The Astronomical League provides many different observing programs. These programs are designed to provide a direction for your observations and to provide a goal. The programs have awards and pins to recognize the observers’ accomplishments and for demonstrating their observing skills with a variety of instruments and objects.
As a quick reference, you can compare the programs in these lists:
- Alphabetical Listing with images of the pins.
- Listing of the requirements for each program in a grid format.
- Listing of programs showing observer level (beginner, intermediate, advanced).
- Listing of programs showing equipment needed (naked-eye, binocular, telescope).
Programs offer a certificate based upon achieving certain observing goals and completion is recognized with a beautiful award pin. You are required to observe a specific number of objects from a list or of a specific type (meteors, comets, etc.) with a specific type of instrument (eyes, binoculars, telescope). Some programs have multiple levels of accomplishment within the program, and some permit observations of different types (manual vs. go-to, visual vs. imaging) and note this on your certificate. There is no time limit for completing the required observing (except for the Planetary Transit Special Awards), but good record keeping is required.
The programs are designed to be individual effort. Each observer must perform all the requirements of each program themselves and not rely on other people to locate the objects. This is called "piggy-backing" and is not acceptable for logging objects for any of the programs. You are allowed to look through another observer’s telescope to see what the object looks like, but you still need to locate and observe the object on your own.
When you reach the requisite number of objects, your observing logs are examined by an appropriate authority and you will receive a certificate and pin to proclaim to all that you have reached your goal. Many local astronomical societies even post lists of those who have obtained their certificates as does the Astronomical League.
When you complete a program by yourself, you should feel a sense of pride and great accomplishment for what you have just completed. Each program is designed not only to show you a variety of objects in the sky and to learn some science related to those objects, but to also familiarize you with your telescope and how to use it, night-sky navigation (the ability to find the objects in the vastness of space) and to learn some observing techniques that will enhance your viewing of the objects in the programs.
Observing Program Planning Tools:
Aaron Clevenson, one of the AL National Observing Program Coordinators, has created two tools designed to help Astronomical League members manage their progress with the AL observing programs. One is a monthly publication (in Microsoft Word) that highlights objects by observing club that are visible in the evening sky that month. It is called "What's Up Doc?". The other is a large spreadsheet (in Microsoft Excel) that lets you set your observing Latitude and Longitude as well as the Universal Time of your observation session and it will tell you information on which objects for the various AL observing programs are visible. It lists the object from highest Altitude to lowest. IT has information on over 2100 objects and all of the AL Observing Programs. It is called "What's Up Tonight, Doc?" (soon to be released). To get copies of the monthly list, please go to the What's Up Doc? website.
Additional Observing Program Resources: