View Full Version here: : Real beginner
12-04-2012, 04:51 PM
As you can see from the title I'm totally new to astronomy. I've read the excellent first article by Brian Nolan on choosing your first telescope and it is now obvious to me that I've got to do some basic learning and homework before I go any further. I'd greatly appreciate it if someone could point me in the right direction i.e. what books to read, webpages to consult, audio podcast to listen to, people to speak to at Ice in Space or anything that'll prepare me to observing the stars with my first telescope.
Thought I'd start with the online course on solar system astronomy in the resources page and Hubert Reeves's book Stardust but would welcome suggestions from Ice in Space members. Thank you.
12-04-2012, 05:01 PM
I'm not much more than a beginner myself and can only ask a few questions that may help.
Is your viewing place dark?
Is your wallet well lined
What would you like to see?
How fit are you? (for carrying and setting up)
Will you be doing photography
Do you want goto or will you be able to 'star hop'? (cos a Dobsonian will be great if you can star hop and don;t want to do AP)
12-04-2012, 05:56 PM
Thank you for your message and questions which I'll try to answer thoroughly.
The viewing place I would first use is very close to where I live i.e. a beach which is fortunately not well lit up at night.
My wallet is not exactly well lined at the moment but one should always hope. However, since I'm beginning I don't think I should get anything too fancy to start with. It seems that a 6 or 8 inch scope could do the trick but as I said in my first posting I feel like I need to do some basic homework before I start observing the skies.
I also need to get the hang of things first, maybe that would involve observing objects that are close or in deep space.
Otherwise, I'm pretty fit but still think I should start with something simple and light.
Photography is definitely something I'd consider at a later stage when I'm more experienced and knowledgeable.
Recently read an article on the site by someone called Faith who did say she started with a Dobsonian so that's a possibility...and to prove once more that I'm totally new to this, could you tell me what AP means?
Thanks a lot.
12-04-2012, 07:10 PM
Hi Laurent, Welcome to Ice In Space.
I'm glad to hear you're doing some homework first.
My advice for a first scope, is an 8" Dobsonian telescope. They have an 8" Newtonian Telescope mounted on a cradle base atop a lazy susan. The were popularised by the wonderful John Dobson. (google his name and side walk astronomy )
Please steer clear of an EQ mounted scope at this stage. They have their own unique and highly frustrating problems, something you will wish to avoid.
12-04-2012, 07:20 PM
Can I jump in?
BTW (by the way) :lol: AP means astro photography :thumbsup: There are lots of these acronyms, which we have tackled (scroll to the end)
I've travelled this rocky road on IIS myself, and yes, it does depend on which way your fancy goes.
A dob reflector will definitely give you the most aperture for the money. If not a go-to mounting (where the handset guides you to a named object) then you will need to learn your constellations, which is not a bad thing really. Then you can push the scope (called star-hopping) to where you want. This method is more difficult in light-polluted skies though.
A dob however needs collimation (optical alignment) now and again for best viewing, and this extra task can be irritating, depending on how you feel. However there are many aids available for this task.
A refractor almost never needs collimation, but you get less aperture for the money, about half I suppose, but if it is a good brand, it will deliver excellent quality viewing. They can be very very pricey in top brands.
A Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT) is a sort of midway design, aperture vs cash. It does not need nearly as much collimation, but you get a bit less aperture for the money, and it can suffer a bit on the viewing quality compared to a top refractor. However in a large size (say 8"-10") they are much more portable than a dob.
So you need to consider location, interests, portability, usage, and, AND, money. I have never bought a new scope. I depend on this great site for buying and selling scopes ( I am using now my fifth). I recommend it.
12-04-2012, 07:21 PM
What are those nettie? :rofl::rofl: There are none if you can stand on your head for long periods :lol:
12-04-2012, 07:21 PM
AP means astrophotography. Wallet will need to be very well lined to head in that direction.
