Getting Started in Astronomy
Some advice for those interested
in becoming amateur astronomers.
Follow this advice and you'll save a lot of time, energy and
1. Don't buy a telescope right away! Become an educated
- There are several different types of telescopes, each with their own
advantages and disadvantages. (See "The Telescope Review Web
Site" at www.scopereviews.com
-- especially their "Beginners" section.)
- Start out slowly and build up to a purchasing decision after
six months to a year. A lot of people go out and buy a telescope
right away, but later find that the expensive telescope they
bought doesn't really suit their interests. Or they eventually
find that they really didn't like astronomy as a hobby like they
thought they would. Either way, they end up both wasting a lot
of money and needlessly burning out on a hobby they might otherwise
enjoy over the long run.
2. Join an astronomy club. Meet experienced amateurs,
see their various telescopes, learn about what the hobby is really
3. Buy a "planisphere" -- a simple, $10 - $15, plastic
device that will help you learn the constellations. Be sure to
get one for your latitude (e.g., for the southern U.S. get a planisphere
for 30-degrees North latitude; for all you damn Yankees [!]
get a 40 or 45-degree North latitude planisphere). Available through
magazine and the Astronomical
Society of the Pacific.
4. Subscribe to Astronomy
magazine -- Available in most major bookstores. (Sky
& Telescope, another major astronomy magazine you may
run across, is a bit too advanced for most beginners.)
5. Buy a low cost, simple pair of binoculars. You'll find these
come in handy from the time you begin learning the constellations:
I use my cheap pair of binoculars all the time.
6. Check out the Astronomical
Society of the Pacific. This non-profit group has lots of
good, educational materials that will help you get started.
7. Get the following book: Nightwatch: A Practical Guide
to Viewing the Universe, by Terence Dickinson, Firefly
Books. This is an outstanding introductory astronomy book.
Here are a few other resources:
night sky chart. Enter your zip code, and this web page produces
a map of the stars that will be visible from your location tonight!
- My space webpage. Includes links to
websites about astronomy, space exploration, NASA, etc.
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