Presented for your enjoyment and edification are the following tips that may provide some assistance to those who are just starting out in amateur astronomy.
Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson is considered by many to be the single best book for novice amateur astronomers. As far as other beginning observing guide books are concerned, I highly recommend Phillip S. Harrington's Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning About over 125 Celestial Objects and Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them by Dan M. Davis and Guy Consolmagno. Star-Hopping for Backyard Astronomers by Alan M. MacRobert is an excellent book on learning the technique of star-hopping but, unfortunately, it's out of print. Another out-of-print book that's worth looking for is Deep-Sky Observing with Small Telescopes by David Eicher.
At a more advanced level, The Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer is a worthy guide to astronomy and amateur astronomy. Another very good, yet inexpensive, source of general information is A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets (Peterson Field Guides) by Jay M. Pasachoff. Yet another is Stars and Planets: The Most Complete Guide to the Stars, Planets, Galaxies, and Solar System - Updated and Expanded Edition (Princeton Field Guides) by Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion.
Sue French's Celestial Sampler: 60 Small-Scope Tours for Starlit Nights and Deep-Sky Wonders: A Tour of the Universe with Sky and Telescope's Sue French are two other fine books to consider.
The Observer's Sky Atlas: With 50 Star Charts Covering the Entire Sky by Erich Karkoschka and Objects in the Heavens by Peter Birren are two inexpensive but very handy atlases/field guides.
For more advanced observers, The Night Sky Observer's Guide is the best one currently available.
As far as books on astronomy gear are concerned, the final edition of Phil Harrington's Star Ware: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Choosing, Buying, and Using Telescopes and Accessories is now dated but nevertheless contains some excellent information. Astronomy Hacks by Robert Thompson and Barbara Thompson is another highly-recommended book full of great tips on equipment and the art of observing. For recent reviews of astronomy equipment, the periodical Astronomy Technology Today is a good source.
Note: Willmann-Bell, Inc. has closed shop. Titles are or will be available at https://shopatsky.co...s/willmann-bell
Ed Ting discusses a number of astronomy books and atlases for beginners in a video posted at https://m.youtube.co...h?v=dhbAEx2le7o
A monthly lunar calendar is available by clicking on Moon Phases at https://www.calendar-12.com/#
Information on the Moon can be found at the following URLs:
Lunar maps and atlases are available at the following links:
The Virtual Moon Atlas can be downloaded at http://www.ap-i.net/avl/en/start
Articles on lunar clair-obscur phenomena such as the Lunar X and the Curtiss Cross can be found at the following links:
https://m.youtube.co...h?v=cwwJoQ-7_-E (Lunar X video)
Browse http://www.lunar-occ...ota/iotandx.htm and http://www.lunar-occ...o/rays/rays.htm respectively for information on lunar occultations and lunar crater light rays.
The major planets all orbit close to the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system. Data on the planets and other solar system bodies can be found at https://nineplanets.org/ and https://curtrenz.com/astronomy.html
The graphic at https://www.timeandd...lanets/distance displays the apparent and comparative sizes of the planets, along with their magnitudes and distances, for a given date and time.
The graphic at https://www.astrolea...copes85x 11.pdf compares the apparent size of the bright planets to that of the Moon.
The article at https://britastro.or...-size-of-things discusses the sizes and distances of the planets of the solar system and a number of other celestial bodies in terms of a scale model.
The positions of the major planets and the dwarf planet Pluto can be ascertained by consulting http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/
Information on the oppositions of Mars can be found at the following links:
Links to observing tools for some of the planets and their satellites ("moons") are posted at https://skyandtelesc...watching-tools/
The positions of and events involving the Galilean satellites of Jupiter can be ascertained at https://shallowsky.com/galilean/
A solar system simulator is available at http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/
Information on planispheres, or star wheels, which portray the locations of the constellations and bright stars at a given time and date, is posted at https://skyandtelesc...-a-planisphere/ and https://www.telescop...-a-planisphere/
Some advantages that planispheres still offer over smart phone apps are discussed at https://www.davidcha...isphere-or-app/
Plans for a DIY planisphere can be found at https://in-the-sky.o...phere/index.php and http://www.jodrellba...planisphere.pdf
An online planisphere can be found at http://www.etwright....stro/plani.html
Some commercially available planispheres are listed at http://www.skymaps.c...tore/cat04.html
Star Charts and the Constellations
Free monthly star charts are available at the following URLs:
Videos on how to read a simple star chart can be seen at http://www.youtube.c...h?v=QTO11vNMRJg and https://m.youtube.co...h?v=3qygnn7Zlkk
An online interactive star chart appears at https://skyandtelesc...tive-sky-chart/
Monthly star charts and articles on various aspects of observing appear in astronomy magazines like Sky & Telescope and Astronomy.
