Your First Steps in Astronomy

I bet you didn’t know you can see the Andromeda galaxy which is 2½ million light-years away with your unaided eyes? There is no “Man in the Moon” but with a small pair of good binoculars in your grasp you can see huge craters on the Moon or on a dark clear night you can be left amazed with the countless wonders await you. The first step is simply to look up and ask, “What’s that?” Begin your journey of stargazing and recognising the major constellations even from your dark or even light polluted back garden, and you’ll be taking the first step toward a lifetime hobby of cosmic exploration and enjoyment.

Astronomy is an outdoor nature hobby. Go out into the night and learn the starry names and patterns overhead.  Its important to get your bearings first, as looking at the night sky can be confusing. Random points of light appear on a dark background, and over a few hours these points will have changed position. The sky seems different because the Earth is rotating, but the patterns made by the stars stay the same relative to each other. This means that if you know just one shape in the sky, you can find the rest. The best one to use as a guide is the Plough, since it is large, bright and visible year-round in the north. It also has two stars called the Pointers that point to Polaris, the North Star. Polaris is positioned almost exactly above the Earth’s axis at the North Pole, so unlike the rest of the sky it doesn’t move and shows which way is north. The Plough is also a useful pointer to other conteallations  in the sky.

Constellations: Celestial Markers

To help finding your way around the night use a star chart With the monthly star charts seehttp://www.astronomy.com/observing/astro-for-kids/2008/03/learn-the-constellationsIf your new to a circular star map map and confused then check out THIS useful video.

By the time you get used to it you’ll be ready to find a multitude of objects under a dark sky. It may look confusing at first. Why, for example, is it ‘backwards’, with west on the right and east on the left? Well, unlike most maps, this one shows what’s above your head, not beneath your feet. Hold it above your head with ‘north’ pointing north and you’ll find that east and west are in the right place after all.  To use it to look at things in different directions, hold it so that the bottom edge corresponds to the compass direction you are facing. It will then show the sky as it looks from that horizon and on up over your head. If you don’t know which direction is which, use the Plough to find Polaris. Once you find north, the rest will follow. It’s best to use a red-light torch to see the chart in the dark – that way it won’t ruin your night vision.

Hold the Universe in your hands

Astronomy is a learning hobby. Its joys come from intellectual discovery and knowledge of the cryptic night sky. But you have to make these discoveries, and gain this knowledge, by yourself. In other words, you need to become self-taught. A public library is the beginner’s most important astronomical tool. Comb the astronomy shelf for books about the basic knowledge you need to know, and for guidebooks to what you can see out there in the wide universe. Read about those stars and constellations you’re finding with the naked eye, and about how the stars change through the night and the season.Or if your a member of our club you can access our own libary HERE

Two eyes on the Sky

People are always on about getting Telescopes, If your a beginner and planning to purchase one for atronomy then STOP!. A pair of good binoculars is the only way to start. We would recommend a pair of 7×50, 8×50 or 10×50 as the best for someone starting off in the hobby. Practise on the Moon first. Look at the Moon, then lift the binoculars to your eyes and focus while looking through them. To help hold them steady, give them added support other than your arms. When standing, rest your thumbs on your cheek bones, and when sitting or reclining, much of the weight of the binoculars can be rested against your face. For the steadiest views, you can buy L-shaped brackets that will attach any good pair of binoculars to a camera tripod. This lets you see the most detail, and you can share the stable view with others. Through binoculars, you’ll get an even better view of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31 and many other cosmic vistas including the same detail that Galileo did using his first telescope; the Moons of Jupiter. Whats the best Binoculars for Astronomy see HERE

If your looking for some top tips for using ordinary binoculars for stargazing start HERE

Buying equipment in Ireland

So where in Ireland are you going to buy your Binoculars?  The best place for sound and reliable advice is from the Dublin based company KTEC Telescopes. They are Ireland’s premier Telescope, Binocular, Astronomy Accessory and Spotting Scope supplier. Their online store was opened in 2011.

They stock a wide range of Binoculars and telescopes from 60mm refractors to 450mm reflectors, Binoculars from 8×25 to 25×100, as well as a full range of accessories, including CCD Cameras, Eyepieces, Filters,Mounts and Meteorites. They are the sole Irish agents for a number of leading Astronomical manufacturers, so rest assured everything is sold with full manufacturer warranty. KTEC telescopes now offer free delivery anywhere in Ireland for orders over 50 euro, to view their website go to  www.ktectelescopes.ie while to contact them please email them at sales@ktectelescopes.ie or phone Stephen Kershaw at 0852288692.

The best advice we can give is to get yourself along to an Astronomy club and talk to fellow astronomers before making that first purchase. Whatever type of telescope you end up buying, have fun and keep looking up! If you want to go further then the folowing link will also be of interest – So You Wanna Buy a Telescope… Advice for Beginners

Astronomy Apps

Picture it…Calm weather, Cloudless skies, Thousands of stars visible: It can be very difficult to identify planets, stars, and clusters at home from your back garden, especially if you are a beginner.

But look no further, there’s an app for that, of course. Astronomy appson your smart phone are making it possible for anyone to be astronomer — you don’t even need a telescope. The apps use the GPS and compass in your phone to pinpoint your location and show you where all the surrounding celestial bodies are, even if your view is blocked. Most of the apps don’t even need an Internet connection to function so you can take them on camping trips. Just open the app, point your smartphone at the sky, and the app will identify the planets and stars around you. Simple.

Click on either the iPhone or the Android logo for a list of the top Apps for either phone type

Youtube Resources




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