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New Astronomer Quick Start Guide

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#1 aeajr

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Posted 01 April 2018 - 01:18 PM

Welcome to the wonderful hobby of astronomy. The purpose of this guide is to help you become successful quickly as you master some basic skills, start to learn the sky and enjoy what it has to offer. While you can try this on your own I highly encourage you to work with a more experienced person so that your early attempts can be successful and you can advance quickly. Find a local astronomy club if you can. Besides, astronomy is more fun with friends, at least I think it is.

Click here to view the article
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#2 SeaBee1

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 09:35 AM

Very well done Ed! Quite helpful even for someone that has been doing this for a little while. Thanks for doing this!

 

CB


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#3 BillP

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 11:38 AM

Great work!


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#4 JohnPancoast

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 11:42 AM

Wow, Ed! This is terrific. It should be pinned at the top of the forum forever! And I agree with CB... Binoculars are a great place to start and get oriented for every new season of observing.

 

Many thanks,

 

John


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#5 ratnamaravind

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 12:51 PM

Good work! I'll socialize this.


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#6 aeajr

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 04:52 PM

Thanks.  Glad you like it.  I wrote it to help newbies get a quick start.   


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#7 Crow Haven

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 04:58 PM

A wonderfully useful guide!  This can help so many and thanks for creating this! waytogo.gif


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#8 Spacefreak1974

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 02:39 PM

Great work Ed. 


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#9 justfred

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 06:16 AM

Nice and concise! I like this... a lot.

 

Great job!

 

Fred


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#10 North of Sixty

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 07:45 PM

Great job Ed. It's going to be really helpful to so many beginners. Also a general thanks for all the effort you put into helping beginners, sharing what you've learned to date and for being a great all round CN'er.

Cheers and clear skies.


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#11 aeajr

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 10:43 PM

Thanks to everyone for your kind works.   If you feel this will help people, please, spread the link around.  



#12 aeajr

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Posted 05 April 2018 - 09:53 AM

The key point of the quick start guide is that I had never thought of using binoculars to get into astronomy.  When someone tipped me off to this it was such a revelation.

 

When I am among friends and the topic of hobbies come up it seems that a lot of people are at least casually interested in astronomy but have never taken the first step.   So I ask, "do you own binoculars?" 

 

About 50% do own some kind of binocular so I encourage them to pont them at the sky.  The other 50% are surprised at how inexpensive binoculars can be as a quick and low cost path into astronomy or, for that matter, bird watching.   Sure you can spend hundreds, but my pathway in was a $20 10X50.

 

In fact, if the sky is clear, we might take a step outside as I just happen to have a set of binos in the car.  That can be fun.  

 

The other element is star hopping.  Frankly, in my light polluted sky I still find it hard to do with my telescopes.  But if I select bright targets that can be seen with binoculars it is not hard at all.  So I wanted to combine the ease and low cost of binoculars with the ease of star hopping with binoculars. 

 

Once they give binoculars a try, it is a much smaller step to a telescope.   And, when I tell them that a usable telescope can be had for as little as $100, that often seals the deal. 

 

If they are trying to support a child's curiosity about the moon, stars and sky I again encourage binoculars as a first step.  I have a set that I recommend that are under $25 that even a 5 year old can use.  And these can also support an interest in bird watching, with seems to be more popular than I realized.   Kids interests change so fast.  

 

So, use the quick start guide as you see fit.  Talk up binoculars as a way into astronomy since you now have a quick start guide to help your friends give it a try.  If you want the word document, just drop me a PM with your email and I will send it to you.

 

If anyone has ideas to add, or questions, please post them here.   I tried to make the guide rich in content by  using links to third party material so that I did not bog it down with a ton of detail that might lose the reader.  If they are interested in more info they can just hit the link.

 

Clear skies!  smile.gif


Edited by aeajr, 05 April 2018 - 10:05 AM.