An informative video discussing astronomical objects worthy of observing each month can be found at http://hubblesite.or...y/tonights_sky/
Recognition quizzes on some of the major constellations can be found at the following URLs:
Videos on several constellations and some of the celestial objects that can be found within can be seen at https://m.youtube.co...raNkXeBncVdTevg and
A rudimentary tutorial on star-hopping from Ursa Major and Orion is posted at http://www.astrocent...k/starting.html
Click on http://cvas.cvas-nor...tar Hopping.pdf for a tutorial on the technique of star-hopping and http://www.robhawley...sh101/index.htm for an excellent video tutorial.
There's more on the technique at the following links:
Tutorials on three star-hops are presented at http://washedoutastr...ques/index.html
Some seasonal star-hops are presented at http://www.rocketmim...nomy/index.html and http://binocularsky....p?season=Winter
Star-hops to many celestial objects can be found at http://www.skyledge....opping-list.htm
A series of excellent video star-hops that begins with Sagittarius appears at https://www.youtube....h?v=r6wVBhH72KQ
Active observers may eventually desire a paper star atlas in order to locate various stars and deep-sky objects or DSOs. Paper star atlases run the gamut from the simple and inexpensive to the complex and costly. Here are a few to consider: Orion's DeepMap 600, Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook, 20th Edition by Ian Ridpath (Editor), Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas and Pocket Sky Atlas – Jumbo Edition by Roger W. Sinnott, the Bright Star Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion and Brian Skiff, and The Cambridge Star Atlas by Wil Tirion. The Sky Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion is a more advanced and expensive atlas. The Uranometria 2000.0 goes even "deeper" in stellar magnitude and displays the positions of a greater number of deep-sky objects. The newest high-end star atlas is the interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas.
Note: Willmann-Bell, Inc. has closed shop so many of its titles are currently out-of-print.
See http://www.astronomy...s-right-for-you and http://www.skymaps.c...tore/cat01.html for more on this topic.
Various stellar atlases and observing guides are reviewed at http://flintriverast...ES IN PRINT.pdf
Free, easy-to-read star atlases are available at https://johanley.git...geon/index.html and http://www.midnightkite.com/
More advanced freeware star atlases can be downloaded at http://www.deepskywa...-atlas-full.pdf and https://www.cloudyni...ar-charts-r1021 and https://allans-stuff.com/triatlas/
Planetarium Programs and Apps
A wealth of good astronomy freeware is listed at https://www.skyandte...-and-shareware/ and https://listoffreewa...ftware-windows/
Stellarium, Cartes du Ciel, and C2A are all fine freeware planetarium programs. Celestia is a simulator program. The Virtual Moon Atlas - which can be downloaded without cost at http://www.ap-i.net/avl/en/start - is a great aid for lunar observing. There are also many excellent commercial planetarium programs on the market, including MegaStar, SkyMap, Sky Tools, Starry Night, and TheSky.
SkySafari is an excellent planetarium program and much more.
Two planetarium programs and an app are discussed briefly at http://jeffpolston.com/software.htm
Lists of planetarium programs and apps can be found at https://nineplanets....arium-software/ and https://www.deepsky2...onomy-software/
Some of the free planetarium apps that I use include Celestron's SkyPortal, Star Chart, and Star Walk.
A number of other surprisingly good free astronomy apps - https://www.hongkiat...targazing-apps/ and https://ioshacker.co...onomy-apps-2017 - are also available.
Other astronomy apps are discussed in the articles at https://astronomy.co...rgazing-in-2022 and https://www.iphonene...ons-for-iphone/
The SkyHopper web app for smartphones is available at https://artyom-beili....io/manual.html
These online planetarium programs may prove useful:
Online Finder Charts and Deep-Sky Observing
Browse https://freestarchar...ssier-catalogue for finder charts for the 110 objects in the Messier Catalog.
Finder charts for various NGC and IC objects are available at https://freestarcharts.com/ngc-ic
Additional finder charts for various deep-sky objects can be found in the Seasonal Skies sections at https://www.cambridge.org/turnleft
The Telrad (Telescope Reticle Aiming Device) is a very handy 1x (non-magnifying) reflex sight finder.
Telrad finder charts for the Messier objects are posted at these web sites:
Telrad finder charts for the RASC's Finest NGC Objects are available at https://www.rasc.ca/...s/finestngc.pdf
Printed Telrad finder charts are available at https://sky-spot.com/charts.htm
Additional information on observing deep-sky objects can be found at these sites:
Videos by professional astronomers on the Messier objects and other astronomical topics can be seen at http://www.deepskyvideos.com/
Surface brightness, which is the apparent brightness per unit of angular area of an extended object, is an important aspect of DSO observing.
