So I live in a suburb in Victoria, Australia. Less than an hour away from the city and I guess there is a bit of light pollution because from my backyard I can probably only see about 15 - 20 stars (probably less), I'm wondering what these stars are, and what I'll see when I get this telescope:


This is going to sound stupid but how do I know when there are planets in the sky that I can see? I don't think I've ever actually seen a planet other than the moon.

Thank you.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There are many on-line resources for this. One example is in-the-sky.org which is a recent addition and well adapted to viewing on mobile devices (phones, tablets) as well as computers. There is a button labeled "What's in the sky?" you can push, or just go to Planetarium mode where you can use the sliders to move back and forth in time. You can also look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetarium_software and try out the free and open-source Stellarium. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 23 '17 at 5:31

Firstly, if you're planet spotting, don't worry too much about light pollution. The planets are some of the brightest objects in the sky and some (especially Jupiter) can easily be observed even with a full Moon - the full Moon (along with the Sun!) is the biggest contributor to light pollution!

Take a look at the list of brightest stars ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_brightest_stars ), which also contains estimates for the brightness of the Sun, Moon and major planets. There aren't typically any stars brighter from Earth than Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury and precious few brighter than Saturn. I'm going to suggest you probably have seen many of the planets - but just didn't recognise them.

+1 for Stellarium ( http://www.stellarium.org/en_GB/ ). It's free, intuitive and very visual to use. You can put in your local viewing location and it gives you a view for any time of the night, future or past. At the time of writing (23 July 2017), Saturn and Jupiter should be looking good for the Southern Hemisphere. This rotates throughout the year, and Stellarium will help with this.

Do a web search for "the sky at night in the southern hemisphere" and you'll find a number of examples of websites with highlights to look for when you get out.

Couple of final suggestions:

  • Do allow plenty of time to let your eyes adjust to the darkness - it takes me a good 20-30 minutes to get going. You'll see many more stars then
  • Do be aware that local conditions (houses / trees etc) might restrict visibility of things near the horizon. In any case, you find items over-head are much clearer
  • Refractors (yours included) come with an 'erecting prism'. Despite the name, the real benefit isn't that you see the image the right way up (that isn't really an issue in astronomy), the prism just allows you a more sensible and comfortable viewing position - you'll understand when you get going
  • Don't restrict yourself to planets. When you get going, learn about the deep sky objects too. For instance, the southern hemisphere has access to the famous Magellenic Clouds which we cannot see from the northern hemisphere!
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, worth adding Google Sky Map - which is a mobile phone app that lets you use your phone as a window on the sky, annotating stellar objects etc as you point at them. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 23 '17 at 17:34

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