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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:05 pm 
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Greetings,

Presented for your enjoyment and edification are the following tips that may provide some assistance to those who are just starting out in amateur astronomy.

Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson is considered by many to be the single best book for novice amateur astronomers. As far as other beginning observing guides are concerned, I highly recommend Phillip S. Harrington's Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning About over 125 Celestial Objects and Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them by Dan M. Davis and Guy Consolmagno. One of the finest books, in my opinion, on learning how to star-hop is Alan MacRobert's Star-Hopping for Backyard Astronomers, which, unfortunately, is no longer in print.

http://www.fireflybooks.com/bookdetail&ean=9781554071470

http://www.philharrington.net/swtch.htm

http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1111941/?site_locale=en_GB

http://www.amazon.com/Star-Hopping-Backyard-Astronomers-Alan-MacRobert/dp/093...

At a more advanced level, The Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer is an excellent guide to astronomy and amateur astronomy. Another very good, yet inexpensive, source of general information is A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets (Peterson Field Guides) by Jay M. Pasachoff.

http://www.backyardastronomy.com/Backyard_Astronomy/Backyard_Astronomers_Guid...

http://www.hmhbooks.com/hmh/site/hmhbooks/bookdetails?isbn=9780395934319

As far as books on astronomy gear are concerned, look no further than Phil Harrington's excellent Star Ware: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Choosing, Buying, and Using Telescopes and Accessories. Astronomy Hacks by Robert Thompson and Barbara Thompson is another highly-recommended book full of great tips on equipment and the art of observing.

http://www.philharrington.net/sw2.htm

http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596100605.do

Information on planispheres, or star wheels, which portray the locations of the constellations and bright stars at a given time and date, is posted at http://www.skymaps.com/store/cat04.html and http://www.skyandtelescope.com/howto/visualobserving/3303986.html

An online planisphere is available at http://www.topastronomer.com/StarCharts/Planisphere.aspx

Weekly updates on astronomical events are available at these sites:

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/videos/skyweek/

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance

http://stardate.org/nightsky

Browse here or here for a free monthly star chart. There's a video on how to read a simple star chart at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTO11vNMRJg

An informative video discussing astronomical objects worthy of observing each month can be found at http://hubblesite.org/explore_astronomy/tonights_sky/

The major planets all orbit close to the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system. Their positions and that of the dwarf planet Pluto can be ascertained by consulting http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/

Useful information on observing some of the planets and their satellites is available at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/javascript and a solar system simulator at http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/

Recognition quizzes on some of the major constellations can be found at the following URLs:

http://www.physics.csbsju.edu/astro/constellations/

http://www.uni.edu/morgans/astro/course/constellations/java/index.html

http://www.mhhe.com/physsci/astronomy/arny_3e_update/constellation_quiz/index...

A rudimentary tutorial on star-hopping from Ursa Major and Orion is posted at http://www.astrocentral.co.uk/starting.html

Click on http://www.robhawley.net/sh101/index.htm for an excellent video tutorial on the technique of star-hopping. Some excellent seasonal star-hops are presented at http://www.rocketmime.com/astronomy/index.html

Active observers will eventually need a good beginning star atlas in order to locate various stars and deep-sky objects or DSOs. Paper star atlases run the gamut from the simple and inexpensive to the complex and costly. Here are a few to consider: Orion's DeepMap 600, Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook, 20th Edition by Ian Ridpath (Editor), The Edmund Mag 6 Star Atlas by Terence Dickinson, Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas by Roger W. Sinnott, The Bright Star Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion and Roger W. Sinnott, and The Cambridge Star Atlas by Wil Tirion. The Sky Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion is a more advanced and expensive atlas. The two volume Uranometria 2000.0 goes even "deeper" in stellar magnitude and displays the positions of a greater number of deep-sky objects.

http://www.telescope.com/Accessories/Astronomical-Maps-Charts/Orion-DeepMap-6...

http://www.astronomics.com/main/product.asp/catalog_name/astronomics/category...