It's possible to observe all of the Messier objects during a single night around the time of the vernal equinox, if the Moon phase and local latitude are favorable. For information on running a so-called Messier Marathon, browse http://messier.seds....n/marathon.html and http://www.richardbe...t/marathon.html and https://www.robhawley.net/mm/
LPR (Light Pollution Reduction) and Nebula Filters
Narrowband, O-III, and H-beta filters can be very useful for observing emission and planetary nebulae and are discussed at the following links:
Lists of Celestial Objects
Deep-sky object list generators can be found at these URLs:
Lists of DSOs, binary stars, and colorful carbon stars can be found at these URLs:
https://www.messier-...er-object-list/ (the Messier Catalogue)
http://messier.seds....r/sac110bn.html (the SAC's best objects in the NGC list)
http://messier.seds....r/rasc-ngc.html (the RASC's finest NGC objects list)
http://www.tyler.net...pot/saa100.html (the sci.astro.amateur 100)
http://www.taas.org/...00/taas200.html (the TAAS 200)
https://www.astrolea...00/h400lstn.pdf (the Astronomical League's Herschel 400)
https://www.vicmenard.com/the_list.pdf (Vic Menard's list of 400 objects)
https://www.cloudyni...-best-dso-list/ (Don Pensack's 500 Best Deep Sky Objects List)
http://www.raycash.org/dm600.htm (the Orion Deep Map 600)
http://www.clarkvisi...appendix-e.html (Roger Clark's catalog of 611 deep-sky objects)
http://messier.seds....lar/BElistA.txt (the Boyd Edwards list of 884 objects)
http://messier.seds....milar/m1000.txt (the Magnificent 1000 by Tom Hoffelder)
https://astropix.com.../doubles01.html (naked-eye binary stars)
http://www.astroleag...r/dblstar2.html (binary stars)
http://www.skyandtel...h/double-stars/ (binary stars)
https://skyandtelesc...s-for-everyone/ (binary stars)
https://astronomy.co...-variable-stars (binary stars)
http://www.jouscout....nt/belmontd.htm (binary stars)
http://www.carbonar.es/s33/33.html (binary stars)
http://www.astro.gsu.edu/wds/ (binary stars)
http://www.midnightk...aspx?URL=Visual (binary stars)
https://www.go-astro...ouble-stars.php (binary stars)
https://astronomy.co...st-double-stars (binary stars)
https://www.astrolea...bonStarLog3.pdf (carbon stars)
http://www.skyandtel...-red1203201401/ (carbon stars)
http://www.astrosurf...iar2/carbon.htm (carbon stars)
http://www.nckas.org/carbonstars/ (carbon stars)
An article discussing what various celestial objects really look like through a telescope appears at http://www.deepskywa...-telescope.html
Binoculars are a great way to get started in observational amateur astronomy. These instruments are relatively inexpensive and are eminently portable and easy to use. Using both eyes definitely enhances the visual experience.
Binoculars are ideal for showing the "big picture". They can readily display objects that are too large to fit into the fields of view of most telescopes. In addition, binoculars can often be useful in "surveying" the area where an object is located prior to conducting a telescopic star-hop.
A surprising number of celestial objects, including many binary stars, open and globular star clusters, nebulae, and some of the brighter galaxies, can be detected with binoculars. Scanning through the heart of the Milky Way with a binocular from a very dark site is a very memorable experience.
I recommend purchasing a 10x50 (i.e., 10 power and 50mm aperture) binocular for astronomical use. A 10x50 binocular is usually not overly heavy for most people to hand-hold and provides a 5mm exit pupil that will be appropriate for most observers when age and observing site darkness are taken into account. People who must wear eyeglasses while observing may want to look for a binocular with at least 14mm of eye relief.
Most binoculars are made in China nowadays and are sold by a variety of vendors under a host of different brand names. Some of them have surprisingly good optics. Celestron, Nikon, Oberwerk, Orion, and Pentax are good mid-price brands to consider.
Reclining in a lounge or zero gravity chair makes hand-held binocular observing far easier.
Mounting a binocular on a tripod or a dedicated binocular mount (guider) will improve views markedly. Information on binocular mounts is posted at http://www.cloudynig...ts/thoughts.pdf and http://binocularsky....binoc_mount.php
An alternative method of mounting binoculars is discussed in the article posted at https://skyandtelesc...our-binoculars/
Image stabilized binoculars are very expensive but work very well indeed.
