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Concise Beginners Guide with Links for Telescope Astronomy


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Concise Beginners Guide with Links for Telescope Astronomy

by Paul Binder August 2018

Greeting to all who are interested in the universe! The following guide is for people such as me who have an interest in viewing the night sky, purchased a telescope and now are lost. I am only in my first months of observing, so my perspective and understanding are more attune to starters. It appears overwhelming at first. Fear not! I have listed great articles, video’s, apps and my own advice to help you. This guide is designed to give you links without rehashing every detail. This article assumes you have no gear except a telescope with finder scope and at least one eyepiece. Written in layman terms with more colloquialisms than scientific terms. This guide assumes the objects listed will be visible at the date intended to view. Also assumed telescope is free from all defects.

At first don’t worry about placing every star or constellation in the sky. I can’t even see half of them in light polluted NYC suburbs. This will all come later. Start simple and build a solid base. The joy you get will keep you learning over time. Show a child a star in a telescope they will say “It looks like a dot”. Show them Saturn and the reactions are “Wow I can see the rings!” Let’s start at “wow” not at a library pouring over star charts. It’s like dating. First is the appreciation of the physical view. Later in your relationship you develop the greater understanding and detail of that person or in our case the universe.

Firstly, you must align your sight or finder scope. This is accomplished in the day time. You should find an object that is far away and doesn’t move. A telephone pole, a far way chimney on a house or a water tower will all work. Begin by getting the object centered in the telescopes eyepiece. Now look through the finder scope. You will not be aligned in cross hair or red dot. Most adjustments are made with thumbs screws. One usually works the up/down the other left/right. I have a basic video below from Orion telescope company.

Basic alignment video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N3jAw30Ns8

Now your scope is ready for you to view the objects populating the galaxy or beyond. I first became interested viewing the moon. This is a good place to start. It’s a very large and bright object and visible most of the time. Try out your finder scope should be a simple exercise. Almost unnecessary but every bit of practice helps. Many basic moon maps are available. Listed below is a good article as a resource with maps. Try to spot some of the named craters or seas. When you realize what you can see and never noticed before you will be surprised. Who would of thought that big old hunk of cheese in the sky had so much to offer? Note during fuller moon a moon filter helps flush out more detail as the moon will appear very bright.

This article reviews basic feature and small talk on viewing the moon.

https://www.space.com/31048-how-to-observe-the-moon-telescope-binoculars.html

Moon Map

http://www.eyesonthesky.com/Moon/FullMoonmap.aspx

                Now let’s move on to the planets. People are always surprised that some of those stars they see at night are planets! You need to know your directions first. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The planets follow a similar path and it is called the ecliptic. North and South can also be estimated by the path of the Sun. In the northern hemisphere the Sun travels along the ecliptic in the south skies. North is opposite that. Easy! (Below I haves a link for direction and time planets are visible. The sky is 360 degrees. North is 0 and South is 180. If planet referenced at 90E that is directly east in the sky. Also, Altitude is in degrees. 90 is directly overhead, 45 is halfway up.)

Start with Jupiter. Jupiter is the brightest object outside of the moon and Venus in the night sky. Venus tracts close to the sun and doesn’t show detail easily. When viewing Jupiter, you can see the Galilean moons clearly. Think about it you are seeing objects almost 400 million miles from Earth!

                How well your finder scope is aimed will now be tested. The planets are moving so you will see them move across your field of view. Every eyepiece has an apparent field of view. The number for instance could be 50 degrees. When you look at through the scope at 10x magnification you are seeing only 5 degrees. 50 divided by10. So, as you magnify the area you are viewing decreases. At 50x magnification you see only 1 degree. 50 divided by 50. The larger the magnification the more details you may be able to see but the harder to originally spot if your finder is off. I recommended starting at lower magnification. If scope is off, you will have the best chance to see the planet because you will be seeing more degrees of sky.

                Saturn or Mars can switch as to the brighter easier to view depending on the date you are viewing them. They also appear in southern skies along the ecliptic. Use the reference links for finding the best times to view them. Saturn is a real awesome sight to behold.

Jupiter Article

https://agenaastro.com/jupiter-observing-guide.html

Saturn Article

https://agenaastro.com/observing-guide-the-planet-saturn.html

When and where are the planets visible?

