I am new to astronomy, where do I start?

A stronomy is a popular subject... It is also a vast and varied subject: do not be overwhelmed; but do be prepared to put some effort into learning, you will be rewarded! Start at your local library and bookstore: there are new, beginning astronomy books published every year. Some beginning/intermediate books I can recommend are:

The Monthly Star Guide by Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion
NightWatch by Terence Dickinson
Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis
The Stars: a New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey

A good bookstore will stock the two most popular magazines on the subject: Astronomy, and Sky and Telescope. Both these magazines have excellent Web pages; check them out! Both magazines have mail-order divisions, publishing a wide variety of books, for example.

Though most of the above references include moon maps and star maps, nothing beats the convenient, ingenious planisphere; a simple flat rotating star map (it rotates to adjust for time) as an aid to learn your way around the sky. The David Chandler Co sells a version of this very popular device. Learning the constellations, and teaching them to folks, even in light polluted cities, is great fun! Downloadable, free software can also be a great aid in this respect: Print maps and take them to the sidewalk!

Of course, you don't need a telescope to be an observer of the sky, but if you feel the urge to buy binoculars and/or a telescope, first attend some public star parties put on by your local astronomy club... here you can talk to some proud owners of astronomy equipment and actually look through their equipment. Good books describing the astronomy marketplace include:

Star Ware by Phil Harrington
The Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer

http://www.astromart.com is a virtual marketplace of second-hand astronomy gear.

Join The Sidewalk Astronomers. Dedicated to public service, we feel that educating the public is our duty! By joining, you will receive our quarterly newsletter. Membership dues are only $15 a year.

Join (or attend) another, local astronomy club. Indoor meetings are informative and fun! Many clubs like, The San Francisco Amateur Astronomers, have telescopes that members can borrow. Perhaps you can encourage some of the "arm-chair" types to join you on the sidewalk!

Last Update: 03/14/98
Web author: Ray Cash