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Best Book/Guide for an New Telescope User?

beginner charts observing
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#1 Elfbob

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 02:20 AM

I’m going to be getting my first telescope here soon and I want to get a good guidebook to go along with learning how to observe, what to look for, and just basically how to get the most out of viewing sessions. I know best practice is to learn from others and to absorb info from more experienced and practiced astronomers at Star-Parties and the like (which I plan to do). But, I want to have a physical aid and guide of my own, smartphone Star-gazing apps are nice, but they aren’t the same. I haven’t come to a final decision on which particular scope I’m going to end up getting (another post for another day), but I know I’m really interested in seeing the planets as much as possible and some of the brighter and more discernible DSO’s.

So what book to get? The big 4 that I’ve seen everyone talking about are “Nightwatch” by Terence Dickerson, “The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide” by Terence Dickerson, “Turn Left at Orion” by Guy Consolmango and Dan M. Davis, and of course the RASC’s 2020 Oberserver Handbook. If I had money in abundance, I’d get all 4 (and maybe I will someday). But, picking just one, which one is best for the beginning astronomer, or is there one that you’d recommend that wasn’t mentioned above? All thoughts/questions are welcome.

Edited by Elfbob, 19 September 2019 - 11:25 AM.


#2 sg6

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 02:43 AM

Books can be difficult - you need to get one that "clicks" with you.

I bought Turn Left at Orion, in simple terms didn't like it.

 

Eventually bought The Monthly Sky Guide by Ridpath and Tirion. For whatever reason I prefer that one.

 

The "problem" with TLAO may have been it advertises itself as 100 objects for a small scope. There are 110 Messiers, same in Caldwell, several double stars. That is way over 200 so why the 100 limit? Basically just didn't click.

 

Do not know the others, seem not that common here.



#3 Frisky

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 03:21 AM

I have Turn Left At Orion, Nightwatch and Minnesota Starwatch, as I'm in Minnesota. All three are good. They're all different. I came to the conclusion Turn Left At Orion is the best for me. It has plenty of objects to keep you looking. It has, by far, the best moon photos and labeling of lunar objects. It can get you started on the moon without having to buy a moon atlas. It doesn't have the beautiful color photos of the other two books, but I bought it to assist me in finding night sky objects, and it worked out well. 

 

Joe



#4 izar187

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 03:23 AM

https://www.willbell...tlas/atlas1.htm



#5 Binofrac

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 04:14 AM

I got on well with Turn Left at Orion. I liked the amount of information it gives on everything from types of telescopes to the night sky objects. I really liked the fact that it shows the author's sketches of what they see in the eyepiece, rather than unrealistic Hubble images. They give you a good idea of how these things look when you search for them. I don't use it for finding objects but it's a great reference guide.

 

For beginners there is a free pdf ebook download in this thread- https://www.cloudyni...n-to-the-stars/ which will be useful, and contains links to other free sources of information. 


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#6 OleCuss

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 04:35 AM

Consider "A Complete Manual of Amateur Astronomy" by Clay Sherrod.  Written by a/the master of the art and the information is almost invariably accurate and quite complete.  I find it to be into the awesome territory although it is not the fancy book that we tend to like.  Starting to be a bit outdated on the AP parts but the information which is there is solid, just not covering the latest tech with the level of completeness one might want.

 

Not so easy to find nowadays, however.  You can buy a used one on Amazon for $200. . .  Not sure I'd pay quite that much but you might find it on eBay or some other site at a lower price.

 

My second best would be "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide".  Very different book from Sherrod's in some ways but they again give some pretty good information.  Arguably an easier read as well.  There are several editions so check to get the latest.



#7 Garyth64

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:32 AM

From Patrick Moore's "Practical Astronomy" series, there's a book, "Real Astronomy with Small Telescopes", by Michael K. Gainer. It has "step by step activities for discovery"

 

Michael K. Gainer is a retired professor from Labrobe University in PA.  He was the previous owner of my 5" Apogee refractor that he used for many years in his backyard observatory.



#8 Jim1804

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:48 AM

I really like Turn Left - really geared to the beginner, explaining what you’re looking at in the right amount of detail. Instead of photos, it uses sketches, which are much more like what you’ll see at the eyepiece.

The one thing I don’t like are the finder charts - the goal seems to be to let you find objects without knowing anything about constellations. I found them unintuitive - instead use SkySafari or a printed sky map to locate the item - but the info in TLAO is invaluable, and fun reading as you prepare your observing session.
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#9 whizbang

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:55 AM

I like "Turn Left at Orion".

 

My first book was "The Year Round Messier Marathon".  Good book.  I still refer to it once in a while.

 

The Sky and Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas --- Jumbo edition, is good to have too. 

 

I was able to visit local libraries and book stores and see which books were right for me before I purchased any.