http://www.scientificsonline.com/edmund-mag-6-star-atlas.html

http://www.shopatsky.com/product/Pocket-Sky-Atlas/sky-atlases

http://www.willbell.com/atlas/atlas1.htm

http://www.amazon.com/The-Cambridge-Star-Atlas-Tirion/dp/B0073JWOXW/ref=sr_1_...

http://www.shopatsky.com/product/Sky-Atlas-2000-Deluxe-Unlaminated/sky-atlases

http://www.willbell.com/atlas/atlas4.htm

Finder charts for various deep-sky objects can be found at http://astronomylogs.com/pages/finderchart.html

Videos by professional astronomers on the Messier objects and other astronomical topics can be seen at http://www.deepskyvideos.com/

The Telrad is a very handy 1x (non-magnifying) reflex sight finder. Telrad finder charts for the Messier objects are posted at these web sites:

http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps_jsmall.html

http://www.solarius.net/Pages/Articles/dbArticle.aspx?artid=messier_finders

http://www.astro-tom.com/messier/messier_finder_charts/messier_maps.htm

Binoculars are a great way to get started in amateur astronomy. Binocular astronomy is rather easy to carry out and is also a lot of fun. Binoculars are relatively inexpensive and are eminently portable. Employing both eyes simultaneously definitely adds to the visual experience.

Binoculars are ideal for showing the "big picture". These instruments can readily display objects that are too large to fit into the fields of view of most telescopes. In addition, binoculars can often be useful in "surveying" the area where an object is located prior to conducting a telescopic star-hop.

A surprising number of celestial objects, including many binary stars, open and globular star clusters, nebulae, and some of the brighter galaxies, can be detected with binoculars. Scanning through the heart of the Milky Way with a binocular from a dark site is a very memorable experience.

I recommend purchasing a 10x50 (i.e., 10 power and 50mm aperture) binocular for astronomical use. A 10x50 binocular is usually not overly heavy for most people to hand-hold and provides a 5mm exit pupil that will be appropriate for most observers when age and observing site darkness are taken into account. People who must wear eyeglasses while observing may want to look for a binocular with at least 14mm of eye relief. Browse http://kingston.rasc.ca/Library/rasc-binoculars.pdf and http://binocularsky.com/binoc_basics.php for tips on choosing binoculars.

There's more on binocular performance at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/astronomy/astro21/sandt/powerbinocs.html

A chart showing the effects of magnification and aperture on binocular performance is posted at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/astronomy/astro21/sandt/images/pabin2.gif

A three part evaluation of three different binocular apertures can be found at the following URLs:

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/home/7151386.html

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/home/7172141.html

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/home/7272326.html

In my opinion, the best binocular observing guides available are Touring the Universe through Binoculars by Phil Harrington, Binocular Astronomy by Graig Crossen & Wil Tirion, Binocular Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users by Gary Seronik, and Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars by Stephen O'Meara.

http://www.philharrington.net/sw8.htm

http://www.willbell.com/handbook/HAND2.htm

http://www.shopatsky.com/product/Binocular-Highlights/books

http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521721707

Phil Harrington discusses various targets monthly in his Cloudy Nights Binocular Universe column at http://cloudynights.com/category.php?category_id=182 and in a quarterly column in Astronomy. He offers an excellent freeware planetarium program known as TUBA (Touring the Universe through Binoculars Atlas), which also includes information on purchasing binoculars, at http://www.philharrington.net/tuba.htm

A number of articles on observing with binoculars are posted at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/stargazing/86589452.html

Tips on binocular astronomy are available at the following sites:

http://carolrpt.com/astroguidev9complete.pdf

http://binocularsky.com/

http://www.stargazing.net/david/binoculars/

http://www.skynewsmagazine.com/pages/binoculars.html

A video on observing with binoculars is posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAnAZz-ZPJ0