Agree with Jan and JJJ a dobsonian is usually the best way to go for starting in observing. An 8" dob will set you back around $5-600 and will give years of viewing pleasure.
The critical thing in observing is aperture, the bigger the better. Having said that the costs rise substantially once you get beyond a 12" dob, and the 8" is smalll enough to be handled by anyone, easy to transport and setup and very tolerant of collimation. It really is the sweet spot for newbies IMHO.
12-04-2012, 07:48 PM
I am also a beginner. A few weeks I bought a 10" dobsonian (dobs for short). Dobsonians are great because the are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of telescopes while getting a decent aperture. They are easy to use and some come with a GoTo option. GoTo is a motorised tracking function that finds and track stars for your (if correctly aligned). Collimation (optical alignment) is important, but easy to master. It should only take a few minutes to perform at the start of viewing sessions. The downside of Dobs is that they are not well suited to astrophotography because, even motorised, the mount down follow the true celestial movement (to achieve this you need an equatorial mount). However, AP is possible if you limit yourself to short exposures. Essentially, this means that you can only take pictures of the moon and planets. Deep sky objects (DSOs) will be much more tricky to catch. I have just started my AP journey and with the moon an planets, there is plenty to keep me occupied!
Prepare yourself for a wonderful journey!
12-04-2012, 09:06 PM
It appears my parameters have all been mentioned.
So now you have been whelmed - neither over nor under I hope.
If you are living near a beach, make sure your storage area is pretty dry - the Dobs have chipboard bases which are like blotting paper until they turn into weetbix :D
A shower cap on each end will ensure the mirror doesn't get too salty - remember to take it off the end when in use!:D
Star hopping is not hard if your skies are reasonably dark - light pollution doesn't stop you seeing stuff, it just turns the sky into rice pudding in which you're seeking rice.
13-04-2012, 02:08 AM
All good advice above.
The only extra thing I would add:
Look at the Star Parties forum and try to attend one of these (near you).
You will probably see a lot of different scope types and sizes.
Have a look through them.
Talk to the owners.
This can save you money, point you in the right (for you) direction, and make you feel comfortable about your decision.
BTW: You don't have to have a degree to start observing.
Most of us started out knowing nothing ... some still :)
Hope to see you at an observing night.
(I recommend the Pony Club at Mangrove Mountain)
Oh, and welcome to IIS
you're among friends here. :welcome:
13-04-2012, 08:50 AM
Nobody seems to have mentioned Stellarium ( Hi Laurent, Welcome aboard )
Free to your PC and one of the best training aids for the budding astronomer. Download and start learning avoiding all clouds and other impediments. And it won't even dent your wallet lining ...
Okay, so I'm almost nearly embarrassed to post the following- if you keep scrolling, you'll see why. :rolleyes: It's so ridiculously long! :ashamed:
Ken (Ballarat Dragons) suggested I should re-use my other previous mammoth post in the future, so it made sense. Therefore the following post is a combination of cut and paste from that post of mine plus I've added lots of extra stuff.
I'm wondering if this would serve better as an "article" in the Projects and Articles section on the left hand blue menu bar. Mike, what do you think? Would it be a useful addition there? There seems to be nothing in there for helping beginners get started.:question:
Guess I'd have to remove all the emoticons grrrrr, lol (oooh there is life after emoticons :P aaahaha.
And also that way, a simple link can be used to access all this information.
1) Learn the brightest stars in the sky.
This will help when it comes to finding constellations. Also, soon enough they'll end up feeling like friends.:D Then they go away and you'll become sad :(, then when they return, you'll be jumping with excitement like a kid. :party: Okay, maybe I just do that..:shrug::ashamed:
2) Learn the greek alphabet (in lower case).
This will help you read maps better. ;)
And possible make you look smarter to other people:question::D
3) Learn how to measure the sky in degrees using your hand.
Don't let neighbours see you, those hand gestures could mean something else to them. :face::argue:
4) Get some computer software.
