Messier's list isn't the only one, you know. Nor the oldest, for that matter. Several lists of deepsky objects concentrate on the southern hemisphere; one of the oldest is by Lacaille (1755) and the most recent by the Deepsky Section (1998).





Some thoughts on taking up astronomy as a hobby.


Just Starting Out?

An on-line observing tutorial describing the basics of deepsky observing. Read or download this one first; more in-depth treatment can be found by following the links below.

Observing Tutorial

Observing techniques and skills for those just starting out. Topics discussed include preparing for an observing session, how to star-hop, and keeping an observing log.

Basic Proficiencies

A collection of the writings of several experienced observers, giving their opinions about the finer points of visual observing. Topics discussed include dark adaptation, averted vision, magnification, contrast and observing at the limit. Extensive use is made of the works of K P Bowen, R N Clark, L Cain, A MacRobert and S J O'Meara.


Visual Astronomy

18th century observers were the first to systematically use abbreviations when describing the appearance of deepsky objects. You, too, can benefit from using these arcane ciphers when you take notes of the objects you observe.


Taking Notes and Decoding the NGC

A deepsky drawing conveys precisely what the mind sees, and is an expression of the observer's experience. A sketch is the result of the eye's amazing range of sensitivity, and the mind's powerful ability to integrate and interpret. It depicts what is seen through the eyepiece -- something that photos and CCDs can ever do.


Sketching the Deep Sky

The atmosphere which blankets us greatly influences our view of the universe. Weather conditions, too, play an important role in the quality of observing. Not to forget the growing problem of light pollution. Some of these complex topics are discussed here.


The Atmosphere, Weather & Seeing.

Observers are full of stuff - gadgets, tools, accessories and other widgets. The 'Equipment' link takes you to an index of magazine articles discussing this aspect of the hobby.
For southern observers, theres a description of a quick and easy method to polar-align portable telescopes (reproduced from the Mon. Notes Astron. Soc. S. Afr 54, Dec 1995, p108).



Cleaning optics

Easy Polar Alignment of Southern Telescopes

When selecting an observing site, various criteria should be considered. I've collected the points of view of a few authors, summarising the properties they think are important.
My feeling is that convenience and comfort should be carefully considered. The quicker and easier you can observe, the more often you'll do it. Also, as MacRobert notes, "your surroundings colour your experience of the universe." I've spent hours observing alone in a nature reserve, with only the sound of small animals and the nearby stream to compliment the celestial views -- a different level of enjoyment compared to my backyard, with its easy access to the CD player and coffee machine.


Selecting an Observing Site

Double stars are an excellent way to hone your observing skills by estimating separation and position angle.
Looking for colours in stars can be a rewarding exercise. Check out this list of bright, southern, highly coloured stars


Double Stars for the Exercise

Star Colours



Find out which part of the sky is visible during the year. The 'What's Up, When?' pages answers questions like: "Is Circinus high up in the sky in October" (no) and "When is the Fornax cluster well-placed for observing?" (around November)


What's Up, When?

The Sun and the Moon: two major stumbling blocks. Find out when they are not in the sky. Calculations are made for Cape Town - send me your coordinates and I'll generate a report for your location.


1998 Deeptime for Cape Town



Other deepsky resources on the web. If you know of a good site, please let me know.





I've compiled an index of articles from Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines that I thought would be of interest to deepsky observers.

I also hope to gather book reviews -- if anyone has reviews that may be of interest, please forward these to me for inclusion on these pages.


Magazine articles

Book reviews



Deepsky guru Walter Scott Houston said: "the diversity of star clusters and nebulae is matched only by the diversity of the people who enjoy looking at them." This section contains short biographical notes on the deepsky observers whose work appears here.


Observer Profiles



What do twelve men, four women and six dogs have in common? Check out the constellation trivia for more.


Constellation Trivia

"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within."
Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Practical Reason


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"Deepsky Observers Companion" ( Copyright 1998 Auke Slotegraaf ( All rights reserved. Uranometria 2000.0 copyright (c) 1987-1996 Willmann-Bell, Inc. Page last updated 1998 April 01. I saw a sign: "Rest Area 25 Miles". That's pretty big. Some people must be really tired.