This website discusses a number of deep-sky objects that can be seen through binoculars. See http://astrogeek.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/binocular-objects/ for a long list of binocular targets. Other lists include the ones at http://www.starman.co.uk/book/database/database.html and at http://www.backyard-astro.com/deepsky/bino/homeb.html

My monthly lists of binocular deep-sky objects are posted at http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/t/48393.aspx

A list of binocular objects is included with each monthly Evening Sky Map at
http://skymaps.com/downloads.html

The Astronomical League's Binocular Messier, Deep Sky Binocular, and Southern Sky Binocular lists include many of the best binocular deep-sky objects:

http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/binomess/binomesb.html

http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/dsbinoc/dsbnlist.htm

http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/sskybino/ssbinoc1.html

Sketches of a number of deep-sky objects as seen through binoculars can be found at http://rodelaet.xtreemhost.com/binocular_astronomy.html

Mounting a binocular on a tripod, or better still, a dedicated binocular mount (guider) will improve views markedly. An informative pdf on binocular mounts is posted at http://www.cloudynights.com/documents/thoughts.pdf

The vast majority of deep-sky objects visible in amateur telescopes are quite faint and are best seen from a dark location. However, there are a number of DSOs that can be seen by urban observers. For further information on urban astronomy, see my post at http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/p/52886/487707.aspx#487707

A wealth of good astronomy freeware is listed here and here. Stellarium, Celestia, and Cartes du Ciel are all fine freeware planetarium programs. The Virtual Moon Atlas is a great aid for lunar observing. A number of surprisingly good free astronomy apps are also available. There are also many excellent commercial planetarium programs on the market, including MegaStar, SkyMap, Sky Tools, Starry Night, and TheSky.

These online planetarium programs may prove useful:

http://www.sky-map.org/

http://www.skymaponline.net/

http://neave.com/planetarium/

http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/

http://www.shallowsky.com/sky.html

http://www.skyviewcafe.com/skyview.php

http://staratlas.com/index.html#topofpage

http://www.astronomy.com/stardome.aspx

http://www.wunderground.com/sky/index.asp

http://skychart.skyandtelescope.com/skychart.php

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=1052

http://www.geocities.jp/toshimi_taki/atlas_85/atlas_85.htm

http://www.pbs.org/seeinginthedark/explore-the-sky/your-sky-tonight.html

http://www.heavens-above.com/skychart.aspx?SL=1&SN=1&lat=0&lng=0&...

The following web sites contain worthwhile information on many different aspects of astronomy and amateur astronomy:

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Intro%20Sky.aspx
http://astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/News.aspx

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/letsgo

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/howto/basics

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/howto/visualobserving

http://www.ovas.org/alinks.htm

http://www.hobbyspace.com/Astronomy/index.html

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/astronomy/glossary/

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/tv/guides/bbc_stargazing_live_star_guide.pdf

http://www.astromax.org/astrocourse/history.htm

http://www.daviddarling.info/index.html

http://nineplanets.org/

http://stardate.org/radio

http://stardate.org/astro-guide

http://earthsky.org/tonight

http://www.calsky.com/

http://www.space.com/

http://www.oneminuteastronomer.com/

http://www.nightskyobserver.com/the-sky-this-month/

http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/nightskynotes/index.php

http://www.spaceweather.com/

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/

http://heavens-above.com/

http://www.observingsites.com/

http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/sowlist.html

http://seds.org/messier/

http://messier45.com/guide/objects.html

http://www.deepskyobserving.com/index.htm

http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/index.html

http://www.observers.org/beginner/

http://beginnersguide.com/astronomy/

http://www.skynews.ca/pages/backyard.html

http://www.astrocentral.co.uk/beginners.html

http://www.gcadventure.com/cosmic-voyage.net/beginners.html

http://www.wwnorton.com/college/astronomy/astro21/sandt/usingscopes.html

http://www.opticsplanet.net/dozen-telescope-observing-tips.html

Dave Mitsky

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Last edited by Dave Mitsky on Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:32 am 
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Thanks Dave, that's a fantastic compendium.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:26 pm 
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But Absolute beginners don't be put off by this very long list.

A 10 x 50 binocular and say 'Turn left at Orion' is all you need.

Even the most experienced astronomers are unlikely to have gone through this whole list or even know about them all.

regards, David


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 pm 
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Comprehensive and very appropriate list, Dave.

One note: I don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but the link http://www.deepsky.info/other/Binocular%20Targets.PDF appears to have become 404-compliant.

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The Binocular Sky
Astronomers do it with Heavenly Bodies

Lots of binoculars, from 32mm to 100mm; 90mm Gregory-Maksutov, 406mm Dob


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:26 pm 
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Re "Turn Left at Orion". Some time ago I was tempted to invest in the latest edition of this well-known book with its bigger format and southern skies additions and spring bound pages. More recently still while have a clearout took this along with a number of other astro-books to the local astronomy group, put them on the table for people to help themselves (ie take what ever you want) ....and the one book left at the end was "Turn Left...". I even pointed out that it was a jolly useful guide but could not find any takers. In the future any books I want to unload will go straight to the local charity shop!
Uranometria Vol 1 and 2 I find essential but are probably too detailed for beginners.
Sky Atlas 2000 is excellent but rather too floppy and awkward either as loose sheets or spring bound.
maf


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:29 pm 
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Seems a useful resource 8)

Maybe it can be made a "sticky" ?

ATB,

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:24 am 
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You're welcome, everyone.

Tetenterre wrote:
Comprehensive and very appropriate list, Dave.

One note: I don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but the link http://www.deepsky.info/other/Binocular%20Targets.PDF appears to have become 404-compliant.


Thanks. This post has appeared on some other sites for quite some time. I usually check through the links from time to time to see if they're still active but I missed that one. It's been deleted.

Dave Mitsky

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Last edited by Dave Mitsky on Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:32 am 
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mike a feist wrote:
Uranometria Vol 1 and 2 I find essential but are probably too detailed for beginners.
Sky Atlas 2000 is excellent but rather too floppy and awkward either as loose sheets or spring bound.
maf


I agree and did not recommend either Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the Uranometria 2000.0 for beginners. They were mentioned only for the sake of completeness.

The Sky Atlas 2000.0 requires a portable table in the field. In recent years, I find myself using the very handy S & T Pocket Sky Atlas more often than not.

Dave Mitsky

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De gustibus non est disputandum.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:48 am 
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I like the S+T Pocket Sky Atlas too as it is so handy and easy to use. I use Uranometria to plot the location of comets that I wish to locate. I have often wondered about the Millenium Star Atlas but seems expensive and perhaps difficult to obtain. maf


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:29 am 
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S+T Pocket Sky Atlas is far too big (or my pockets are far too small!) :D I use Collins Gem Stars in the field (or 2Sky on my old Palm PDA).

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The Binocular Sky
Astronomers do it with Heavenly Bodies

Lots of binoculars, from 32mm to 100mm; 90mm Gregory-Maksutov, 406mm Dob


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:09 am 
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What about NORTON's?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:23 pm 
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Over the years I have had many many different editions of NORTON's Star Atlas and even have a photograph taken in the 1960s showing me as a lad looking at a copy. Norton's 2000 was issued as a floppy paperback and a bit awkward to use and at one stage NORTON'S was redesigned so that the celestial equator and the top and botton maps could not be viewed flat and was difficult to use too. One previous edition (maybe 19th,I am unsure) was updated but really muddled with confusion in the text concerning the planets if I remember. A recent edition was poorly bound and the pages were not stitched but poorly glued together and soon fell out, although I believe that it was re-issued in a better binding later by a different publisher. The later maps were good and I liked the old ones too although only to 6th mag or so. I would like to see a new hardback version of the maps and the handbook reduced to tables and charts (and a good moonmap) and not pages and pages of text. Whether it was better with the maps in the front or the back is debateable. maf


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