#13 WarrenM

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Posted 08 April 2018 - 11:57 PM

Ed:   I have never seen so much valuable astronomy information compiled into a single convenient source! I clicked on your guide thinking I would take a quick look at it. An hour later I was still at it, amazed at how much there was to see. You obviously put a great deal of work into this guide. I, and I'm sure many others will greatly appreciate it. WELL DONE!

 

Warren Maguire 


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#14 aeajr

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 02:32 AM

Thanks Warren.



#15 cosmic wind

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 11:26 AM

Thanks so much Ed. Very useful information.

Dan


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#16 aeajr

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 12:23 PM

Let me point out that some of the start hops in the guide make excellent presentations for outreach events.   The first one that centers on Vega is one I use at summer outreach events all the time.

 

This is an expanded script of the star hop in the quick start guide.

 

I have used this visual-to-binocular-to-telescope sequence at personal star parties and club outreach sessions.   People enjoy it and bring others over to hear and see it.   After they have done this with me I often hear them doing this sequence for their friends.  The may ask to borrow my loaner binoculars.

 

============================

 

Requirements:  

  • Eyes
  • Binoculars they bring or you loan them
  • 7X35, 8X40 work best. 
  • 10X50 work too but introduce too much shake for some people.
  • A telescope, preferably low power wide view tracking with a zoom eyepiece, set up on Albireo (optional)

 

I do this as a presentation, standing in the open.  I have 10X50s I am using and I bring ($25)  7X35 and 10X50s that I can loan them.  If they have their own binoculars, even better.  And it works well with a group who can follow along, especially if you have a laser pointer.  The entire sequence takes about 10 minutes and I do it over and over all night.

 

First step is to show them how to use binoculars.   Most people don't know how to adjust the width so they get blackouts.  Or they don’t know how to adjust the diopter so they get a fuzzy view in one eye and that can be unsettling.    If binoculars bother them, as they used to bother my wife, I just tell them to close one eye.    Showing how to adjust the binoculars is critical to success of this exercise.

 

Second thing is to teach them to bring the binoculars into the line of sight with the object so they don't lose it.   Most will turn their head down, bring the binoculars to their eyes and then go back to the sky and be unable to find the target. 

 

  • look at the target
  • raise the binoculars to your eyes as you are looking at the target
  • Adjust and focus
  • If you can't find it, move the binoculars out of the way, find it, then slide them back into the visual path so you don't lose it.

 

Constellations of Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila – May through September. 

 

Imagine you are standing with me and this is what I am saying.   This is the script

 

The first thing I do each summer evening is look for Vega, to orient myself.  Vega is one of the brightest stars in the sky.

( point out Vega)

 

How do I know I am looking at Vega?  There is a star pair near to Vega that is quite bright in binoculars and when I look at Vega I can see that star pair too.   The pair is called the Epsilon Lyrae or the Double Double. 

(I point out Vega with my fingers or a laser pointer so that they see it. I then show them how to use binoculars to find it.)

 

Using binoculars, look for the bright star and the : next to it and you are on Vega.

( confirm they can find it several times as this is the critical step to this star hop.)

(binoculars down, eyes up )

 

Looking from Vega we can find two other bright stars, Deneb and Altair which form the The Summer Triangle.    Altair is about 30 degrees to the SW and Deneb is about 25 degrees to the NE of Vega.  You should be able to see these from almost any location with the naked eye.

(naked eye - point them out and trace the triangle in the sky till they can visualize it easily.)

 

Now look at Deneb.  Next to Deneb you will see 3 stars that form the arms of The Northern Cross

(point them out and be sure they see them - naked eye)

 

Draw a line from Deneb down through the center one then go about 15 degrees and find Albireo

(naked eye - draw the cross and point out Albireo - as it is fainter then the rest they may have trouble picking it out)

 

Albireo is called a double star. It looks like one white star but it is really a blue and a yellow star that are visually lined up so they look like one star.  Take a look with your binoculars, can you find it?   In a telescope at about 30X we can split Albireo into two stars.  It is beautiful to see. 

