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Best of the Beginners' Forum & How-Tos

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#1 nicknacknock

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:50 AM

Purpose of this Thread

 

This is a READ ONLY collection of links to posts on Cloudy Nights and to external web links that describe either how to do something, or are otherwise of significant value to the beginning, or even the seasoned amateur astronomer. Often, the answers to many common questions are several posts down in these threads, so be sure to read through these threads to make sure you get the maximum benefit from them. While the content posted on Cloudy Nights may be some years old, the information in it is still current and of value to members.

 

If you want to quickly search for something, the easiest way to find a specific word or phrase is by using your browser's find bar: Ctrl+F (Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS) or ⌘-F (Mac).

 

Even though this thread is read only, if you have questions or comments pertinent to any of these threads, you can add them to the original threads - or in a new thread if the original one has not been active for some time. If you feel however that a specific thread or external web link is of value, please contact the moderating team and we will review the information you provide, adding a link if appropriate.

 

All links below have been checked at the time of this post and they are live links. If you happen to find one which is not live, or any other errors for that matter, kindly inform the moderating team. Use of the resources here are subject to the Terms of Service (TOS) of Cloudynights.com Forum.


 

#2 nicknacknock

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:54 AM

Links to posts on Cloudy Nights
 
How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies and Helpful Advice for Novice Amateur Astronomers - An ongoing thread with excellent advice by Dave Mitsky

 

What you need to know about "Image Breakdown" (magnification and image quality) by Eddgie

 

A list of common (but not overly specific) abbreviations.

 

Nice collection of lunar observing links by BillP

 

The Value of an Observing Log - A beautiful summary of information gleaned from years of keeping an observing log by Steve Coe

Common CN Contractions and Acronyms - in these pages there a MANY Contractions and Acronyms that are used. Learn a bit about computer shorthand in this thread! 

 

Advice about the benefits and technique of leveling your tripod by Will (CN User "nxda").

Determining seeing conditions and limiting naked eye magnitude for any particular night
 
Magnitude math!
 
Determination of seeing, transparency, and darkness
 
Seeing more - the importance of "learning" to observe and training the eyes to see
 
Seeing is not transparency - do you find yourself mixing the concepts of 'seeing' and 'transparency' while trying to describe your viewing conditions? Try this handy summary by Tony Flanders
 
A thread containing a printable version of Pickering’s scale by Damian Peach
 
Some basic telescope concepts explained, including advice for picking a telescope
 
What is the focal ratio? And how does it affect my scope?
 
Understanding "Fast vs slow" scopes
 
What do the terms "undercorrected optics" & "overcorrected optics" mean?
 
How to use the mechanical setting circles that come on many mounts
 
Amalia's sage advice on getting started with eyepieces
 
A 9 year old chooses between a small Go-To refractor and a small Dob after using both - here's a post every person trying to choose a scope for a child, could potentially benefit from
 
What can be expected when the telescope arrives - a member photo documents his experience assembling an Orion Dob
 
What's the faintest star magnitude & highest useful magnification that I can get with my scope?
 
How much magnification? - David Knisely's explanation on useful magnification ranges for visual observing in astronomical telescopes
 
Useful Magnifications for visual observing - a thread expanding on David Knisely's explanations and providing additional relevant information
 
Do's & Don'ts - Veteran Observer's tips
 
Guillermo's tips on gear and observing - the first post in this thread has some good stuff that everybody could learn from
 
Understanding exit pupil
 
Observing log templates - some of the links are not active but many are, providing a variety of templates
 
Magnitude 7 Star Charts - free star charts provided by CN member Andrew L. Johnson
 
Tips, tricks & accessories for Hardin & other Dobs - this thread was started specifically for Hardin 6" Dobs, but owners of other Asian Dobs from Hardin, Orion, Celestron, Skywatcher, Antares and others may find much useful information here
 
How to make a degree symbol, and all those other cool symbols that your computer already knows, but aren't on your keyboard
 
Amalia's tips and tricks during a well documented night out in the Swiss Alps.
 
