Although kids may enjoy an inexpensive telescope, experts say there is plenty to see with just your eyes or a pair of binoculars. Start in your own backyard or neighborhood, using the following sites as an introduction to the nightly show.
This interactive night sky map is so easy to use, it barely needs any explanation. To begin, click the start button and enter your location. By default, the constellation outlines and names will display for today's date. Some details display by hovering your mouse over the labels, others require a mouse click. Additional options, such as displaying Latin constellation names, or dwarf planets, are available on the More button.
A mockup of tonight's sky is front and center on EarthSky's Tonight page. In the right-hand column, you'll find a calendar listing of night sky events that will be on display in the coming week. Scroll down the page for a simple explanation of nightly events such as the phases of Venus or the 2012 transit of Venus. "Eye protection is absolutely essential for watching a transit of Venus. Contact an observatory or astronomy club near you to see if a public showing may be available."
Have you ever seen the International Space Station cross the night sky? Track its (or any other satellite's) course using this interactive tool. Start by selecting your location on the Google map, and clicking the Submit button. Other tools include the tracking of visible comets, iridium flares, and a whole sky chart (customized to your location, of course.) "An Iridium flare is caused by the sun being reflected from one of the three main mission antennae (MMA) of an Iridium satellite. The MMAs are flat, highly polished aluminium surfaces, and when the angles are just right, they can reflect the sun just like a mirror."
"Your guide to constellations, deep sky objects, planets and events." The guides here are in video, and provide a good introduction to monthly sky events. In addition to the monthly podcasts, visit HubbleSite for an introduction to Hubble's scientific achievements, a gallery of "spectacular pictures of stars, galaxies, nebulae" and an overview of how the Hubble telescope operates.
These daily stargazing tips are short and sweet, perfect for backyard astronomers. Visit to learn which planets and constellations are making an appearance this week, and for a visual guide to the moon's phases. Links at the bottom of this week's tips will take you to related articles about skywatching, constellations, and lunar phases. "Light pollution is the single most destructive foe to a dedicated stargazer, overwhelming the delicate glow of nebulae, clusters, and even the fiery glow of the dense star clouds that make up the Milky Way. For this reason alone, the best stargazing opportunities are almost always to be found in remote rural areas, far from the lights of cities and towns."