Star-hopping tutorial 3: Star-skipping to M11

Star-skipping from Altair to M11This the third in a series of tutorials intended to develop basic star-hopping skills. The focus of these tutorials is not on finding particular deep sky objects, but rather on using hops to selected objects as a vehicle for illustrating star-hopping techniques.

This lesson introduces star-skipping—a way to skip across large areas either to speed up a long-range star-hop or to get across areas that lack stars suitable for traditional star-to-star star-hopping. The star-hop from Altair to M11 provides a perfect example of where this technique can be useful. Altair itself is bright enough to be visible even in heavily light-polluted skies. But light pollution combined with summer haze and M11's somewhat low position on the horizon often leaves few other stars visible for star-to-star hopping. The best way to get from Altair to M11 is to “skip across” such barren areas to the brighter stars...

Other tutorials in the series: Lesson 1, Lesson 2


Star-hopping Tutorial: Lesson Two (M27)

 M27For the second lesson in the star-hopping tutorial series, we’ll star-hop from Albireo (β Cyg) to M27, the Dumbell Nebula. This is a relatively short star-hop—in fact it is shorter than M57, our first lesson. But unlike M57 where we star-hopped using 3rd and 4th magnitude stars, this star-hop will rely on fainter 5th and 6th magnitude stars—stars that are usually invisible in washed-out skies...

Other tutorials in the series:  Lesson 1Lesson 3


Star-hopping Tutorial: Lesson One (M57)

Illustration of a chart of Lyra such as would be used for star hoppingStar-hopping is one of the most valuable skills in amateur astronomy. In the days before computerized mounts and GPS, star-hopping was the only way to find interesting objects. Thanks to the steady march of technology, not as many amateurs today are proficient star-hoppers. In fact, quite a few amateurs have never star-hopped. Still, for many of us without computerized mounts, star-hopping remains a critical skill. Washed-out skies in particular can really test your star-hopping skills: when only 3rd or 4th magnitude stars are visible, it can be a pretty long hop from the nearest visible star to your target. Even if you have a computerized mount, star-hopping can be useful in light-polluted skies: with many faint fuzzies at the ragged edge of visibility, star-hopping techniques can confirm that you are indeed looking in the right place.

To help you master star-hopping I am planning a series of tutorials, starting with the simplest of star-hops and continuing with successively more challenging star-hops. Each one will end in an interesting object suitable for viewing with a modest telescope under washed-out skies. We start with a very simple star-hop from Vega to M57, the Ring Nebula...

Other tutorials in the series:  Lesson 2, Lesson 3


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