Amalia's list of 200 objects to observe - follow down in the thread to see how the list evolves and is made more user friendly
 
Zodiacal Light
 
Noctilucent Clouds
 
Gegenschein
 
Beginners Guide to filters
 
What scopes do YOU have?
 
Light Block Panels
 
Get rid of street lamp light – LEGALLY! - if you live in the USA, this may help you with street lamps
 
Light pollution? - start with these CN Links
 
In lieu of an Observatory
 
Cardinal rules of cleaning optics
 
How to clean fingerprints
 
Dew spots - how to clean them?
 
How to roll out that dob?
 
CN Report: Cold weather observing - tips to stay warm and enjoy those clear but cold winter nights.
 
Potential Messier Marathon dates
 
Using Setting Circles
 
Some good books on the Moon
 
Adding a Clear Sky Graph signature
 
Seeing more – thoughts on how to get more from an observing session
 
Where to find the BIG star parties!
 
Don't have money for a $300 telescope case?
 
Visual Science - wondering what kind of real SCIENCE an amateur astronomer can do? Answers are here!
 
List of Good Beginners’ Books - compiled by our users
 
Great Tool for Finding Dark Skies 
 
A Few Basics about Telescope Types for Beginners - learn about different telescopes types and why some scopes are better for different types of viewing 
 
The Frugal Astronomer
 
How and when did you get interested in astronomy? - the original Cloudy Nights "Wandering Thread"
 
Favorite viewing sites
 
To Intelliscope or Not to Intelliscope - an excellent, in depth discussion on Dobs
 
Largest true-color photograph of the night sky


 

#3 nicknacknock

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:55 AM

External web links

 

Excellent Dictionary and set of explanations for beginners to Astronomy - Astrofriend (Lars)

 

Definition of Astronomy-related Terms - From Scope City

 

StarHop Trainer - A star hopping FOV simulator written by Kevin Williams (CN Member: KevDog)

 

Astronomics: How To - Information library provided by Astronomics

 

Celestron Knowledge base - Information library provided by Celestron

 

ATM (Amateur Telescope Making) Resources - Information library provided by Stellarfane

 

Determining Magnitude and Finding a Dark Sky Place – by Globe at Night

 

List of Named Stars in Alphabetical Order - Chris Dolan

 

Limiting magnitude based on telescope diameter – by The Wilderness Center Astronomy Club

 

Choosing your telescope’s magnification – by Tele Vue

 

Saguaro Astro Club’s Eye Primer – Eyepiece basics provided by Saguario Astronomy Club

 

Astro Glossary – by Calvin J. Hamilton

 

Cleaning optics – by the Arkansas Sky Observatory

 

Astronomical Seeing for imagers – by Damien Peach

 

Printable Telrad Charts of Messier Objects – by Custer Institute & Observatory

 

Triatlas Project - free astronomical maps by José Ramón Torres and Casey Skelton

 

Space Calendar – by NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

 

Massive compilation of links to amateur astronomy sites – by CBEL

 

Inconstant Moon – by Kevin Clarke. If you click on the date, on the calendar to the right, it’ll tell you what features can be seen (theoretically) on any given night

 

How to align your Newtonian telescope – by Sky & Telescope

 

Tonight’s Sky – by Mark Casazza Consulting. A simply amazing site/program that allows you to customize an observing list for your specific location and time. If you're wondering what to look at tonight, or any night, give this site a try

 

Andy’s ShotGlass – by Andy Raiford. A great resource of a large number of articles

 

SkyMaps – by Sky & Telescope. A monthly supplement of the Evening Sky Map in PDF

 

Backyard Astronomer’s Guide – by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer. A limited selection of great articles for the beginner

 

The Astronomical Unit – by Stephen Tonkin. A resource of online tutorials

 

Binocular Sky – by Stephen Tonkin. A resource of online tutorials

 