#10 desertstars

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:56 AM

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide would be my first choice for someone completely new to amateur astronomy. The most recent edition (2010) may be a bit dated in some aspects of the hobby where rapid change is the norm (imaging, computers, brand-specific recommendations), but the book still proves the best basic foundation for getting started, and at a reasonable price, that I know of. It's also backed up to some degree by a companion website:

 

http://www.backyarda...mers_Guide.html


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#11 Mountaineer370

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:58 AM

"NightWatch" is a short, beginner-friendly book that I can easily recommend to anyone looking for their first book or two or three about astronomy.  My edition has 176 pages -- I understand there are newer editions that are longer because they have been updated to include more information on astrophotography and also include southern hemisphere star charts.  I feel the star charts in this book are among the easiest for newcomers to understand and follow.  It does require some knowledge of the constellations, but that's one of the first things you should be teaching yourself as a beginner.

 

"The Backyard Astronomer's Guide" is similar to "NightWatch" but is a greatly expanded and more comprehensive version of many of the same topics.  It's a gem but you'll need more than a few days to read it.

 

I also own "Turn Left at Orion," and I'm in the camp where I think it is a fine book for its target audience, but it is definitely not one I would recommend to beginners wanting to learn, as you say, "how to observe, what to look for, and just basically how to get the most out of viewing sessions."  On that one, I would say wait until you've had a year or so of experience, or check it out of a library first to see how you like it.


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#12 Mountaineer370

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 08:01 AM

Books can be difficult - you need to get one that "clicks" with you.

I bought Turn Left at Orion, in simple terms didn't like it.

 

Eventually bought The Monthly Sky Guide by Ridpath and Tirion. For whatever reason I prefer that one.

 

The "problem" with TLAO may have been it advertises itself as 100 objects for a small scope. There are 110 Messiers, same in Caldwell, several double stars. That is way over 200 so why the 100 limit? Basically just didn't click.

 

Do not know the others, seem not that common here.

Well, my copy says "Hundreds of night sky objects" on the cover, not "100 objects." wink.png


Edited by Mountaineer370, 19 September 2019 - 08:03 AM.

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#13 aeajr

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 08:07 AM

Another recommendation for Turn Left at Orion.

#14 desertstars

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 09:32 AM

"NightWatch" is a short, beginner-friendly book that I can easily recommend to anyone looking for their first book or two or three about astronomy.  

I used NightWatch as a part of my "refresher course" when I got back into astronomy after a long absence. It served that role very well. Another excellent book for getting started, especially for parents of younger astronomy enthusiasts.


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#15 Elfbob

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 01:31 PM

Thank you guys for your in-depth responses. As someone who’s new to the hobby and even newer to this website, it continues to amaze me how much response and activity are given. You guys are awesome and I’ve got a lot to think about between these choices. I guess it might be time for me to dust off my library card and see if I can get my hands on some of the books before making a decision.

I really appreciate all the response, it’s very helpful indeed. If anyone else has opinions about books for a beginner, continue to post below.
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#16 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 02:28 PM

I'm a huge fan of TLAO and have actually bought I think six copies of the book (four were gifts, one was a loaner that because a gift when the borrower liked it so much, and a new loaner to replace the lost one). I use it nearly every time I go out. Several pages have fallen out of the spiral binding and been taped back in. It's covered with dirt and grass stains. The corners are all chewed up looking. Every page has notes for the first time I saw each object with each of my telescopes. It's a well-used and well-loved book. I'm doing my best to rationalize buying a 5th edition now that it's out. The finder charts are geared for a conventional straight-through finder with upside down images and to me are a great tutorial for using star charts later on. When I bought my ETX-90 and a right-angle-mirror-image finder for it I actually scanned every chart in the book and used MS Paint to laboriously flip and invert every map so I could use it with the ETX. Only afterward did I find out the author had a website with different charts you can print out for mirror images or right-side-up images. Ugh. In addition to the maps, it includes text directions explaining what to look for and step-by-step how to get to what you're looking for. After a while you don't need the text directions and can figure out how to get there yourself from the chart but I found it very helpful when starting out.

 

There are plenty of things to see in addition to the objects in TLAO, so it's hardly meant to be all-inclusive. They were curated because they're either regarded as the best of their type or they're easier to find than others. After you've used the book for a while it's really easy to pick up a star chart and use it to find something else that isn't in the book.

 

One of the things I like best about TLAO is the nightly moon "tour" guide that walks you through various features visible each night during the moon's cycle. I've gone through each one many times and it never gets old to me. I've tried to find another book with more detail but haven't found anything as easy to use. It's easy to find books with detailed maps of the moon and labels for every crater and feature, it's the "guided tour" aspect that appeals to me, telling me how to find interesting things and then telling me what is interesting about them.

