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How to Find Astronomical Bodies with a Telescope

Updated on November 22, 2012

Finding Objects in the Sky

Finding Objects in the Sky
Finding Objects in the Sky | Source

The sky is full with astronomical bodies. Some astronomical bodies, such as the moon, are closer to the Earth than others. Astronomical bodies can be found in the night sky almost every night, except during cloudy nights or during a blurred atmosphere. Other astronomical bodies are not so close; however, they still can be found with the naked eye, as they are easily recognizable.

There are other astronomical bodies which are still further away, billion and billions of light years away from the Earth and they require special equipment, such as a telescope, in order to be found and observed.

What is the Best Way to Find Astronomical Bodies?

The best way to find astronomical bodies is by recognizing where they´re located in the night sky. A planisphere, which is a map of the stars and constellations in the sky can help you get acquainted with the bodies that lie in the sky at a given celestial coordinate, time and date of the year.

Finding Stars With a Planisphere

Planisphere | Source

Once you know what astronomical bodies lie in certain parts of the sky, you can use them as reference to find other bodies in their neighborhood. For example, the constellation Orion is located in the celestial equator and is formed by two prominent stars; Betelgeuse and Rigel.

Orion contains other stars, and deep sky objects, such as Orion Nebula (M42), but the most prominent stars will help you locate other bodies within Orion. So if you find Betelgeuse or Rigel, you´ll be able to find the rest of the sky objects in this constellation.

This is true for other constellations, such as Taurus whose most prominent star is Aldebaran, or Leo, whose most shining star is Regulus. So to find astronomical bodies is good to know where the most prominent ones are situated, then, you can find the less prominent ones using these as point of reference.

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula
Orion Nebula | Source

How to Find Cellestial Bodies with a Telescope?

To find celestial bodies with a telescope, you need to point the telescope to a recognizable body in the sky, using a low power eyepiece. Once you have found a prominent body in the sky, you can change the eyepiece to a higher power eyepiece. A low magnification eyepiece allows you to see a wider angle of view of the sky while a high magnification eyepiece reduces the field of view.

For example, the Orion Nebula is a fussy patch of stars which may be seen in the sky, even with the naked eye, given there are clear skies; however, to observe Orion nebula in more detail would require you to point your telescope at it. To find the Orion Nebula you can point your telescope, using a low power eyepiece, to a group of three stars, Mintaka, Alnitak and Alnilam, known as Orion´s belt.

Once you locate this group of stars, then you can point your telescope a little down this group of stars until you locate Orion´s Nebula. After you locate Orion´s nebula, you can change the eyepiece in your telescope to a high magnification eyepiece to observe this astronomical object in more detail.

The Pleiades

The Pleiades
The Pleiades | Source

In the northeast of Orion just above the constellation taurus lies a cluster of stars known as the Pleiades. To find these group of stars, you can point your telescope to Aldebaran, which is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus, then moving your telescope a little above Taurus, you´ll find the Pleiades.

The Pleiades can be observed with a low power eyepiece, such as a 25mm eyepiece and a 700mm telescope; however, if you change to a 9mm eyepiece, the field of view is reduced and you´ll have to move your telescope to observe every single star in this star cluster. You´ll enjoy watching this group of stars. They´re one of my favorites!


To find astronomical bodies with a telescope, first, get acquainted with the stars and constellations by acquiring a planisphere; recognize the most prominent bodies within the constellations and finally, locate the bodies in the sky using a low power eyepiece. After you have located the celestial body you want to observe, change the eyepiece of your telescope according to how you want to magnify the object on the night sky.

Astronomical Bodies That People Prefer To Observe

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