Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy

Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy

The beauty of astronomy is that you really don’t need to spend any money to get started. All you need is your eyes, the ability to look up at the night sky and an inquisitive mind. So, how do you take your new hobby to the next stage without spending too much and then finding out its not really for you? This guide will hopefully help you to get the best start in amateur astronomy. Clear Skies!

Big Dipper


Star Constellations


Start by learning the Constellations, these are groups of stars in the sky that make a recognizable pattern. They are the key to finding all sorts of deep space objects like nebulae, star clusters and galaxies. One of the best known is Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper, the Plough or Great Bear. It can be seen in the northern hemisphere for most of the year and is easily recognizable (see picture). 


There are 88 official constellations to learn. That should keep you busy for a while. Of course, you don’t need to learn them all to enjoy astronomy but it will greatly increase your enjoyment of the hobby. The best way to find them is to get outside and look, take a good star chart with you or use a smartphone star chart app. Alternatively, you could use an online star chart like this one and see what constellation is next to one you recognize then go out and see if you can find it. One or two new constellations a night is enough to take in at first. The next thing to do is to try to recognize the planets as they cross the sky on the ecliptic. The ecliptic is a line drawn across the southern sky starting in the East and setting in the West. The Sun, Moon and planets all appear to wander across the sky along this line. It can be very rewarding to spot the brightness of Venus or the red hue of Mars.


Binoculars

You’ll probably want to purchase either binoculars or a telescope before long. But, before you go and make that big purchase it might be worth going along to a local astronomy club. Here you’ll usually find enthusiastic astronomers that would be willing to share their ideas and recommendations on equipment. If you do go to an observing event make sure you take a red light torch with you so you don’t ruin anyone's dark vision and always ask before looking into someone's telescope. Here is a link to the Olympus 8x40 DPSI binoculars review. These are excellent inexpensive beginner binoculars to start your hobby.


Above all have fun and enjoy learning about the heavens.


Related Posts: Observing


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Back to Beginners guide to Astronomy

Or next:

Part 1. Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy

Part 2. Binoculars or a telescope, which should I buy first?

Part 3. 5 Things you Need to Know Before Buying a Beginner's Astronomy Telescope

Part 4. Goto or Not Goto? That is the Question

Part 5. How to Set-up an Astronomy Telescope

Part 6. 8 Tips for Making Your Goto Telescope More Accurate

Part 7. 10 Easy Astronomical Objects to see From the City

Part 8. 5 Things to do on a Cloudy Night

Part 9. Which Eyepieces Do I Need?

Part 10. 10 Useful Astronomy Accessories

Part 11: How Can I See Deep Space Objects Better?

Part 12: How Can I See More Detail On Planets?

Part 13: How to Dress for Astronomical Success

Extras: Beginner Astronomy Telescopes

Or Start reading the Learn Astronomy Blog

Or Start Finding Deep Space Objects with the Constellation and DSO Guide.


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