Star Deed Frequently Asked Questions

How to use a Planisphere:
In principle nothing could be simpler. You turn a wheel to put your time next to your date, and presto, there's a custom-made map of the stars that are above your horizon for that moment. The edge of the oval star map represents the horizon all around you, as you would see if you were standing in an open field and turned around in a complete circle. The part of the map at the oval's center represents the sky overhead.

In practice, several complications can throw beginners off. The worst is that a planisphere map is necessarily small and distorted. It compresses the entire celestial hemisphere above and around you into a little thing you hold in your hand. So star patterns appear much bigger in real life than on the map.

Moving your eyes just a little way across the map corresponds to swinging your gaze across a huge sweep of sky. The east and west horizons may look close together on a planisphere, but of course when east is in front of you west is behind your back. Glancing from the map's edge to center corresponds to craning your gaze from horizontal to straight up.

There's only one way to get to know a map like this. Hold it out in front of you as you face the horizon. Twist it around so the map edge labeled with the direction you're facing is down. The correct horizon on the map will now appear horizontal and match the horizon in front of you. Now you can compare stars above the horizon on the map with those you're facing in the sky, and you're all set!

Once you understand the workings of a planisphere, you can "dial in" any constellation visible from your hemisphere and then look at the edge to see when those stars are visible. Constellations that are visible all-year are known as Circum-Polar, because they seem to spin around the north star Polaris, and never set completely below the horizon. Most other constellations are prominent during a particular season of the year. For example, Orion the Hunter is very easily seen in Winter, but in Summer, it is hidden in the sun's glare and is up during the day. Good hunting!

  Find Your Star's Constellation:
  1. Make sure that is is a clear, dark night. The moon, street lights and other bright sources of illumination can hinder your vision.
  2. Locate the constellation using your planisphere. You can find the instructions above to help you use this invaluable astronomer's tool.
  3. Once you have located your star's constellation, you can use your included Star Map to find your specific star by comparing the stars in the sky with those on your map.

NOTE: Your star's apparent magnitude is listed on your Star Deed, and can range in brightness from 1 to 16, with 1 being the brightest and 16 being the faintest. Stars with a magnitude of 7 or higher are too dim to be seen with the naked eye, and will require a telescope or binoculars and a very dark sky to be seen.

On a typical, very dark night away from city lights and pollution, a person with good eyesight can see about 2,500 to 3,500 stars, so finding your star is like looking for a needle in a haystack. If you have access to a seasoned amateur astronomer with a good telescope, he can probably locate your star using the Right Ascension and Declination coordinates.

Most people have told us that they understand how difficult it can be to locate a specific star, and they are satisfied to find the star's constellation. This is, of course, much easier and even a novice star gazer should have not trouble. We do recommend a using a Planisphere or star map to help you locate your star.


(1) This offer not available on special custom orders: for example, corporate orders or duplicate orders. However, if we do make any mistake on any type of order, we will correct it at our expense. (2) Publicly cataloged - stars are cataloged when they have been paid for and the order has been processed.

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