Saturday, August 18, 2007

Astronomy for beginners

This is the first post to Astronomy for beginners and it's not about buying a telescope!

The great thing about astronomy for beginners is that all you really need to get started is a pair of eyes. Without a telescope or even a pair of binoculars it is easily possible to begin a hobby which will provide a lifetime of fascination and maybe even a career. I'll show you how.

Start close to home

The nearest astronomical body to the earth is of course the moon. Get used to noticing the phases of the moon because that's going to be important later on. Recognise Venus the 'Evening Star' (which is of course a planet), and the basic star constellations like the Plough and Casseopeia (the “W”). Contrary to popular belief, beginners can go a long way with amateur astronomy before buying any expensive equipment at all.

Buy a planisphere.

There's only one item of equipment which is vital to amateur astronomy for beginners, and that is a thing called a 'planisphere'. You may know that better as a map of the stars, an atlas of the heavens or a constellation guide but the proper name is planisphere. It's made of overlapping sheets which are circular in shape, and you rotate them according to the date, time and location in order to see a map of what should be visible in the night sky.

You can buy a planisphere for only about ten dollars but my advice is to make sure you buy a plastic one and not one made out of paper or card. There's a good reason for this and it's because of the conditions in the night air. Often it's cool and a little moist. Dew forms. If your paper planisphere gets wet then it's ruined, and in my experience they usually last about one day or a week at best. So really, one of the most important pieces of advice on astronomy for beginners is simply to buy a plastic planisphere. Here's one place you could buy a really good one - Deluxe Planishpere @

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