A glossary of optical terms pertaining to binoculars is posted at https://www.bestbino...-binoculars.php
Articles with advice on buying binoculars and with discussions regarding the physics of magnification and other aspects of binocular performance can be found at the following URLs:
Reviews of binoculars useful for astronomy can be found at https://astrogeartod...ews/binoculars/ and https://moonandback....omy-binoculars/
In my opinion, the best binocular observing guidebooks currently available are Touring the Universe through Binoculars: A Complete Astronomer's Guidebook by Phil Harrington, Binocular Astronomy by Craig Crossen & Wil Tirion, Binocular Highlights: 109 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users by Gary Seronik, and Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars by Stephen O'Meara.
Phil Harrington discusses various targets in his Cloudy Nights Binocular Universe column at http://cloudynights....category_id=182 and in a monthly column in Astronomy. He offers an excellent freeware planetarium program known as TUBA (Touring the Universe through Binoculars Atlas), which also includes information on purchasing binoculars, at http://www.philharrington.net/tuba.htm
Mr. Harrington gives a podcast talk on using binoculars to observe the night sky at https://podcast.meet...-sky-binoculars
Phil's StarFest 2020 talk on binocular astronomy can be seen at https://m.youtube.co...eature=youtu.be
One of Phil's Cosmic Challenge articles on Cloudy Nights deals with observing the high-proper-motion binary star 61 Cygni using binoculars.
Gary Seronik's Binocular Stargazing Archives contains reviews of various binoculars and information on binocular observing.
Two episodes of The Actual Astronomy podcast discuss binoculars and binocular astronomy.
Tips on binocular astronomy are available at the following sites:
A monthly newsletter on binocular observing is available at http://binocularsky...._subscribe.php#
Articles on observing the Moon with binoculars can be found at https://www.bestbino...-binoculars-02/ and https://skynews.ca/v...pphD1gc6W__d9gI and https://astronomy.co...ough-binoculars
An article on observing objects in the solar system is posted at https://earthsky.org...js9Jxcj-1lqIWiQ
Videos on observing with binoculars can be seen at http://www.youtube.c...h?v=wAnAZz-ZPJ0 and https://www.youtube....h?v=6fHKG9tkPQU
Numerous videos dealing with binocular astronomy are available at https://www.youtube....s for astronomy
Lists of binary stars that can be resolved with binoculars appear at http://www.carbonar....inodoubles.html and https://www.astrolea...e Star List.pdf
The summer Milky Way is a treasure trove of deep sky objects, as described in the following links:
Observing dark nebulae in the summer Milky Way is discussed at https://skyandtelesc...for-binoculars/
Ten binocular targets in the autumn sky are listed in the article at https://www.skyatnig...targets-autumn/
An article on observing M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) with binoculars can be found at https://skyandtelesc...rs091620151609/
This website discusses a number of deep-sky objects that can be seen through binoculars.
See http://astrogeek.wor...ocular-objects/ for a long list of binocular targets.
Other binocular DSO lists include the ones at the following URLs:
Monthly lists of binocular deep-sky objects can be found in my Celestial Calendar in the Celestial Events section of Cloudy Nights.
A list of binocular objects is included with each monthly Evening Sky Map at http://skymaps.com/downloads.html
The RASC Binocular Deep Sky Observing list is posted at http://calgary.rasc....Certificate.pdf
A list of DSOs that are large in apparent size, some of which are appropriate targets for binoculars, titled Wide-Field Wonders appears in the yearly RASC Observer's Handbook.
Sketches of a number of deep-sky objects as seen through binoculars can be found at http://rodelaet.xtre..._astronomy.html
The vast majority of deep-sky objects visible in amateur telescopes are quite faint and are best seen from a dark location. Stargazing from light-polluted locales can be quite challenging. However, there are a number of DSOs that can be seen by urban observers. The Moon, the bright planets, bright binary stars, bright open and globular clusters, bright nebulae, and bright galaxies are all possible targets.
Light pollution reduction and nebula filters may be useful to some degree on certain nebulae. However, the rising use of broadband LED lighting may render such filters ineffective.
Tips on city observing are posted at the following URLs:
Urban astronomy is also discussed at these sites:
Books on the subject include Urban Astronomy by Denis Berthier and The Urban Astronomer's Guide: A Walking Tour of the Cosmos for City Sky Watchers (Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series) by Rod Mollise.
Lists of binary stars and deep-sky objects that are visible from urban areas can be found at the following URLs:
http://las-skycamp.o...n_List_v2_0.pdf (spelling errors)
Daily, weekly, and monthly astronomy updates are available at these URLs:
The following web sites contain worthwhile information on many different aspects of astronomy and amateur astronomy: