Can you help me find a star?

We often receive email messages asking for help finding a star. In this post we will give instructions for displaying an image of a star in SkyView, as well as provide further tips for finding the star on a star chart and determining the star’s constellation and one final note about purchasing a star.

Instructions for generating an image of a star:

1. To generate an image in SkyView you’ll need a set of coordinates – the star’s right ascension and  declination.  These are the stellar equivalent of the latitude and longitude on the Earth. These may be in various formats but the RA usually is given as three numbers – hours, minutes and seconds.  The first is between 0 and 23, the second between 0 and 59 and the third between 0 and 60.  The third number, the seconds, may  contain a fractional part.  The Declination is similar, but the the first number can range between -90 and 90 and is called degrees not hours.

For SkyView these coordinates may need to be converted to a format containing just hours, minutes, seconds or decimal numbers.  They can be separated by a comma or the sign for the declination (more information)

An example of a set of coordinates:    RA: 6h 39m 15.70s DEC: 2 16′ 22.7″

The SkyView format of this set of coordinates would be:

6 39 15.70, 2 16 22.17   or   6 39 15.70 +2 16 22.17

Coordinates in this format can be used in the SkyView Query form.

Enter the coordinates in the Coordinates or Source input box.


2. Next a SkyView Survey needs to be selected.  The SkyView Query form provides many surveys in many wavelengths.  Typically someone trying to find a star will want to see how it appears in the night sky so an optical survey is best.  The best survey to start with is the Digital Sky Survey (DSS) which is at the top of our DSS survey category.


3. Once at least one  survey is selected and coordinates are entered the user can click the Submit button and an image of the sky centered on the coordinates will be displayed.

Below is a partial  image of the SkyView Query Form showing the coordinates entered in the Coordinates or Source box and the DSS survey selected.  Below the form is an image of the star that displays after the form is submitted.

 SkyView Query Form

SkyView Query Form

DSS image at 6 39 15.70 +2 16 22.17

SkyView Image centered at 6 39 15.70 +2 16 22.17

The SkyView Query Form has many other options for manipulating the SkyView image to change image size, image colors, resampling, projections, coordinate systems or to add contours and other overlays.  These are just a few of SkyView‘s features.

Related Tips:

There are many websites that provide sky charts for a particular location and information about constellations.  Here are two of these sites  we have found useful:

http://djm.cc/constellation.html: A simple form that displays the name of the constellation for specified coordinates

http://vizier.u-strasbg.fr/vizier/VizieR/constellations.htx#q: Displays boundaries for constellations.  Enter coordinates below the list of constellations.

http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky: Get images of entire sky as viewed from a given location at a specified time and date.  Their Virtual Telescope shows constellations and other objects at specified coordinates.

http://www.heavens-above.com:  Get sky charts and satellite schedules as seen from specified locations. This site also gives the time in various time zones/formats (local time, GMT, UTC)

A Final Note:

Many of these requests for help finding a star come from people who have purchased or received a gift of a star from a registry service. No star registry services are recognized by any political or  scientific authorities.  More information can be found at http://www.iau.org/public/buying_star_names/

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129 Responses to Can you help me find a star?

  1. James Lyons says:

    Thanks. the information is very useful

  2. amanda eaton says:

    please could you help, i have had a star named after my father who passed away this year , STARENF5A2D3QQ-13899200 declination +3* 45′ 34.2″

    please could someone help me find this on a star chart.

    kind regards amanda

  3. Laura says:

    Hello Amanda,

    Please take a look at our blog entry at
    http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/blog/index.php/2012/12/04/can-you-help-me-find-a-star/
    which should address your request.

    You will need coordinates for the star – both right ascension and declination. The information you have included appears to list the declination only. If the have the right ascension value please refer to the blog entry for information on formatting the coordinates for SkyView.

    If you need further assistance please let us know.