Both my dobs purchased thru Ozscopes and Sirius (Saxon) came with Starry Night software. This programme will help teach you the constellations as the move around the sky and make no sense :rolleyes: and will also give you a zillion targets to keep you happy with. You can also measure (by dragging the mouse on the object) the angular distance between a star and the object. Then proceed using hand measurements mentioned above when looking at the sky. Otherwise, download Stellarium (http://www.stellarium.org/) (but I find Starry Nights much better).
5) A Planisphere.
Most definitely as you can take it outside with you (unless you get a software programme on a lappy that you can take outside). If you choose the latter, be sure to use low powered battery mode so the screen isn't so bright or better still, cover it with red cellophane paper so it doesn't ruin your dark adaptation.
The planisphere will teach you the sky no matter what time of day or time as the stars rotate around. Remember when I said it can be confusing, well this will definitely help.
I got mine from here (http://www.austskyandtel.com.au/BooksProducts/tabid/643/language/en-AU/Default.aspx) from Australian Sky & Telescope for $14.95 and love it.
I've gone one step further with it and have cut out using post-it notes (the sticky strip), little arrows, which I can peel off and stick on zillion times over for the point of interest on the disc. :D Comes in handy for marking places on maps in my books too!
I wonder if I can get rich selling sticky arrows :D
6) Refer to this website- monthy.
Southern Sky Watch (http://home.mira.net/%7Ereynella/skywatch/ssky.htm). Every month it tells you what goodies to look for in the sky for that month.
7) Absolutely get Australian Sky & Telescope magazine. This too will tell you what's in the sky for that month. It also has a monthly article for binocular viewing and gives a target every month, along with how to find it, as well as a monthly star chart.
8) Read up on observing tips.
Visit the Observational and Visual section (http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=8) of our forum. While you're there, look at the top of the page- there's a sub forum there called "Observation Reports" (http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=8). Plenty to learn here - read, read, read. You'll get some great ideas from here as to what objects interest you that you want to chase down as well as how they appear through a telescope.
I have supplied further reading/links on observing tips towards the end of this post.
9) Go to your local star party.
Or join an astronomy club in your area. http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=16
10) How to determine seeing and transparency
Post #2 will be continued as I have gone past the word/post restrictions,:rolleyes: Imagine that! :lol: I've finally excelled myself in word usage. :P
Continuation of previous post...
Here are some books which I highly recommend.
For binocular and telescope viewing respectively. Note that the book (which Malcom suggested-Collins, "Stars & Planets" is also listed below.
For Binocular Viewing....
- Touring the Universe Through Binoculars (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Touring-Universe-Through-Binoculars-Philip-Harrington/9780471513377) by Phil Harrington.
I haven't read this book but have heard many reviews and recommendations on it.
- Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Stephen-James-OMearas-Observing-Night-Sky-with-Binoculars-Stephen-James-OMeara/9780521721707)by Stephen James O'Meara.
This is an observing book which goes a bit deeper than Heavens Above. It also helps you find the objects using your hands to measure your way across the sky.
I've attached some pics here for you...
- Heavens Above (http://home.st.net.au/%7Edunn/heavensabove/) by Robert Bee (specific to the southern skies).
Highly recommended to start out with.
Some Useful Links for Binocular Observing:
The Messier project through binoculars done by our member, Faith Jordan.
A couple of my own binocular observation reports...
Binoculars- A Basic Guide for Astronomy...
How to make a binocular chair...
How to make an Parallelogram...
For Telescope Viewing...
- Stars & Planets (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Stars-Planets-Ian-Ridpath/9780691135564) by Ian Ridpath & Wil Tirion
One of my favorite hard working books. Covers general astronomy at the beginning of the book and the rest is dedicated to maps with the facing page to each map detailing objects of interest and the astrophysics. It will tell you what the spectral classes of the stars are, nice doubles to look at, and each object of interest nicely detailed. Beautiful pics accompany them. Each constellation has its own map- very easy to use. Great book for beginners. Even though it's more specific to telescopes, many of the objects and stars in it are viewable through binos or the naked eye. I highly recommend this book also.
