Since ancient times, the human race has been fascinated with the night sky. Fortunately, technology has provided the opportunity to study it in detail. Astronomy for beginners is a rewarding and growing hobby. When starting, it’s best to get a bit of advice on what equipment to buy and what to observe.
Find out what’s going to be visible in your area. Of course, you can always rely on the Moon. Even with a small telescope, you can see a lot of detail and it’s a big bright object. A small telescope will also be more than adequate for viewing Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn but a high-power eyepiece will help. Aside from the Sun and Moon, Venus is the brightest object and is a favorite subject for astronomy for beginners.
The world of telescopes can seem a baffling one but choosing one, even within a limited budget, is quite straightforward. Don’t be tempted by cheap models that boast very high magnification. It is a common misconception that magnification is the most important feature. The brightness and sharpness of the image is not achieved by the magnification and most observations are seen at under 50x magnification. It is the optics that will determine good results.
Most amateurs buy a reflector or a refractor telescope and these are affordable by most people embarking on astronomy for beginners. As far as optics is concerned, the wider the aperture, the more the image will be sharp and bright. A steady mount is also essential. Even a very expensive telescope can’t do its job if the tripod isn’t good quality. There will be too much vibration to observe properly.
In addition to using telescopes, many astronomers like to take pictures of the images they see. This is called Astrophotography and there is no reason why amateurs can’t get involved. Astronomy for beginners can embrace this technology too. The first decision is to choose between a film and a digital camera. The professional may well choose film because it does bring superior results as a general rule. A digital camera can’t produce long exposures. However, digital may be the ideal choice for the beginner because it can cope perfectly well with photographing bright objects such as the Moon and closest planets. Also, the image taken can be viewed straight away. Again, a decent tripod is vital to combat unwanted vibration of the equipment.
There are several good books on the subject of astronomy for beginners with star charts and guides to the constellations and so forth. They include Astronomy for Beginners by Jeff Becan, Beginners Guide to Astronomy by Patrick Moore, and Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M.Davis.