The Observation Challenges Archive

Fifty Detailed and Easy-to-Follow Guides to Help You See More Night Sky Objects

See Galaxies That You Never Thought You Would

Have you been pointing your telescope skywards but always coming back to the Moon and planets because you didn't know how to find anything fainter?

Have you seen one or two brighter nebulae but don't know where to look next?

Do you stand outside in an evening with no idea what's visible overhead?

Well, you can rest assured that we have all been there!

It is a frustration of many a backyard astronomer that the most exciting objects to track down, such as spiral galaxies, emission nebulae, and globular clusters, are also the hardest to find.

But they are absolutely worth the effort!

That's why I created the Virtual Astronomy Club: to help novice backyard astronomers more effectively find their way around the night sky.

Every month, I create and share observation guides to find some of the most rewarding, delicate, and awe-inspiring objects you can see with a telescope. And now for the first time, you can buy fifty observation guides in one simple archive.

Keep reading to discover just how useful each guide is, and to try out some samples...

Fifty observation guides suitable for all experience levels. They cover the whole year, helpfully split into seasons.

How You'll Find Stunning Galaxies and Beguiling Clusters

When you first login to your new account, you'll see the card on the left. Click the blue button to open the archive.

Inside, you'll be greeted with a list of observation challenges to tackle, all nicely ordered so you can find what you need.

There's a section covering the planets, then four sections covering the seasons. For example, if you're looking for a challenge to tackle on a nice spring evening, just scroll down to the spring section and take your pick.

Finally, if the Moon is your thing, you'll find some Lunar feature observation challenges to try out all year around.

Keep reading to see what's inside a typical observation challenge...

Each challenge guides you step by step to the object. Even a complete beginner will find what they're hunting for!

What's Inside a Typical Observation Challenge?

Each observation challenge follows the same format, making it easy for you to use each one.

They begin with a simple table of the object's most important details, including what it is, its coordinates, and how bright it is.

Each challenge begins with a data table like this one

Next, I share with you an overview of the object.

What's inside this depends on the object itself, but might include its distance, size, age, who discovered it, things to be aware of when observing, etc. I always include a great image of the object too.

A typical overview section inside the archive

After that overview, we get into the main part of the challenge, which is the finder charts.

These take you from an easy to find part of the night sky, such as Orion or the Big Dipper, and guide you step by step towards the object we're looking for.

Each star map zooms in on the one before and, where necessary, is annotated to make it clear what you should be doing on that step. Every star map is clickable for a full-screen version and, in the newer guides, each one can be downloaded as a PDF to print off at home (more on that shortly).

This shows a typical step. There's written guidance above the star map and the map itself is annotated for detail. It can also be opened as a full-screen view for more detail.

When we get to the stage of seeing the object itself, there are three different telescope views which are tailored to your particular needs.

The type of telescope you have shows you the sky in a different way. Refractors, for example, show a mirrored view of the world, while reflectors show it upside-down. Pick the view relevant to your model.

Oh, and if you prefer black stars on a white background (which is easier to use outside at night and saves on printer ink) you can download and print the inverse monochrome version instead.

Individual telescope views show you what the star field looks like in your particular telescope

Please note: the Individual Telescope Views section is relatively new to the Virtual Astronomy Club and only the latest observation guides contain it.

The last main section is a guide to observing the object itself.

When you have it in your eyepiece, what should you expect to see? How should you look at it? What should you hunt for, and what kind of magnification should you use?

All of these question are answered in the observation section.

This the observation section for the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (M83)

When you come to the end of the challenge, you get the chance to download any of the images used so far as PDFs, so you can print them at home.

This is a relatively new feature in the VAC, so not all guides have it. However, every guide has full screen images that can be captured and printed.

Every image in the newest guides can be downloaded as a PDF and printed off at home

Now you know what's included in the guides, what guides are available?

There are guides to planets, Lunar features, and deep sky objects galore!

What's Inside the Archive?

The Archive is growing by three challenges every month.

Subscribers to the Virtual Astronomy Club get  exclusive access to new challenges when they are launched and, for three months, new challenges stay exclusive to VAC subscribers.

After three months, each challenge is moved into the Observation Challenge Archive. For example, the M83 challenge shown above was new in April but didn't join the Archive until July.

After an object joins the Archive, it stays in there forever.

Examples of current Challenges

It would take up too much room to list all of the challenges inside the Archive, but here's a look at some highlights:

  • Seeing Jupiter at Opposition
  • Jellyfish Cluster (M3)
  • Beehive Cluster (M44)
  • Double Stars in Cancer Constellation
  • The Great Hercules Cluster (M13)
  • Barred Spiral Galaxy (NGC 4236)
  • Algol and other Variable Stars
  • Open Cluster M41
  • Challenging Doubles in Andromeda
  • The Pacman Nebula (NGC 281)
  • Double Cluster in Perseus (NGC 869 & NGC 884)
  • Schröter's Valley (Lunar feature)

Are you ready to take on fifty challenges... and growing?

If so, click the button below.

If you've got a few questions yet, then keep reading.

Get lifetime access to all the guides in the Archive PLUS three new ones added every month!

Frequently Asked Questions

It's understandable that you might have questions about the course. Below, I've answered some of the most common, but email me at Adam@LovetheNightSky.com if I haven't answered yours.

Who Am I?

My name is Adam Kirk. 

I've been a backyard astronomer for many years now, and have been steadily improving for all of them! In 2015, I created the popular website LovetheNightSky.com which helps over one thousand astronomers every day.

I was motivated to launch the Virtual Astronomy Club for people who like the idea of being in an astronomy club but can't get to one near them.

Since its launch at the end of 2019, I've been publishing monthly guides to the night sky and observation challenges. Now those challenges have been compiled into an archive you can get lifetime access to.

I'm Already a Member of the Virtual Astronomy Club (VAC), Should I Get the Archive?

If you are already a subscriber to the VAC, then the Archive is included for as long as you stay a paid-up member. If you'd like to learn more about the VAC, click here (opens a new tab).

Do I Need Astronomy Experience to Use the Guides?

Absolutely not! The guides are purposefully designed with the novice in mind so that you can find objects that would otherwise be difficult to track down.

Do I Need a Telescope to Benefit from the Archive?

Yes! The observation guides assume you have a minimum sized telescope of 3" (75mm) aperture.

Is The Archive Only for People in the US?

The guides can be used by everyone in the northern hemisphere, including the USA, Canada and all of Europe and Asia.

Please don't buy access to the archive if you live in the southern hemisphere.

What if I Live in a Light Polluted Area?

Light pollution affects so many of us backyard astronomers that I have designed the guides to work even for astronomers who live in all but the most severely affected city centers. If you are not sure, find your town on the map at http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html

Don't purchase the Archive if you live in a part of the world colored gray or white on the map.

How Long Do I Have Access to the Archive?

How does lifetime access sound? Plus, you also get access to all new challenges as they're added.

What if I'm Unhappy With the Course?

I would never want you to be unhappy!

If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact me in the first 30 days and I'll give you a full refund, with no questions asked.

You Haven't Answered My Question - Can I Contact You?

Sure, I always reply to every personal email I receive. Just send your question to Adam@LovetheNightSky.com and I'll be pleased to help out.

Open the Archive Now. Click the Button Below to Buy Lifetime Access.