So your curiosity has gotten the best of you! You find yourself drawn to the heavens and are wondering how to get started into amateur astronomy. Well you’ve found the right place! In this article we’re going to reveal everything you need to know to get started into this awe-inspiring past time. This will include, the people, places, gear, and a few good books that will take you to the next level.
So how do you get started into amateur astronomy? To answer this question, we’re going to look at the following topics:
- Getting involved in your local astronomy club.
- Gear you’ll want to consider purchasing.
- Targets to set your sites on in the night sky.
- Must have texts that will provide greater insight.
- Additional articles of interest.
Are you ready to get started?
#1: Finding a local amateur astronomy club
This is, without question, my number one tip for getting your feet wet in amateur astronomy. Joining an astronomy club near you is a great way to meet like-minded individuals who all share your passion for amateur astronomy. Since I am based in North America, I will be focusing on the clubs in the USA and Canada, however, almost every part of the civilized world will most likely have a similar astronomy club.
Astronomy Associations in Canada
There are two primary associations in Canada for astronomy they are:
Both astronomy associations are devoted to the advancement of astronomy and related sciences. If you live in Canada, you can join local affiliate clubs in your area who meet regularly, plan public outings, as well as regular stargazing events.
Astronomy Associations in the United States
In the USA, there are many clubs and associations that are likely operating near you. I will list a few here, but a quick online search will reveal many more.
- Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh
- American Association of Variable Star Observers
- American Astronomical Society
- American Meteor Society
- Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers
Again, this is just a short list of the societies and associations that focus on amateur astronomy and the advancement of science.
#2: Gear to consider for amateur astronomy
This is the part where we talk amateur astronomy gear. While the temptation is to go out and buy the biggest, most expensive telescope you can afford. I caution you to restrain yourself…at least at the start. There’s a lot to learn about astronomy, and the technology that goes along with it. This is why I always recommend getting involved in your local amateur astronomy clubs first.
Not only will you learn from the experienced people you will meet. Often these clubs will have telescopes that they will lend out to you free of charge. That said, I know that for most people, myself included, learning about the technology and gear is half the fun!
The truth is, you really don’t need any gear to get into amateur astronomy as a past time. Just joining a club and going outside in the evenings and aiming your eyes skyward is a great start. Learning and being able to identify major targets in the nights sky is always a good first step. Locating the major stars that form the constellations will prove invaluable because they are almost always a reference point when tracking down those celestial targets that the unaided eye cannot see.
Assuming you’re already doing that, then the first piece of tech or hardware I would recommend is a decent pair of binoculars. You may think, “how much can I possibly see with just a pair of binoculars?” Well I’m here to tell you, I think you’ll be surprised!
More on this in a later section...
Buying your first pair of binoculars…
I really don’t want to turn this article into a review of products. The intent of this article is to lay the groundwork for an exciting past-time in amateur astronomy.
Some key factors that you’ll need to consider before purchasing your first pair of binoculars for astronomy, are the following:
- Sizes or classifications of binoculars
- The optics used
- Field of View (FOV)
- And even the weight can have an impact
I don’t want to go into all these details here, however, I did do a comprehensive article that covers all of these factors and more in this article here.
If you are interested in a comprehensive review of some of the best binoculars for amateur astronomy then I’ve got you covered here as well. Check out my article, Best Binoculars For Astronomy Under $500, after you’re done with this one.
If you simply cannot resist the temptation, or you really just want to do a deep-dive and pickup your first new telescope, then I recommend the following reading to get your started in your decision.
Buying your first telescope…
This is probably one of the biggest purchases you will make to get the most out of this fascinating past-time. Like I said above, there is a lot to learn with this hobby, and the technology and hardware is just another facet of it.
Some of the factors you will need to consider when purchasing a telescope for yourself or your child are:
- The different types of telescopes (pros and cons of each)
- How the mirrors and lenses work
- Focal length and mounts
- Eye-relief and field-of-view
These are just a few factors to consider when purchasing your first telescope. If you’re not comfortable, or have not heard of any or all of these terms, then it’s time to educate yourself. To start, check out my article on Astronomy Telescope Types. In it I review the major classifications of telescopes you’ll find on the market today, there advantages and disadvantages.
Also, if you are considering buying a telescope, then I highly recommend you check out my article, 10 Tips For Buying Your First Telescope. In it, I discuss all the important aspects that go into a telescope purchase. I know I’m making it seem like this is complicated, believe me it’s not, but there is a bit of a learning curve at the onset.
Lastly, I will leave you with a couple my “review type articles”, where I discuss the best bang for your buck when shopping for a telescope on a budget. If that’s you, check out the articles below:
#3: Targets to set your sites on in the night sky
Okay, you’ve made it this far, now you’re wondering what are some really great celestial targets you should focus in on. Well, the good news is there are many, many wonderful celestial bodies up there that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment.
That said, there are a handful of must see sites that can’t be missed! All of the targets I’m going to list require as little as your unaided eye (in dark skies of course), to a decent set of binoculars or a small telescope. Without further ado, here are my top 10 small telescope and binocular objects:
- Andromeda Galaxy
- Hercules Cluster
- Dumbbell Nebula
- Orion Nebula
- Mizar and Alcor
- Double Cluster
Of course, this is just the short-list of night sky objects I would recommend to any beginner. For more information and viewing tips with respect to these object, be sure to check out my article, Top 10 Small Telescope and Binocular Objects. In it, I cover everything you need to know to get the most out of viewing these celestial object.
#4: Must have texts for further insight
Learning about amateur astronomy and how the universe works is what draws us to this past-time in the first place. There are many great resources both online and in text form. I’ve read many over the years that have been great, but three really stand out for me.
The reason I like the three I’m going to recommend in a moment is because they have the amateur astronomer in mind. They are designed specifically for you and me, and really tell you everything you are going to need to know to be proficient at this hobby. They are superb! I know what you’re saying, “get on with it already…I want to know what the books are!”.
The three books I’m referring to are:
- Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
- The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide
- Sky & Telescope’s Pocket Sky Atlas
All three of these books are must have’s if you’re serious about getting into amateur astronomy. The third book, by Sky & Telescope, isn’t really a text per say, but rather a star atlas with the beginner in mind. The other two are both written by Terrence Dickinson and they are fantastically informative about everything you need to know with respect to amateur astronomy.
#5: Additional articles of interest
Well we’ve gotten to the last section of this article. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading not only this article but the other articles I’ve linked to throughout this page. Here at AstroJunkies.com we are passionate about amateur astronomy and providing good and meaningful content that helps our readers share in this amazing hobby.
Please come back and visit us often, or consider becoming a contributor to the site. You can do so by visiting our guest post page. Before we depart, I thought I’d leave you with a short-list of equally interesting topics you may find appealing.
- How To Clean Telescope Lenses – 5 Simple Steps
- Telescopes vs Binoculars for Astronomy
- Stargazing in Maui: Everything You Need To Know
- Largest Star In The Universe? Facts About UY Scuti
- What Causes the Northern Lights?
- Moon Gazing: How To Observe The Moon
- Stargazing In Sedona: Everything You Need To Know
- What Is The Dark Side Of The Moon?