    We are sorry for your loss.
    Sincerely,
    Laura McDonald

  4. Svetoslav says:

    Hello! I have one simple question bud for me this is very new stuff and I have to ask thye experts-YOU! I have this cordinate- RA 12:02:37.70-69:11:32.00 dec 5.89 mag Please help me to see this star…it’very important to me ! Thank you! best regards! S from Bulgaria

  5. Laura says:

    Follow the instructions in the blog post and use the format 12 02 37.70, -69 11 32.00 for your coordinates.
    http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/blog/index.php/2012/12/04/can-you-help-me-find-a-star/

    I hope this information is helpful.

  6. youtube unblocker says:

    Hello! I have one simple question bud for me this is very new stuff and I have to ask thye experts-YOU! I have this cordinate- RA 12:02:37.70-69:11:32.00 dec 5.89 mag Please help me to see this star…it’very important to me ! Thank you! best regards! S from Bulgaria

  7. Tom says:

    Please follow the instructions in the entry. You can use a coordinate string:
    12 02 37.70, -69 11 32

    Good luck.

  8. Susan Hargrave says:

    The coordinates of the star I am interested in are:
    RA 6 25 40.0 DEC +6 38 1.7
    I live in the UK and this star has been purchased as a memorial to our late son.

    We have located it in sky view but have been unable to determine which constellation it is near or part of. Can anyone either tell me the constellation or point me in the right direction to find it myself please? I am a total newbie to astrology

  9. Laura says:

    If you enter your coordinates in the “The Virtual Telescope” section at http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/ you can see what constellations are nearby.

    I hope this helps.

  10. Randy Robinson says:

    It’s really a nice post. I hope these tips will help me greatly in future. Thanks!

  11. kathryn says:

    Please could you help me find these coordinates. It named on behalf on by baby boy whom passed away. Right ascension 8h 52m 15.os declination 69’35’1.7 So, thank you

  12. Laura says:

    – Start at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/current/cgi/query.pl
    – Enter your coordinates as 8 52 15, 69 35 1.7 in the Coordinates or Source Box
    – Select the first survey (DSS) in the DSS Survey box
    – Click the Submit button

    An image centered on your coordinates will be displayed.
    I hope these instructions help. I am sorry for your loss.
    Laura McDonald

  13. Richard Hooker says:

    Thanks for the info. Pretty interesting for me!!!!

  14. Vickie Schiff says:

    Thanks for the article, much appreciated.

  15. Louise Santana says:

    That was a pretty interesting post, will be looking forward to your future updates

  16. Helen Baum says:

    Thank you for this article

  17. Tammy Liles says:

    It will be very useful for me.

  18. Trish says:

    I have documentation from International Star Registry for a gift of a star registered in my name; tried to find it via your query form but response says my info is inaccurate. Help! Info as follows: Orion RA 5h57m11s D 17°48′. Would love to see this star on line any time I choose! Thanks.

  19. Laura says:

    Trish,

    Enter the coordinates in this format:
    5 57 11, 17 48 00

  20. Steve says:

    Hi,

    I seem to be the same boat as a few people here, we’ve got the coordinates for our star, named in memory of my brother who passed recently.

    I’ve used the SkyView query and I’ve got an image of the star, but I can’t find the star in the sky, is there any easy way of doing this?

    I’ve used the links on this page, but so far I’m a bit lost.

    Thanks for any help.

    Steve

  21. Laura says:

    Steve,

    Finding the constellation in which the star is located will help you determine where it is in the night sky. Go to http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/
    Scroll down to “The Virtual Telescope” and enter your coordinates. Depending on your location, time of year and the brightness of the star you may be able to see it.

    Laura
    SkyView

  22. Steve says:

    Hi Laura,

    Many thanks for the response. I’ve put my details into the virtual telescope on the page you linked and I can see the part of the sky the star is in, but I still don’t know how I would identify my particular star?

