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What is a Star Chart and How Do You Use One?

19 Apr 2019, 07:31 UTC
What is a Star Chart and How Do You Use One?
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Charles Messier’s star chart of 1764, showing the curved path of a comet. Image Credit: Charles Messier
Things have changed a lot over the past ten thousand years or so. Nowadays we can travel from point A to point B by simply opening an app on our phone and following directions. “Continue straight for five miles. Turn left at the next intersection.”
Twenty years ago, the technology was still in its infancy and thirty years ago it was just a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. You had to navigate your way with the aid of a paper map. It took time and it took planning and you had to know what you were doing.
There were days when you’d go out for a drive and just explore, just to discover previously unseen sights, but how many of us do that anymore? It’s the same with the stars.
Today we have computerized telescopes and apps that tell us where we should look. We don’t need those paper star charts, right? They’re a relic of bygone days that, like the road atlas you used to carry in your car, are simply a reminder of a time when getting lost was easy and ...

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