I've attached some pics here for you...
The Night Sky Observers Guide. (http://www.willbell.com/HANDBOOK/nitesky.htm)
The Night Sky Observers Guide series is a great book. It's quite intense and covers a ton of deep sky objects with finder charts for everything, sketches on lots of objects, and observation notes as to what can be see through different sized apertures.
At the beginning of each constellation it gives a large table listing of binocular objects and stars of interest. It's a hard cover book with a whopping 504 pages!
There are a lot of dso's in this book more specific to larger scopes, but there's still plenty of stuff in it for 8-10" scopes, not a lot for 4-6" scopes, and pretty much favors 12-14" and in particular 16" scopes. Many feel this book is a bit advanced at beginner level as it goes quite deep but I love this book and wouldn't be without it.. a book I will grow into as I get more experience. Many of us on here own this book/series.
Our own Paddy has done a wonderful review of it here in this forum.
Atlas of the Southern Night Sky. (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search?searchTerm=atlas+of+the+sout hern+night+sky&search=search)
Another thick and fantastic book. Beautiful colour photographs, descriptions of the objects, followed by a map on the facing page.
Paddy has done a review of this book also (good work Paddy!)
Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas. (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Sky-Telescopes-Pocket-Sky-Atlas-Roger-Sinnott/9781931559317)
Being spiral bound, it's easy to handle on your lap by the scope as it stays open. It's filled with a ton of goodies that go deeper than "Collins Stars & Planets", but for a first book, I would recommend "Stars & Planets" first because the pocket atlas book is mainly maps. The Pocket Sky Atlas even has a Telrad circle to use with it's maps.
It's so cheap at only $20 from the Book Depository in the UK (free shipping!) - great value!
Deep Sky Companions: The Messier Objects, by Stephen O'Meara. (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780521553322/Deep-Sky-Companions-The-Messier-Objects)
It's an observing book and tells you all the little details to go look for, and also a little black & white pic (for every object) of what to expect to see out of your telescope. Lots of sketches too- so you can really get a nice sample of what to expect at the eyepiece. He observed with only around 4 inches of aperture, so everything he says is within reach for most of us. Some astro physics are given on each object too, and basically its about a page per object. It is a hard working companion of mine.
Astronomy Australia 2012 (http://www.iceinspace.com.au/70-660-0-0-1-0.html)
Many of us here have this book - no mater what experience level- it will be the book you should consult regularly. The book contains a diary of events month by month such as planet opposition events, ocultations etc, also many pages to help beginners along the way- bright stars you should know etc, easy double stars for beginners (in this years edition), meteor showers, comets, rise and set times of the sun, planets and moon & orbital paths, maps incl. moon map. IceInSpace sells this book so check the shop for supplies in the above link.
And for both:
A general book that covers all forms of observing - naked eye, bino & telescope....
I mention this book because it just covers so much. General astronomy is covered well, and towards the back section, a large part of this book is dedicated to maps and objects, listing objects of interests that are available be it naked eye, binoculars or through a telescope. Beautiful pics accompany them. For the weight and information covered in this book, it is well worthy of it's price. I Highly recommended it- great coffee table book also.
In summary (regarding books)...
I doubt that you'll find one book that will do it all. Like me, you'll probably find that you'll wind up with several books and maps. Some books cater for the brighter objects and are quite easy to read and navigate thru, others are intense, some books cater more for "observing", i.e. more a teaching guide on techniques and what to look for in objects (such as Stephen O'Meara's Deep Sky Objects- Messier Objects- fantastic book, and Hartung's), some books list the astrophysics and objects of interest better or clearer than others, etc. I have lots of books/maps- each used for different observations.
