Re: Getting Started

George Reynolds

Stephen, Roy had a lot of good tips for you concerning binocular stargazing.  Let me add a few more.

The planisphere is good when you are starting out, just learning to locate and identify the constellations.  It's like learning a roadmap on the ground when you go to a new state or city.  The planisphere helps you learn the constellations, which are like the landmarks on the ground.  After you learn your way around the constellations, a good guidebook or star chart will be your next step.

In addition to the book Roy suggested, let me recommend three more that I used when I first started out.  Nightwatch by Terence Dickinson and The Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer are good to learn the basics of astronomy and stargazing.  Another favorite of mine is Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno, which shows sketches of the naked-eye view, the finderscope (or binocular) view, and the telescope view of selected items, including the Moon, open clusters, globular clusters, and a few Messier objects.

If you don't already have a pair of binoculars, an inexpensive pair from Wal-Mart will do to get you started.  You can get a decent 10x50 bino for $25 -$35 at "Wallie World".  That's how I started out.  Later, I moved up to a good pair of 8 x 42 Orion UltraView wide-angle binos, which are my favorites.  They retail for about $150 from Orion.  (I got mine for about half price many years ago in a lucky visit to the Orion clearance page.)


George Reynolds

"Solar System Ambassador" for South Hampton Roads, Virginia
Back Bay Amateur Astronomers (BBAA)


From: Roy Diffrient
To: backbayastro@...
Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 2:41 PM
Subject: Re: [backbayastro] Getting Started

We've all been there, so lots of varied answers on these questions. The
best solution, of course, is what works for you. To make it easy to see the
sky and prevent kinks in the neck, I think it's good to have a lawn chair
that reclines, preferably one with armrests. If it can also swivel, that's
ideal. I think a simple guidebook is also needed. A simple star chart or
planisphere is also a great idea, but I think you need more than that.
There are lots of beginning books on stargazing, which you might find on the
shelf of your local library. I started with Richard Berry's book "Discover
the Stars" which is very good. The reason for a guidebook is to tell you
what to look for, like "a beautiful cluster of stars, easily visible in
binoculars", rather than what may be perhaps a meaningless designation, like
M37, which is what you usually get from a chart. To read that planisphere,
chart or guide, you'll need a flashlight, preferably a somewhat dim red
light, so it doesn't hurt your dark adaptation, and ideally adjustable in
brightness -- To start, just cover a standard flashlight lens in red paper
or cellophane.

Your first binoculars can be the ones you might already have. There are
usually varied opinions about good stargazing binoculars, and that's a whole
big topic unto itself. So the best approach may be to try something readily
available, to see what you like, what works and what doesn't. Personally,
I'd agree with the 10X50's because some have a wide 65 degree apparent
field, rather than the more usual 50 degrees. Orion seems to be a popular
choice. But if you wear eyeglasses, long eye relief may be more important
to you. And big 10X50's may be too heavy to hold steady, especially after
doing it awhile. Again, the "best" is what works for you. Also, this time
of year, super-warm gear is essential, of course, if you're going to be out
there awhile. And that's the last thing: Do it! Get out there and make a
"discovery"! You'll be surprised at how much you can see with binoculars
and how rewarding it is to find those faint fuzzies.


-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen
Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 4:07 AM
To: backbayastro@...
Subject: [backbayastro] Getting Started

What are some decent brands of binoculars for skywatching? Are 10x50
binoculars the way to go? Also I plan on buying a planisphere, do I need to
buy books on starcharts? Any advice for a beginning skywatcher would be much
appreciated. Thank you.


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