 

( We move to the telescope. I have my Meade ETX 80 tracking Albireo all night with a Celestron zoom eyepiece set to 24 mm, 16X in this scope.   As you turn the barrel of the zoom you can see the double star split.)

If we look in the telescope we can see Albireo.  Now turn the barrel of the eyepiece and watch the single white star split into a blue and a yellow star. 

 

(Back to the sky, naked eye)

 

Now draw a line from Albireo to Altair.    (finger and laser)

 

Approximately halfway between them (10 degrees) is the The Coathanger or Cr 399 . 

(They can't see the coat hanger naked eye so this is their first introduction to star hopping, using binocular FOV to find an object that can't be seen naked eye.  I teach them how to judge a FOV by moving a star from the left side of the FOV to the right.  In 7X35s that would be about 8 degrees.)

 

Using my 10X50 binoculars (6 degree FOV) as an example that would be about 2 FOV to put in into the middle area of the view.  If you are using 7X35s ( 8 degree FOV) it is about 1.5 FOV.  In 15X70s 3 FOV (4.4 degree FOV) from Albireo toward Altair.

 

When you find it, the coat hanger will look like a hook with a cross bar, a coat hanger.  Not a triangular coat hanger, just a hook with the cross bar.

 

​​Sequence Complete - Others are outlined in the Quick Start Guide

===========================================================================

The response to finding the coat hanger is HUGE, and they have had their first lesson in star hopping.

 

I explain that star hopping is how you find things when you are not using a computerized scope.

That ends the sequence.   But I will hear people repeating it over and over all around me, telling friends.   People ask to borrow the binoculars so they can show their friends.

 

I have $25  7X35 and 10X50s that I use as the loaner/handout binoculars for this exercise.  They are more than adequate for the task.  

 

When complete:

  • They have learned how to adjust and use binoculars
  • They have a visual starting point - Vega
  • They have a way to confirm Vega
  • The can now see two asterisms, Summer triangle and Northern cross ( naked eye)
  • The have seen and split a double star
  • They have star hopped to an asterism that they can not see naked eye

When they go home they can walk the sequence themselves and if they have binoculars they can find the coat hanger.

 

This is my favorite thing to do at outreach and at personal star parties.


Edited by aeajr, 10 April 2018 - 12:25 PM.


#17 ValhallaObserver

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 08:42 PM

If a newbie like me, please give Kudos to the Author after the read.

 

Well done Sir,

 

Shawn

 

VO


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#18 condor777

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 04:54 AM

Thanks Ed,  good information and very helpful.

Tom


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#19 aeajr

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 11:29 AM

I still use my binoculars often, even when I am using my telescopes.



#20 DocFinance

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Posted 28 April 2018 - 06:03 PM

Great work.  Thank you for taking the time to put this together.


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#21 Starkid2u

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Posted 29 April 2018 - 07:16 PM

Great posting, Ed. This is exactly what the new among us need as a guide to get going. Congrats!


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#22 aeajr

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 11:56 AM

Wow, I did not expect this much of a response.   I am so grateful for your kind words and encouragement.

 

I have other material that I may develop into articles to be submitted for consideration.


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#23 jgw

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 02:48 PM

A very interesting and helpful guide. Thanks for your time and effort.



#24 condor777

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Posted 11 May 2018 - 12:03 PM

I still use my binoculars often, even when I am using my telescopes.

Ed,

 

   I used Binoculars for years before I had a telescope, they are a great way to enjoy the Stars. Some objects like M45 are better viewed with Binoculars IMHO. My next purchase my be a slightly more powerful pair , as my current version is 10X50mm .

 

Tom



#25 aeajr

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Posted 11 May 2018 - 01:49 PM

I found 15X70s to be an easy and comfortable next step.  Still hand holdable if you brace yourself and have steady hand, though I prefer mine on a monopod.




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