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/

By now I hope you have seen a few wonderful objects and are interested in seeing more. Don’t worry there is a lot more to see. From this point on you can move on to learning constellations, double stars and the Messier objects. Now your real study begins. I have listed the next best steps to take on your journey. Clear skies!

Some misc. suggestions

Observation Journal. This could be any type of notebook or sketch pad. Writing down or drawing what you see, and experience is a great way to relive and catalog your adventure. Really helps enhance the experience.

Join a local club. Do an internet search for astronomy events in your area. People are usually more than happy to help you. If nothing in your area try the Cloudy Nights forum. Fantastic people there.

Red light flashlight or headlamp. Helps to see and not ruin your eyes adjustment to the dark. Available online.  

Chair for comfort. Card table for gear. Bug spray. Dress for local weather.

*Beginner book*.

Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan. M. Davis

Night Sky Start video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUbG8jboh4M

Telescope guide/basics video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goL3K_xQzbE

Next step. Excellent article for binocular/telescopes newbies

https://www.cloudynights.com/articles/cat/articles/new-astronomer-quick-start-guide-r3143

A guide to basic astronomy and more

                https://oneminuteastronomer.com/stargazing-and-night-sky-guide/

*Best guide for phone must have *

Sky Safari App available free for Android or Apple

Stellarium free program like Sky Safari but for computer


  • CSG, Alan S, okiestarman56 and 9 others like this


10 Comments

Thank you for providing a basic curriculum I can review myself and forward to others.

    • Pbinder likes this

Thank you for providing a basic curriculum I can review myself and forward to others.

Thank you for taking the time to read and give feedback! 

I have been doing this for decades, but now I am trying to make education a primary focus of our club.  Just because you know how to do something does not make you a good teacher.  You need to understand how a novice thinks. You must be careful to cover everything without  getting hung up on little things - i.e.  We can demonstrate opening a car door without "first - insert our hand under the lever; then pullout ward till the latch releases," and so on. 

    • Seedstar and Pbinder like this

“If You Can't Explain it to a Six Year Old, You Don't Understand it Yourself” ALBERT EINSTEIN

 

Always agreed with above quote and think it follows along your logic. I joined a club recently and at the meeting I felt lost as they discussed declination, astrophotography, electrical assisted astronomy etc. I also noticed club was made up of older people. Hard to attract a young beginners interest in you're hung up on your own skill level. I suggested to a member they have a beginner level presentation once  a month and he was already in the process of doing it. He started simply with observing reports at the most basic level. Very good idea for recruiting and spreading the passion to others.  

 

I have been doing this for decades, but now I am trying to make education a primary focus of our club.  Just because you know how to do something does not make you a good teacher.  You need to understand how a novice thinks. You must be careful to cover everything without  getting hung up on little things - i.e.  We can demonstrate opening a car door without "first - insert our hand under the lever; then pullout ward till the latch releases," and so on. 

    • Masteroftheskies and Seedstar like this

Nicely written Paul.  I am sure it will be helpful to many.

    • Pbinder likes this

Can any body help me put my telescope together,my five year old son wants to look at the stars and moon but I can't seem to put it together

    • Pbinder likes this

Jenny, what do you have for a telescope? I'm sure if you can supply a bit more info we can help.  It's not rocket science. You just need a little help I'm sure.

Grey

    • Pbinder likes this

Can any body help me put my telescope together,my five year old son wants to look at the stars and moon but I can't seem to put it together

You should start a new discussion in the beginner forum rather than have your question buried in this discussion about this article.  That will be the best way to get help. 

    • Pbinder likes this

Send pictures and I will try to help.  I am an assistant to the Observatory manager for the Astronomy Club of Tulsa, OK. 

 

Sheldon P

dracura94@aol.com

    • Pbinder likes this

I've already added this information to my list of useful sites, thank you! A long time ago I read about the application for the phone which helps you explore the starry sky. Not that app which is described in the article but that's not the point. The fact is that such a thing looked interesting to me right away! But over the time, somehow I forgot about it. And after I went to the forum, I remembered and installed it. And now I'm already looking at the constellations! )) Thanks a lot!



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