Astronomical League Observing Programs


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:

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.

Terms of Common Usage in Astronomical League Observing Programs

There are some terms that will be used throughout Astronomical League Observing Programs.  To avoid any confusion due to different definitions, these terms are defined here.

Seeing and Transparency

Many of the Astronomical League's Observing Programs require the inclusion of information on Seeing and Transparency.  The programs will accept a number of different scales and techniques.  For details on a easy to use technique that is accepted by all of the Observing programs, click here.

Replacement Pins and Certificates

Life happens!  Pins become lost and certificates are damaged. If you need to replace one or both of these, the Astronomical League wants to help.  You should work with the current Coordinator for the specific Observing Program involved. Special Observing Awards may not have replacement pins available since they are ordered once as needed at the completion of the event.  Note that it is critical that your certification is in the on-line awards database.  If we are unable to verify your having earned the certification, we will not be able to replace the certificate and pin.

There is a cost for materials and shipping these to you.  Please make checks payable to the Astronomical League and send them to the appropriate Coordinator.  The current price list is:

  • $9.00 for a replacement Pin and Certificate.
  • $7.00 for a replacement Pin only.
  • $5.00 for a replacement Certificate only.

These prices may change as costs change.

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.

National Observing Program Directors

Aaron Clevenson
19411 Cluster Oaks Drive
Humble, TX 77346-2918
Contact Aaron Clevenson
Cliff Mygatt
P. O. Box 8607
Port Orchard, WA 98366
Contact Cliff Mygatt

Additional Observing Program Resources

Observing Program Coordinator Information
Downloadable Certificates
Seeing and Transparency Guide Terms of Common Usage