Some Useful Links for Telescope Observing:
How to master the art of averted vision (http://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/feature/how-guide/how-to%E2%80%A6-master-art-averted-vision)
A useful video by the staff of Orion demonstrating how to colimate a telescope (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAVGcGEBmCE)
You can't go by this!!!!
Rob H from our forum has made these charts- they are brilliant & many of us use them. Print them off and pop them into plastic sleeves and file them in a ring binder.
Post #3 will be continued as I have gone past the word/post restrictions- again! Seriously now over-excelling my word usage. :rolleyes:
continuation of previous post...
And lastly, a few little tips I've learned along the way...
- Get warmly dressed at least 15 minutes before you go outside into the cold as this will keep your core body temp. warm as opposed to waiting till you get cold as your body will take much longer to stay warm- trust me, you will notice the difference and won't be as cold.
- Keep insect repellents away from your scope- apparently they will kill the glass on your eyepieces if you get that stuff on them, and also it's not advisable to use coils by the scope either.
- If the stars are twinkling don't expect to have a great observation session- objects through the eyepiece will be jumping about as the atmosphere is unsteady.
- Do not go outside to observe without an observing plan. Always be armed with "something" to look at. I have been caught a few times here thanks to the "evil" clouds :rolleyes: hell bent on a mission to ruin what seemed to be a good night.
Keep a ring binder folder (your best friend) with plastic sleeves to protect your pages from dew (evil enemy no#2 :rolleyes: ). In this folder (your working guide), a suggestion for its contents might be something like this...
Print out the Greek alphabet, how to measure degrees with your hand, objects you want to see (make sure you list constellation they belong to as you might miss that constellation season first up), your observing notes or little tips to finding the object (I usually scribble these on the printed maps (from software), you will also more than likely come across many useful links such as 10 best carbon stars, 100 brightest planetary nebula etc; so these will also go in your observing folder. Work out a list of what each magnification & fov (field of view) each of your eyepieces are and pop this into your folder; as you do reports/notes you will likely refer to this list to know you observed "X" object using 70x power but at 140x power not visible etc. A list of objects that interest you on a must see list awaiting for the next season that constellation comes around. There's loads of objects out there, so hard to remember all the ones you want to see :P.
Sticky notes in your maps/books as page markers or for notes are my best friend and keeps me organised. They are right the way thru my observing folder too- I love stationery :P, trees cry when I go near them. :rolleyes:
Learn when to quit. :P If the view is getting darker (and this can creep up slowly, know that it's not your tired eyes or you're having an unlucky night finding anything. When it gets that bad that the star looks like it's dissolving- you have outstayed your time- forget determination (it's sometimes been my enemy :screwy: ). Mind you things can look very interesting at this stage.. a whole other observing experience all together :lol:. Btw, never admit like I have that you have managed to get yourself to this stage. :P A quick hit with the hair dryer will help (on a dob the smaller secondary mirror tends to get affected first).
When you bring the telescope inside and if you have a dob, make sure straight away (you get loads more water through condensation when you bring scope into warmer temp. indoors) that you tip the tube all the way until it faces the ground as this will stop water droplets marking your larger primary mirror. Grrrr the one night I didn't do this I ended up with two spots. Don't worry, this shouldn't hinder your views- even lots of dust doesn't seem to- but to what degree I don't know, I just prefer to cover scope and protect from dust and take action with dew problems. There's no need to clean your mirror unless it's absolutely necessary (so I hear many times over).
Observe the planets first- you don't want to kill your perfectly dark adapted eyes.
Make sure you're comfortable- I recommend a height adjustable observing chair. Bintel sells them for around $175, to me its worth every penny. It's solid and heavy and trust me when you are doing gymnastics on that chair looking thru finders etc, you don't want to collapse with a heavy scope on top of you. They will take a lot of weight. It's narrow and folds nice and flat for storage/car so won't take up too much room. https://www.bintelshop.com.au/Images/Stock/7201.jpg
Sorry, I forgot- Hi and welcome Laurent! :welcome:
This is a great forum for resource and learning astronomy, and has the greatest bunch of friendly & helpful people around- glad to have you on board.
