Re: Getting Started
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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.)
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Back Bay Amateur Astronomers (BBAA)