Welcome to the City Astronomer.  The stars belong to you, and are yours to study and enjoy.  Even with the light pollution of a modern city, one can still usually see enough to learn to recognize the brightest stars and most famous constellations.

This site is a short series intended to turn anybody in the Northern Hemisphere into an amateur astronomer. We focus on naked-eye astronomy- no telescopes needed! We also focus on only the brightest objects in the sky- the ones you can see at night, even in brightly-lit cities.

At the end of this series, you’ll be able to:

1) Find your way around the night sky. Know your Alnitak from your Arcturus. Locate the brightest stars, and know their names. This series will teach you how to find 20 of the 36 constellations visible in the northern night sky, and we’ll study about 50 of the brightest stars, among the estimated 200–400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

2) Let the stars be your compass and your calendar – never get lost again on a clear night! We’ll learn how to find north, and how to determine what time of year it is.

3) Understand Earth’s neighborhood. It’s good to know your neighbors! We’ll talk a bit about planets, galaxies, and other interesting sights in the night sky, as well.


Consider downloading TheSkyX from Bisque Software, so that you can study the sky even when it’s too cloudy or cold to study it from outside. Set up a free account and you’ll be able to download their free version, TheSkyX First Light, for Mac or for Windows.

Table of Contents

1) Orion’s Belt
2) The Orion Constellation
3) Orion the pointer: Sirius, Aldeberan, & the Pleiades
4) Orion’s Dogs
5) The Big Dipper and the North Star
6) The Little Dipper and Cepheus
7) The Celestial Sphere
8) The Zodiac