A planisphere is a star chart in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot. It can be adjusted to show the visible stars for any time and is an aid in learning how to recognize the stars and constellations.
This is a simple and easy way to track the stars and constellations hour by hour. This is an invaluable tool which I believe every budding astrononomer should have by their side.
It's incredibly easy to use, simply turn the dial so that the date corresponds with the time. The planisphere will then display the stars, constellations, and prominent deep-sky objects that are currently above the horizon as well as the location of the Milky Way.
Bear in mind they are designed for specific latitudes. So when you buy one ensure it is appropriate for your latitude. You can check your latitude here.
You will soon discover that it is far more convienient and a lot quicker to use than planetarium software on a pc. A major plus is that it can be used outside to make immediate comparisons to identify stars as well as other objects.
There are a number of different versions available, all able to perform the same task, that is locating celestial objects. They do have minor differences but none that are detrimental.
Just recently I came across another interesting version, called Planisphere 2 it takes the pain out of learning the night sky.
It uses a patented 3-step process that enables you to quickly find and identify constellations, bright stars, planets and even some deep-sky objects. Four models work around the world between 18° and 60° north latitude.
There are a number of different types available. I have listed them here with an online version that may come in handy.
Kepler Star Wheel The easy to build Kepler Star Wheel makes it really simple and you will find yourself navigating the night sky in no time at all. It is also a great project for kids who will find it great fun
The Miller Planisphere is an essential tool for locating objects in the night sky quickly and efficiently.
The Night Sky Planisphere
My favorite device for finding objects in the night sky is the planisphere. I prefer this over a printed star map because it can be so easily adjusted for any time or date.
Orion Star Target Planisphere
You just dial in the date and time and Star Target displays a current map of the night sky
Then there is the virtual planisphere. This is an online map which lets you find the constellations in the night sky. Compare what you see on your monitor with what you can see from your window. A quick and easy way to locate objects you might otherwise find difficult to locate.
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