Objects."

IF IN DOUBT about your alternate star, or your High Precison star....consult the charts. They are easy to read and not cluttered with things you do not need for this purpose. The charts themselves have been adapted and considerably modified from the very early version (1995) of "Star Navigator II" from Meade. All of the named stars I took from the Autostar index and assigned to the appropriate star on the chart. All-in-all, whereever Autostar sends your telescope looking....you'll be ready!

These are intended for use outdoors obviously, in the damp night air. Download and print these charts - do a couple and give away to friends - on the HIGHEST QUALITY PAPER you can obtain and use the "High Quality" setting on your printer for best results to read in dark conditions. THE CHARTS ARE IN COLOR, so please use a color printer if you have access; if not, they will print fine in black and white.

After printing mine, I sprayed them evenly on both sides with artists' acrylic protective spray which will make them permanent for years to come. After spraying, I strongly suggest taking the charts to a school supply or office supply store and have them LAMINATED. Then, cut your laminate in such a way that you have ample left over on the LEFT EDGE to three-hole punch for putting in a binder or report cover. That way, the little book and its charts can go everywhere you do!

You'll be surprise how often you will use these charts. No more fumbling around with a flashlight attempting to open a field guide to the right page to verify your star...just look at one flat chart!

Now that you have access to so many stars so easily, why not start using "High Precision?" It locks onto a reference star (which you will verify and center from your star charts) and then very accurately positions the scope nearly dead-center with the object you are searching for. I have found that - if I really align my scope very carefully at the night's beginning - my -125 will show the object in the field of view using my 26mm Plossl (73x)! That's "high precision." TRY IT! Now you can with confidence!

For our dedicated kindred "down under," be patient. My set of eight star name charts for your computer-operated scope are being prepared as you are reading this!

For the rest of us....enjoy some incredible accuracy and confidence in the sky by being a "master" of star names. It really makes your pursuit more enjoyable and hassle-free.

The best in seeing and the finest in GO TO....

P. Clay Sherrod, Ph.D.
Arkansas Sky Observatory
Conway / Petit Jean Mountain / Arkansas

Click on the appropriate image to get the full sized version.

Fall Season Charts
Star chart

mid-altitude stars

Star chart

high declination/circumpolar stars

Winter Season Charts
Star chart

mid-altitude stars

Star chart

high declination/circumpolar stars

Spring Season Charts
Star chart

mid-altitude stars

Star chart

high declination/circumpolar stars

Summer Season Charts
Star chart

mid-altitude stars

Star chart

high declination/circumpolar stars

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Copyright ©2001 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
Submittals Copyright © 2001 by the Submitter
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