Finding objects! (was Re: (IAAC) The Herschel List)
Why would we want you off the list, Eric?? Finding and learning how to observe
deep sky objects is what we're all about! Now if you WEREN'T INTERESTED in what
those numbers meant, we'd of course kick you off... ;>
Seriously, the first tool you will want to obtain to do deep-sky observing
(maybe even before you got a telescope or binoculars, if you hadn't already) is
a good *star atlas*! The good beginner's star atlas will help you learn the
constellations, and then once they're familiar, it will help you learn how to
find those "faint fuzzies" that are lurking all around the sky.
Others on the list will have their own great suggestions, but my favorites are
the Bright Star Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion, and the venerable Norton's Star
Atlas. If you're anxious to move quickly into deep-sky observing, you may try
using Sky&Telescope's monthly "center maps" to learn the constellations, and
immediately get yourself the more advance "Sky Atlas 2000.0" also by Tirion.
And if you want an atlas which will fit BOTH modes, and even stay with you into
your very advanced obseving later, I highly recommend the Australian
"AstroAtlas", by Harald & Bobroff. Only thing: this atlas is pricey...
And if you're really interested in learning the naked-eye constellations COLD,
there's no better book (in my opinion) than H. A. Rey's _The Stars: A New Way
to See Them_. (This is the same HA Rey who illustrated(?) the Curious George
books, I believe - but _The Stars_ is NOT just for kids!)
Anyway, once you have tools like these in hand, and you've begun learning the
constellations, the next question is: "How do I find anything with the
telescope?" Great question! My answer is a technique called "star hopping":
pick a star near your target object, that you can find naked eye. Point your
scope at that star. Then find another star grouping on your atlas which can be
seen in your telescope, and which lies a little closer to your target. Then
keep following these trails of star groups, until you find your target!
And of course, Eric, once you get to the star-hopping stage (or at any time
beforehand), the folks here on the 'netastrocatalog' list (or in your local
astronomy club) are always available for questions!
Last but not least, you CAN use those "RA and Dec" numbers to find your object
directly, if it's bright, and if you already know a little about the sky... You
just need a tool on your scope mount called "Setting Circles" (either digital
or analog). But since I don't personally feel setting circles are appropriate
for folks just starting out, or as much fun as star-hopping, I'll leave their
explication to others on the list... ;>