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The Ultimate Guide for Beginners to Astronomy/Stargazing

MountainSkies

1,365 views

Hello!

Welcome to the most intuitive guide on beginner astronomy  ever!

First of all, if you are even the greatest astronomer ever, please show this to beginner astronomers as this may help them get a good start. I will also post in the description a video explaining everything I just said a bit easier. Other than that,  enjoy!

 

Getting Started

Welcome to the great hobby of astronomy! First off, I would like to say three things about your new hobby!

1st: Don't expect what you see in pictures!

This is a picture taken by NASA using the Hubble telescope of the Orion Nebula:

 

 

orion-nebula-michael-tompsett.jpg.276263

Credit: NASA

And here is a photo that you will see through your telescope:

imageproxy.php?img=&key=bdf8b2134cef9d8b56cfad2cc3e4a_OrionNebula.jpg.6991f71ad2

 

It is way down in the lower-center part of the image. My point basically is that you aren't going to see those big beautiful pictures you see on NASA's website. So now search your brain, and think if this is what you want to do. If you aren't as interested, still stay, as you may not have to lose hope yet!

2nd: Think if you are ready

The biggest problem you hear in astronomy is that someone got a big 1000 dollar telescope and hated it and stuck it back in his/her closet. So this is probably the most important step. You will be donating a lot to this new hobby, and the time, money, and regret can cost you if you are not careful. I will get into this more in the choosing your first telescope section of this post.

3rd: Calm down, and remember...

Do not buy a telescope and fancy camera just so you can take pictures! I hear about this, and always think to myself that these people are losing all the fun that you have while stargazing because they're just trying to take the perfect shot! calm down, as you can get into astrophotography later if you like it.

 

Now to the main part of beginner astronomy...

 

Buying Your First Telescope

 

This is something that worries a lot of people. They always think that if they don't get the best they will die.(I did this as well, but calmed down and got a cheaper telescope. It worked for me until I felt it was time to level up) But to tell you the truth, if you don't dig astronomy, then you will only have spent 800-1000 dollars of well-spent money on nothing.  I included some great choices for beginners on which telescope to get:

(I am assuming a price range of about 200 dollars)

Astromaster 70AZ Telescope- $149.95

Travelscope 70mm Portable Telescope-$ 89.95

The Celestron Cometron series-$59.95 to $179.95

60LCM Computerized Telescope-$259.95

(Note: I am not a representative of Celestron, but rather find Celestron a good start-off point for newbies)

Now many people want to get a computerized scope, and I find those scopes great AS long as the are not EQ mounts, our equatorial mounts, as these are harder to deal with. I would also not recommend Reflector Telescopes, as these are hard to manage. I would also not recommend Cassegrain Telescopes, as these are hard to manage. Trust me.

you will only need two eyepieces, which come with all these telescopes

First Observation Night

Yay! First observation night has arrived! here are my tips:

--since you may not know enough about the constellations, make sure you have something to see what is out with. Celestron's SkyPortal app for Ipad and Iphone is a great place to start, as it is easy to use and free.

--Be prepared for average views depending on air pressure, and always be ready for light pollution if you live in a large city.

--Note: Always find a spot without streetlights or trees to use, though rooftops are also good if you live in and apartment building

--Carefully maneuver the telescope

--Never get angry, as this could cause chaos and ruin your experience

--As always, have FUN!!!

Final Note

Have fun with your newfound skills, and recommend this forum to others!

Please leave comments about questions!

happy stargazing,

MountainSkies

 

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I have to say I almost entirely disagree with your 'ultimate guide' for beginners!

All the telescopes you 'recommend' are very small aperture and in the main come with lightweight unstable mounts that will do more to frustrate the user rather than give them a good start in observational astronomy. For visual observing, aperture counts. The larger the diameter of your objective, the more light you gather on deep space objects and the more resolution you have on solar system objects. For the budget conscious beginner, by far the best bang for your buck comes with a Dobsonian mounted Newtonian reflector. Not only does a 6" or 8" Newtonian give great views of all classes of astronomical object, but it has the added advantage of a very stable, intuitive, low maintenance mounting.

As for advising against a reflecting telescope as they are 'hard to manage', this is plainly wrong. Would you advise someone against playing the guitar because you have to tune the strings? Just as you can get pitch-pipes to aid in tuning a musical instrument, so you can get a Cheshire eyepiece to aid in aligning the mirrors. It doesn't take more than a few seconds and is nothing to be scared of.

For those wanting to make a start in astrophotography the advice of 'don't because it's difficult' isn't at all helpful. There are many wonderfully helpful and encouraging imagers at SGL who are more than happy to advise how to get started.

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I find it hard to use an eyepiece for more than about five minutes. Although I can enjoy the views, without imaging it just wasn't be worth me setting up a scope because after 15-20 minutes I felt stiff, uncomfortable and frustrated.

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18 hours ago, Stub Mandrel said:

I find it hard to use an eyepiece for more than about five minutes. Although I can enjoy the views, without imaging it just wasn't be worth me setting up a scope because after 15-20 minutes I felt stiff, uncomfortable and frustrated.

Have you tried using an observing stool?  Sitting down whilst observing can completely transform the experience.

