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The Hidden Lives of Galaxies - Scavenger Hunt Tip Sheet

Scavenger Hunt in the Night Sky Tip Sheet

It’s sometimes difficult to identify objects in the night sky. Here are some hints to help you determine what you’re looking at.

Jets, Planes, Earth-orbiting Satellites

These objects move extremely fast. Blinking lights and loud noises reveal a jet plane. Satellites travel in a straight line across the sky.


Some planets have a distinct appearance, others do not. To the naked eye, the planets do not twinkle as the stars do. The disk of the brighter planets can be seen with a telescope.


Meteors are small pieces of rock that blaze across the sky appearing to leave a trail. They are often called "shooting stars".


These objects come into sight over a course of several weeks. They usually appear with a long tail and a somewhat fuzzy head.


The majority of the objects that we see in the night sky are stars. They appear to be moving slowly because the Earth is turning underneath them.

Galaxies and Nebulae

Most galaxies and nebulae are too faint to see with the naked eye. Therefore, you will need to use binoculars or a telescope. The two exceptions are the Andromeda Galaxy and the Orion Nebulae.

Observation Tips

  • Choose a safe location on a clear night. Be patient and let your eyes adjust to the darkness for 30-45 minutes.
  • Allow telescopes and binoculars to adjust to the air temperature. Let condensation on lenses or mirrors evaporate on its own.
  • Attach red cellophane to the flashlight using the rubberband. Red light interferes the least with night vision.
  • Take along a pencil, observation log, and your planisphere.


A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC

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