Last updated: 7 August 2000

How to Begin in Amateur Astronomy

Subject:	 Astronomy
Sent:	Tuesday, August 1, 2000 10:52:17
From:	burdpaul@hotmail.com (Paul Burd)
Hello, i recently viewed your site on amateur astronomy.  I'm 15 years
old and i want to get involved in astronomy.  I was wondering, how much
should i know about astronomy before i buy a telescope?  I was also
wondering, what telescope would be good for an amatuer astonomer just
starting out that is under $400. Thank you for your time and please e-mail me back.
Mike here: Thanks for visiting. I suggest visiting the Sky & Telescope (www.skypub.com) and Astronomy Magazine (www.astronomy.com) and perhaps even subscribing to the monthly paper copies of one of these magazines. There is a lot of info and links from these sites for those just starting in amateur astronomy. As to how much you NEED to know to enjoy a telescope, very little. But the more you learn the greater your enjoyment of your telescope will be. Unless you get a telescope with a computerized GOTO capability, you will have to use sky charts to find objects in the night sky. Many web sites (including those mentioned above) have them. There are also some excellent freeware, shareware, and commercial "planetarium" programs for Windows, Mac OS, and Palm that can chart the sky. For telescope purchasing suggestions, you might want to drop a note on the sci.astro.amateur newsgroup; you'll got some recommendations there. If you have a local astronomy club, talk with its members. Don't just take the advice of a store salesman. Consider how you will use it and what your expectations will be. A larger telescope is nice IF you will actually use it (some find larger scopes cumbersome to drag outside and set up). Smaller telescopes are more portable and easily setup. But too small and you might be disappointed with what you can see (or not see). If you want to get into serious viewing or astrophotography, you'll want a telescope system that matches that requirement. If you see a scope you think you might buy, ask questions on the sci.astro.amateur newsgroup about it. If you think you might go for a Meade DS or ETX model, check out the feedback pages here. Good luck with the decision.

From: spowell@columbus.rr.com (Scott Powell)

Mike, just saw the question from Paul Burd re: what telescope to buy for a beginner. I just wanted to add one thought to your response. When I first started into astronomy, I bought a book called "Turn Left at Orion" by Guy Consolmagno and Dan Davis. This was, without any doubt, the best $20 or $30 I ever spent on any hobby. The book is very easy to use (great for a beginner), and it highlights objects that are visible with smaller (3" and up) telescopes, even from light polluted areas. I also gives an interesting description of what it is you are looking at.

Sorry to run on, but anytime I see questions from astronomy "newbies" I refer them to this book - its awesome!


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