Astronomy 101

I have four suggestions and two links for you if you are interested in getting involved in the  exciting “world” of amateur astronomy. The suggestions grow out of a common question I often get from beginners: Which telescope should I buy?

The simple answer I start with is: don’t buy a telescope. At least not yet. I then have four  suggestions.

 Four Wise Steps for the Beginning Astronomer

1. Spend the money you might have spent on a telescope and buy a good pair of binoculars.  I recommend 10×50 (10 power by 50mm aperture). But 7×50’s are good as well. With 7×50’s you give up some power, but you get a slightly lighter instrument (not that 10×50’s are a weight problem for the average person. They are not).

2. Get a good beginner’s book on astronomy and a good star atlas or planisphere.

3. Spend three months learning the night sky. See how many constellations you can find. Look for deep sky objects that your book will point out that can be seen in binoculars.

4. If you still have the desire to go deeper into astronomy after three months you already have the single most important tool for the hobby (your binoculars). If you decide you aren’t really all that interested in astronomy, you have a great pair of binoculars for land use that are superior to many of the basic binoculars you might buy to watch a football game, look at birds, or check out the new family that moved in down the block.

The Telescope

When it comes to a telescope I have one suggestion: get a dobsonian style telescope with the largest mirror you can afford. An 8″ dobsonian style scope is an EXCELLENT starting point. What ever you do, do not purchase a GOTO telescope. You will be tempted by all the claims the ads will flaunt. Don’t be taken in, while GOTO scopes have a real role to play down the line when you have mastered the use of your normal amateur telescope, it would be a crutch that keeps you from learning the night sky because the computer does the work of finding things and you fail to learn about the sky itself (which is MUCH more fascinating that the singular objects the GOTO will take you to.


Here are two excellent free resources you can find on the Sky & Telescope website that will help you get started. Print them out and devour them. You will be glad you did.

Click to load S&T's Getting Started Article

Click above to download the 6-page "Let's Go Stargazing" article

One Response to Astronomy 101

  1. Richard Hillman says:

    Thanks for the site. I’m a member of OC Astronomers but haven’t been to a meeting or Anza for a long time.

    Gotta get re-aquainted with everything.

    Rich Hillman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *