It is a beautiful and wondrous sight to behold the body of the Moon…Galileo Galilee, 1610
First views of the moon via telescope
By any stretch of the imagination, I am not what could be described as an “old hand” at the art of observing our night skies. Far from it! I only purchased my first telescope in April of this year (2019). Neverthless, I’m not a complete newbie to the hobby – I’ve been interested in the cosmo since about the age of 10 when we covered the big band and formation of the solar system at primary school – gripping stuff(!) which I’m sure steered me in the direction of sci-fi and a career in IT. I’ve also soaked up documentaries about these subjects over the following decades.
The decision to take time out and stop working, meant the end of six a.m. starts and three hour commutes. Finally, I could stay up at night, peer down a telescope and still have a decent night’s sleep afterwards.
So the search was on for a telescope and a deep dive into the nocturnal world of the amateur astronomer.
Throughout my IT career, I’ve always documented the processes and methods for new tooling, systems, and methodologies I’ve had to introduce. It’s a hard habit to break, so in the same vein, here are a few of the sites I’ve found useful since taking my first faltering steps towards telescope ownership…
Learn from others, discuss and expand your knowledge by joining a club. Find out what astronomy clubs are near you by visiting http://www.astronomyclubs.co.uk/
The YouTube videos below provide decent intros to getting started with astronomy. Furthermore, both Astronomy & Nature and Orion Telescopes have a significant back catalogue of videos that are worth trawling through to gain a better understanding of the various technical aspects of the hobby.
In these, you can lurk & learn, read and absorb, research what other owners of shortlisted equipment think of your prospective purchase(s). And, of course, you can post some questions of your own.
- Astronomy Now
In terms of choice in the UK it’s a two horse race between this magazine and the Sky at Night. To begin with, I purchased both. I’ve since opted to subscribe to AN because I found the articles seemed to be pitched at a target audience which is more experienced/technically savvy.
- Sky at Night
Associated with the BBC’s long running series of the same name, I find that this magazine is pitched more at the complete beginner.
Subscribe to their newsletter. This provides info each week on what to look forward to in the week ahead.
US based magazine
- Sky and Telescope
- Space Answers
- First Light Optics
So far, I’ve used FLO exclusively for my astronomy related purchases thus far. This decision was driven by the sponsorship of the Stargazers Lounge forum, a couple of beginner’s pages, and a web site that was more readily accessible/usable compared to others.
- Rother Valley Optics
- Widescreen Centre
- Tring Astronomy Centre
- Harrison Telescopes
- Telescope House
- Optical Vision Ltd
I think this company is the official UK distributor of Sky Watcher kit.
- Modern Astronomy
A bit of a strange one this in that Astroboot supplies lots of odds and sods of astronomy kit.
- Astronomy Tools
Provides 4 free tools:
- A field of view (FOV) calculator
For a named object, discover what the FOV is for a given piece of equipment
- Star chart
A view of the heavens from your location
- Cloud forecast
AKA ClearOutside. What are the chances of getting out to observe celestial objects tonight and the evenings ahead ?? … probably very low here on the west coast of Scotland 🙁
If you’re daunted by the info provided, have a look at the How To Use guide.
- Lookup coordinates
Know you place! A fundamental piece of data is knowing where you are on the surface of the Earth. If you don’t know your longitude and latitude, this tool will help you.
- A field of view (FOV) calculator
- In The Sky
A great sight to visit for a summary of what can be observed at your location. Handily, icons readily indicate a 1 – 5 level of difficulty for observing the object:
- naked eye
- small telescope
- four inch telescope
- large telescope
That’s enough for now to whet your appetite and get the ball rolling. In future posts I’ll blog about the books I purchased, software to use, the gear I’ve purchased thus far, and other resources that will expand your knowledge of the night sky.