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/misc/mey-observing-chair.html

http://www.wexphotographic.com/buy-sky-watcher-anti-tip-observing-chair/p1529203?mkwid=ssbfh8c4f_dc&pcrid=89741389979&kword=&match=&plid=&gclid=cj0keqia0sq2brdrt6scrqj71vqbeiqag5bj0_0a8riyds62qevzi3nxl8j6futa4-bpbtgu8krxo2uaaiv78p8haq

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Hi Mountain Skies

Your blog is an interesting personal point of view on starting out in astronomy and I think you make some useful points.  Personally I don't agree with you regarding getting a cheap refractor as a good first scope.  A nice little Newtonian on a decent tracking mount (EQ5 for instance) or on a Dobsonian mount would be my preference.

Regarding your comment "The biggest problem you hear in astronomy is that someone got a big 1000 dollar telescope and hated it and stuck it back in his/her closet."  Whilst people having "all the gear and no idea" can be an issue, from my experience, a MUCH more common problem is people getting a really cheap scope (with a shoddy mount), and this putting them off the hobby.

Members of SGL have between them thousands of years of experience of many aspects of amateur astronomy.  Quite a number of members are also professional astronomers.  The strength of the forum is that there is a vast range of experience within the membership, yet I somewhat doubt any member would ever claim to be the' ultimate' authority on any single aspect of the hobby.  Perhaps billing your blog as an 'Ultimate guide' is over-egging it.  Might your blog be more appropriately entitled - 'Starting out in astronomy - a personal view'?

 

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Fully agree with you michealmorris, and I will be renaming this blog post bases off your idea. I also will be adding your view about cheap telescopes into this blog post, and also will be adding a few newtonians to the list of reccomended scopes. 

Thank you for your opinion and ideas,

 

MountainsSkies

(Note: sorry for being off forums for so long, was out of country for a few weeks and was busy doing other things)

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On 2/26/2016 at 11:06, RikM said:

I have to say I almost entirely disagree with your 'ultimate guide' for beginners!

All the telescopes you 'recommend' are very small aperture and in the main come with lightweight unstable mounts that will do more to frustrate the user rather than give them a good start in observational astronomy. For visual observing, aperture counts. The larger the diameter of your objective, the more light you gather on deep space objects and the more resolution you have on solar system objects. For the budget conscious beginner, by far the best bang for your buck comes with a Dobsonian mounted Newtonian reflector. Not only does a 6" or 8" Newtonian give great views of all classes of astronomical object, but it has the added advantage of a very stable, intuitive, low maintenance mounting.

As for advising against a reflecting telescope as they are 'hard to manage', this is plainly wrong. Would you advise someone against playing the guitar because you have to tune the strings? Just as you can get pitch-pipes to aid in tuning a musical instrument, so you can get a Cheshire eyepiece to aid in aligning the mirrors. It doesn't take more than a few seconds and is nothing to be scared of.

For those wanting to make a start in astrophotography the advice of 'don't because it's difficult' isn't at all helpful. There are many wonderfully helpful and encouraging imagers at SGL who are more than happy to advise how to get started.

 

RikM, Though I prefer Newtonian reflectors, Many people need a telescope that is easy to care for than a Newtonian reflector that can be broken by a person's hands being dirty and then boom, the telescope is broken and needs to be taken apart again.  I would fully recommend a Newtonian to a person who has a helping hand, but sometimes a few posts online do not help with collimation. 

 

On astrophotography, I feel that people should learn about what they are looking at, see what they think of their views, and then buy an astrophotography camera if they are invested. You can also use a helpful phone or camera to take pictures of your objects, which works perfectly fine as well.

 

I will be changing the name of this guide.

 

Thank you for your opinion

 

MountainSkies

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It's always difficult to keep a message simple (accessible for a novice) without leaving out (those which initiates feel are) significant parts of the story, especially if you're trying to provide a "starting point" from which to progress in a successful and enjoyable manner. As such, you're trying to give a lecture to a room full of people who know next to nothing on the subject - except for one person in the crowd who possibly knows more about it than you do, and has his/her own opinions on what you're trying to say (it never fails...). Only here on this forum, it's quite a few people...

You're certainly not the only one who recommends a small refractor to start out with - as opposed to something which requires cooling and collimation; neither are you the only one to advise not to start out with astrophotography too soon. Plenty of experienced astronomers advise against using GOTO or an EQ mount when just starting out. Keeping things as simple as responsibly possible (yes, GOTO is meant to be simple, but it doesn't always work out that way in practice) for a newbie is a pretty reliable method; each individual will progress at their own pace and learn soon enough that there's also "the other side" of everything they were previously advised. Having something you can just take out, set down (unless, of course, you're using a decent pair of binos - without a mount), point at the sky and look through should get you hooked - if that doesn't, nothing will. Collimation,  polar alignment, solar observing and whatever magic stuff our imaging friends do will come along in due course; no Beginner's Guide will ever stop that from happening, no matter how many opinions it has left out.

And anyone - even a beginner - reading your Guide on this forum will not fail to be aware there's a bit more to it than what you've written :happy11:.

The views of those who have commented on your work so far are perfectly valid, of course.

I appreciate your approach to this.

Edited by iPeace

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