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Message started by Site Admin on Feb 2nd, 2012 at 2:55pm

Title: Guide to starting Astronomy
Post by Site Admin on Feb 2nd, 2012 at 2:55pm
Copy & pasted from my original guide at my personal site before I created this dedicated Astronomy website & messageboard community. I'll work on updating it soon.

First off, you’ll need a functioning pair of eyes + a sky dark enough for the stars and moon to shine, preferably with as few clouds as possible. It also helps if you aren’t scared of the dark + also to wear warm clothing, as the colder you get (even in summer it’ll get cold at night) the sooner you’ll head back in doors saying “sod this”, and the sooner you go back inside the house, the less you’ll learn.
Next up, it’s time to start learning what you’re looking at + what’s going to be visible during your observing session at that time of year.... for this you’ll need a Star Chart / Observing guide. You’ll usually find one in the monthly Astronomy magazines ..... I prefer ASTRONOMY NOW magazine + SKY&TELESCOPE.   If your pockets can handle the minor expense, check out the STARRY NIGHT astronomy software, which gives seriously realistic views of the night sky to help you identify what’s what. There are others available, but I prefer that one.

Title: Re: Guide to starting Astronomy
Post by Site Admin on Feb 2nd, 2012 at 3:05pm
Now you’ve got a Star Chart, you can now start using it to find your way around the sky..... if using the Astronomy software I suggested, it’ll be more accurate if you enter your location into the settings.... you can find the longitude/latitude positions for your backyard with the excellent GOOGLE EARTH software, or websites such as MULTIMAP.

Finding your way around the sky is easier than it appears..... it’s simply a matter of finding an easy to recognise landmark (or should that be “skymark” / “spacemark”?) in the sky..... I find the Moon + the Constellation of Orion are good ones to start off with..... then imagine this landmark (or one of the stars on it) as a kind of clock face..... Top = 12O’clock, Bottom = 6O’clock, Leftside = 9O’clock, Rightside = 3O’clock.(well that’s how I do it anyway)
Once you’ve seen something on the skychart you fancy trying to find, simply work out where it is in the sky from your chosen landmark in the sky...... if it’s a fair way round the sky from there, then you may want to try making your way round from several other stars in the sky to get to where you want to look at... such as, this thought pattern: “Right, there should be a star at 2O’clock from there.... there should be another one at 12O’clock from there...... and the one I’m looking for should be at 3O’clock from there.. oh look! there it is! I’ve found it!”.
At some point, you’re probably going to want to look even closer at these objects.... now for this, you don’t NEED a whopping great big telescope for this task (for starters they’re quite tricky to aim at the bit of the sky you want to look at)..... a pair of 10x50 binoculars will do...... I get by fine with mine (despite the fact they’re broken on one side)...... even the pair of 8x21 PRAKTICA binoculars I got as a free gift for joining a bookclub aren’t too bad for observing...... for more advice on this, check out the excellent articles on the SKY&TELESCOPE magazine website written by clever people who know more about these things than I do.

To learn more about what’s up there in the sky, check out the links on my web directory, and the books I recommended HERE.

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