13-04-2012, 07:49 PM
Oh Suzy you are so very good! Congratulations you do amateur astronomy a great service here! Should be a sticky on this!
Welcome Laurent, we are all still learning, may your journey be as fun filled as mine has been. Read lots of threads here and you will find great people willing to pass on their experience as you can already see from the above replies.
Also if you have a smart phone there are many great astro apps. I like Star Chart as a general guide to the sky but there are many many good ones.
Oh and get a paypal account for the for sale section you are going to need it sooner or later.
Thank you so much for the very kind compliment- probably one of the nicest things anyone's said to me - it means a lot and it's very encouraging, thank you again, Peter. :)
You mean I missed something??? :P :lol:
Peter, I hope you don't mind me just adding some further input to those apps :question: but it seems I can't stop typing today so it's going to happen anyway. :P:lol:
I have both apps Star Chart and Skeye, I use both but tend to use Skeye more. I like that Star Chart clearly shows the brightest stars in each constellation and also by pressing on the star, it gives the information on it, i.e. alpha centauri, "X" million light years away, magnitude, spectral class etc.
Skeye gives less information but I like that it acts as a "go-to". In other words, type in the object you want to find and the arrow will guide you to it with a circle centred on the object found, or just place the circle on the object and it'll tell you what it is. Accuracy though can be affected as I get a regularly annoying warning of "magnetic interference" which if I didn't know any better would have me often believing that for example Orion sits where Carina should sit. So I think a certain level of familiarity with the sky is needed to begin with. I don't use Star Chart that much to test its accuracy.
Btw, a great new app I have which I love to pieces is called Astro Panel. It tells you pretty much everything you need to know for a good viewing session in a table format; cloud cover, humidity, seeing, transparency, wind, temp, lunar phase, lunar altitude, sunrise/set. I've had it for a few months now and I've been finding it to be pretty accurate so far.
14-04-2012, 01:41 AM
Great load of tips there Suzy,as you suggested to Mike it should be made into a sticky:)
14-04-2012, 02:24 AM
Laurent, forget everything you have just read above.
Just take out a second Mortgage on your house, buy the most enormous Dob you can find (try about 26"), buy a big trailer to cart it around in to dark sky sites, buy a HUGE ladder so you can see in the eyepiece, then after you have done this exercise a few times, pack the scope away in the shed and just turn on the computer and look at the Hubble images :thumbsup:
14-04-2012, 10:50 AM
Thanks for the advice. I'll check John Dobson on Google.
14-04-2012, 11:07 AM
Thank you for directing me to the glossary and list of acronyms, they'll be extremely useful from now onwards. I'm very grateful for your very clear explanations and advice. It's all been taken on board.
Finally, you're right I think a second-hand scope will be the way to go to start with.
14-04-2012, 11:16 AM
Great advice Malcolm. Thank you
14-04-2012, 11:19 AM
Thanks Eric that's all very encouraging.
14-04-2012, 11:21 AM
Thanks Jennifer. Can't wait t get into the rice pudding.
14-04-2012, 11:33 AM
I'll keep an eye on the Star Parties forum.
Thank you very much Allan
14-04-2012, 11:50 AM
Just downloaded Stellarium. Thanks for mentioning it.
14-04-2012, 12:19 PM
Thank you for all your postings. It must have taken you a lot of time to put all this info together and I know I'll be referring to it regularly from now on.
I'd also like to thank you and all the others for welcoming me in this community.
14-04-2012, 12:22 PM
This is the best advice I've had so far.
17-04-2012, 06:16 PM
Dam Suzy that should be a sticky, great info :)
18-04-2012, 01:56 PM
Don't forget to set it up for your location, download the extra catalogs ( more stars aand stuff ) and of course ...... ENJOY !!!! :D
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