    Do you know of any iPhone app that lets you find these stars? I have a couple of apps, but they only have catalogs of ‘popular’ planets, stars etc. If an app could locate the star for me, that would be great!

    Thanks again.

    Steve

  23. Laura says:

    I suspect you would need a telescope to pinpoint and see the star.
    -Laura

  24. tony bannister says:

    Hi,

    Please help-totally lost.

    Named a star in Orion for Xmas for my wife 05 24 28 639 03 16 42 65

    Can you tell me if this exists and if so does it have a name?

    If you can help I would be eternally grateful,

    Regards

    Tony Bannister

  25. Laura says:

    Hi Tony,
    The format of your coordinates 05 24 28 639 03 16 42 65 is a bit odd. You need two sets (right ascension and declination) of (typically) three numbers (hours, minutes, seconds), e.g. 6 39 15.70, +2 16 22.17. I suspect the coordinates may actually be 05 24 28.639, 03 16 42.65. These coordinates do point towards the Orion constellation.

    If you think this is correct, you can use these coordinates (05 24 28.639, 03 16 42.65) to generate an image of the star using SkyView. You can also go to http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/ and enter the coordinates in to The Virtual Telescope form (towards the bottom of the page). You can then see more information about objects around the star. You can also play with the settings to see if the star has an official name.

    -Laura

  26. Shrvan says:

    Can anyone pls tell me how does RA change with time.
    is it 1 sec (in degrees) with 1 earth sec

    In the starcharts i’ve seen there is fixed value for RA
    But i don’t get the concept ain’t the sky moving.
    can anyone pls explain this to me

    Thanks In Advance

  27. Sandra Freeman says:

    Hi Laura, Thanks for this blog. There is a star out there that is named for my daughter Shawna Diane Freeman. A gift from my best friend via the international star registry ,in 2004. Shawna died nearly 11 years ago and I would love to see this star shining . Is it real? Star # Pisces RA1h10m21.98s D16(degrees)59’28.76″
    Thanks for you help
    Sandra Freeman

  28. Chad says:

    I’m just wondering if you had any tips on surveys? I want to get a survey with a black sky but colored stars. I’ve selected the first DSS but every time I try different color scheme it changes the black sky to that color.
    Thanks!

  29. Laura says:

    Hi Sandra,

    The format to use in SkyView for these coordinates is: 1 10 21.98, 16 59 28.76

    Quick directions:

    – Start at the SkyView Query Form http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/query.pl

    – Enter your coordinates in the Coordinates or Source: box as:

    1 10 21.98, 16 59 28.76

    – Select DSS or one of the other surveys in the Optical:DSS list.

    – Click the Submit button and an image of the sky centered on your coordinates will be displayed.

    I am sorry for your loss.

    Laura

  30. Shannon says:

    Hi there,

    I can’t for the life of me figure out how to translate my late father’s RA and DEC into simple star coordinates in this format [RA 6 25 40.0 DEC +6 38 1.7]

    Right Ascension: 132.24034178
    Declination: -34.46603489

    Do you mind helping me out with this, or pointing me in the right direction to figure it out myself? I’d really appreciate the help :)

  31. Laura says:

    Hi Shannon,
    I believe Coordinate Converter at this URL will help: http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/Tools/convcoord/convcoord.pl
    Enter your coordinates and click the “Find Target/Convert Coordinates” button

    Here is an temporary link to an image of the form:
    http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/blog/HEASARC__Coordinate_Converter.png

    Let me know if this does not answer your question.

    Laura McDonald
    SkyView

  32. geina says:

    i’m having some difficulty figuring out how to chart the virgo constellation on a graph. im trying to see where it was in the sky and planets it was near during early september of 1993. if you have any ideas that would be great, thanks.

  33. Laura says:

    You may find this site helpful: http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Yourtel

    Enter the coordinates of Virgo (Right Ascension 13h, Declination 0) in the Aim Point section
    Enter a date in the Date and Time section
    Make sure the Moon and planets option is selected in the Display Option section
    Click the Update button under the map

    A map is displayed of that region of the sky and the table below the form shows the position of the planets.