 

I've tried using Sky Safari but I've really had no luck at all with it. I can't figure out how to make the screen match what I see in my eyepiece so after half a dozen attempts I gave up. Other people seem to find it much more intuitive and can't stand using books like TLAO, so what is best really depends on the individual. Try lots of different things and see what works best for you.



#17 aeajr

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 03:12 PM

Here are some articles that you may find helpful.

 

Binoculars are the way I got started.

 

New Astronomer Quick Start Guide for Binocular Users
https://www.cloudyni...art-guide-r3143

 

How Much Does a First Telescope Cost?
https://telescopicwa...telescope-cost/

 

How to Use a Telescope:  First Time User’s Guide
https://telescopicwa...ope-user-guide/

 

Refractor vs. Reflector – Which is better?
https://telescopicwa...tor-telescopes/

Different types of Telescopes
https://telescopicwa...-of-telescopes/



#18 Garyth64

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 03:30 PM

If you can, find a copy of "Norton's Star Atlas, and Astronomy Handbook" c. 1959.

 

It's old, but there's a lot of great information in it.  (It's old, but the stars are still out there.)


Edited by Garyth64, 19 September 2019 - 03:31 PM.


#19 brentknight

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 05:09 PM

Those guys on Amazon are insane.  If you want Clay Sherrod's book you can get it from Abe for about $4.

 

9780131621152-us.jpg

 

Another great book though is The Backyard Astronomer's Guide also from Abe for about $7

 

9781552095072-us.jpg


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#20 Ranger Tim

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 05:17 PM

I think the best beginner’s book may be”All About Telescopes” by Sam Brown. It is a collection of articles from Edmund Scientific that cover a wide range of the hobby and it is written for the average enthusiast. It is out of print but sometimes available on Amazon. If you digest half of it you’ll be smarter than most of the old timers on here. You’ll also be in a lot better shape to buy your own scope.



#21 Garyth64

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 05:46 PM

"If you digest half of it you’ll be smarter than most of the old timers on here."

 

I don't think so, most of us "old timers" grew up with Sam Brown's books. smile.gif


Edited by Garyth64, 20 September 2019 - 07:27 AM.


#22 Ranger Tim

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 11:36 PM

I loved/love every minute I spent/spend with them. Wish they were available easily for successive generations. Perhaps they are online somewhere? I buy copies when they surface sometimes just to give away to budding enthusiasts.



#23 Elfbob

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 02:08 AM

I got on well with Turn Left at Orion. I liked the amount of information it gives on everything from types of telescopes to the night sky objects. I really liked the fact that it shows the author's sketches of what they see in the eyepiece, rather than unrealistic Hubble images. They give you a good idea of how these things look when you search for them. I don't use it for finding objects but it's a great reference guide.

For beginners there is a free pdf ebook download in this thread- https://www.cloudyni...n-to-the-stars/ which will be useful, and contains links to other free sources of information.



I read the entire PDF book that you created there, great read and incredibly insightful for a complete novice such as myself! There was a lot in there that I hadn’t thought about and gives me a lot to think about in what I want to look for in my purchases. Thank you so much!

#24 Binofrac

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 03:59 AM

I read the entire PDF book that you created there, great read and incredibly insightful for a complete novice such as myself! There was a lot in there that I hadn’t thought about and gives me a lot to think about in what I want to look for in my purchases. Thank you so much!

I'm glad you liked it Elfbob. I'm always keen on the feedback and It's nice to know that it fulfills its goals.

 

As an update the 4" refractor is still my ideal scope and I filled my eyepiece gap with a 12mm BST Starguider.

 

I deleted Google Skymap a while ago but find the Celestron Skyportal app very useful. It also is a free download and it doesn't matter if you haven't got a scope for it to link to. It obviously shows where objects are from your location and has a good search and locate function. There's lots of information on the objects, and one of the best features is "Tonight's best" which gives a handy list of things to observe. As it's free I would recommend giving it a go.

 

One of my (many) next projects is to build a super simple and cheap laser pointing system with a green laser module and this app to give any scope or binoculars a simple push to functionality. I'll post the details on the forum when I complete it.



#25 Bowlerhat

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 06:22 AM

Be aware that both backyards astronomers guide and the Nightwatch books are big, so it's not really a field book. My bookstores sells nightwatch lates edition in ring binder - I'm not sure if that's the latest arrangement but I have the backyards guide with normal binder.

 

I like turn left at orion because of the illustration, it's realistic. Backyards astronomers guide is a huge book for the equipment, lots of theories explained there.

 

My first book was Ian Ridpath DK's Astronomy guide, wouldn't recommend it over TLAO or Terence dickinsons, but it's a nice little book for a star chart and general info (although not complete due it's small size)




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