Heavens Above -  by Chris Peat. Satellite tracking and other astronomy resources

 

The Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope Web Site – by Ted Kurkowski

 

Sunrise and Sunset Calendar – by Steve Edwards

 

Barlowed laser collimation – by Steve Smallcombe

 

Deep Sky Archive – by Laura and Riku. A great place to peruse sketches made of DSO

 

Astronomy Tools – by First Light Optics. FOV Calculators, Star chars and other helpful resources

 

Convert GMT to your local time – by TimeZoneConverter.com

 

The N.A.A. Telescope Calculator – by the Naperville Astronomical Association

 

Weekly information on comets - by Seiichi Yoshida

 

Monthly Comet Chasing column - by Skyhound

 

Solar and Lunar eclipses in your city - by Time And Date AS

 

CalSky Astronomical Calendar - by CalSky Services

 

Astronomy calculators - By CN member Wolf


 

#4 nicknacknock

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:55 AM

Observing the Sun

 

Due to the inherent risk of observing our closest star, there is a separate post on how to do that safely. Please read the warning below and exercise all due care in when viewing the Sun.

 

*It is important that everyone understand that the safe way to observe the sun is either by projection, or with proper filtration (objective end / Ha / Herschel). Never directly observe the sun without the correct filters, and never rely on eyepiece filters to observe the Sun.*

 

CN announcement regarding change to TOS for practicing safe astronomy

 

How do I safely observe the Sun?

 

How to observe the Sun – by the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies

 

Solarham - A website "all about the Sun" by VE3EN


 

#5 nicknacknock

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:58 AM

Using Lasers

 

While using lasers can be very helpful in amateur astronomy, we urge you at all times to purchase / use a laser which complies with the rules, regulations and laws of your country. Kind reminder of the Terms of Service of Cloudynights.com on lasers:

 

In the interest of promoting safe astronomy, any discussion of lasers & modules above 5mW to be used as pointing devices is strictly forbidden on the CN forums. This includes links to sites that openly sell or distribute laser pointers & modules above the 5mW limit. Such posts and links will be subject to immediate removal.

 

CN announcement regarding change to TOS for practicing safe astronomy

 

Laser Pointers

 

Safety issues involved with the use of green lasers near airports


 

#6 nicknacknock

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 08:07 AM

Useful and free Astronomy Software

 

Stellarium – A great open source planetarium for your computer

 

Cartes Du Ciel – Yet another great open source planetarium for your computer

 

SkytechX - And another open source planetarium with a lot of add-ons available.

 

TUBA - The Touring the Universe through Binoculars is the only star atlas designed specifically for use with binoculars

 

Virtual Moon Atlas – A Moon atlas for your computer. For all you lunatics out there!

 

Firecapture - Arguably the best planetary imaging software

 

Sharpcap - A strong runner up to Firecapture but easier to use with the ability to live stack

 

Astro Photography Tool - The demo version which is free has nearly everything you need to manage your imaging needs with a DSLR

 

PIPP (Planetary Imaging PreProcessor) - Windows application designed for pre-processing planetary images before stacking them with image stacking software 

 

Autostakkert II - Fastest Stacking software around!

 

Deep Sky Stakker - Another Stacking software

 

Registax - Another stacking software which has the most essential wavelets sharpening function

 

Startrails - Software for generating startrail stacks of photos

 

Starstax - Software for generating startrail stacks of photos

 

GIMP - The free alternative to Photoshop

 

Photofiltre 7 - A simpler but well featured image editing software

 

Software links - A more comprehensive list of astronomy related software listed in the Astronomy and Software Forum on CN

 

Astro-Tom.com - A web site with links to a number of freeware astronomy related software - by Tommy Hodges

 

Gizmo's freeware - A web site with links to a number of freeware astronomy related software - by Techsupportalert

 

Astronomy Software - A web site with links to a number of freeware astronomy related software - by Dan Bruton


 


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