    I hope this helps.

    Laura

  34. Owen Falah says:

    cool thanks for reis posting! btw are there feeds to your blog? I

  35. Corrie says:

    This information is excellent but confusing for a first time user!! I’m trying to find a star in the aurgi constellation and was given the coordinates 5° 56′ 15.43″, 33.3186° I’m unsure of whether its RA or DEC any advice or help?

  36. Tom says:

    Try to enter
    5 56 14.34, 33.3186
    as the SkyView coordinates. The first three numbers are the right ascension in sexagesimal form (hours minutes, seconds), the last number is the declination in decimal degrees. This combination of sexagesimal and decimal is a little unusual but is handled by the system. This position does seem to be in the constellation Auriga.

    Good luck.
    Tom McGlynn

  37. Tom says:

    To get real colors you will need to do a three color overall using multiple surveys. To get false color you should pick a color table (possibly inverting it). By default all single surveys will be rendered
    as a black and white images which is a bit dull, but truer to reality than arbitrary putting in some color.

  38. Tom says:

    Relative to the Earth the sky is indeed moving. However astronomers use RA and Dec coordinates which move with the sky. So if you look straight up, the astronomical coordinates of the point you are looking at change with time. Only the right ascension changes, if you looked over an entire day, you’d see a small circle of constant declination (i.e., latitude) pass before your eyes. This is why RA is normally measured in using of time, hours, minutes, seconds: for two points with the same declination but differing RAs the difference in the RAs is the difference in the time it takes for the objects to appear at the same point in the apparent sky.
    say the zenith location, then

  39. Tom says:

    Sorry to take so long to respond. I expect that the coordinates for this star should be entered as
    05 24 28.639, 03 16 42.65
    If you try that with the DSS survey there’s a star nicely centered in the image.

  40. Ron says:

    I received a gift of a International Star Registry with a star listed at the below RA/DEC but cannot seem to find it, can you help:
    RA:20h16m20sDEC:30’15” and supposedly damed Pappy’s&KC’S, is there such a star? I did try the DSS Survey and got a unrecognize message.

  41. Laura says:

    Hello,

    Try using the coordinates in this format: 20 16 20,0 30 15 at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/current/cgi/query.pl
    The image will be centered on these coordinates.

    -Laura

  42. Laura says:

    Hello again,

    The coordinates that you list in your comment should probably have greater precision in order to really locate a star in the sky. Please double check them and, if different than RA:20h16m20sDEC:30’15″, please send them to me and I will help you format them to use in SkyView again.

  43. Al Mamun says:

    Informative article, i found it via search engine.
    Thanks! for Resourceful information. :)

    Thanks by,
    Al Mamun

  44. Rita Kelsey says:

    You are truly knowledgeable in this area, great posting indeed!!

  45. GwenStewart says:

    I suspect you would need a telescope to pinpoint and see the star.

  46. JeanneAlvarez says:

    This information is excellent but confusing for a first time user!! I’m trying to find a star in the aurgi constellation and was given the coordinates 5° 56′ 15.43″

  47. Laura says:

    Coordinates for a star are typically made of two parts that point to a position in the sky. 5° 56′ 15.43″ represents only one part. If you can determine the second part you should be able to display the image in SkyView. Have a look at this SkyView blog post.

  48. Kristy says:

    I have the coordinated RA: 12h56m1.7s DEC:38’19.6.0s
    I am located on the east coast on the USA.
    How do I located this?
    Thank you

  49. Laura says:

    The coordinates you have included are not quite in the correct format. You may have added an extra period between the 9 and the 6 in the declination (DEC). If that is the case enter your coordinates in the SkyView query form using the following format:
    12 56 1.7, 38 19 6.0

    I hope this helps,
    Laura McDonald
    SkyView

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