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Astronomy For Beginners

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jackthehat | 19:34 Thu 07th Dec 2023 | Science
12 Answers

Mrs JtH has always had an interest in astronomy so this year Father Christmas will be delivering a rather nice beginners telescope. 🔭

He would also like to get her a book for Astronomy novices.

I have seen many aimed at children, or some smaller paperback options.

Can any of you recommend a decent-sized, age-appropriate book for me to have a look at?

Thank you.☺



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I've just taken a look at the website of the Royal Observatory Greenwich.  They sell the same book that TW has linked to (which is unsurprising, as it's their own publication anyway) but they also offer it complete with a 'Planisphere' to aid finding celestial...
19:58 Thu 07th Dec 2023

Until someone comes along with a proper answer.

I can't recommend one but have you tried an app, Jack?


Question Author

Hi Roy.

Mrs JtH doesn't have or want a smart-phone. I think she'd prefer to have a book to thumb through.

This one looks interesting. A month by month guide for 2024.;gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx6qlxv39ggMVrZRQBh24qwNAEAQYASABEgIVnfD_BwE

^looks like a good star-ter book for aspiring astronomers.

Question Author

I'll have a look at that in a bit The Winner; she's sitting a bit close to me at the moment, LoL


I've just taken a look at the website of the Royal Observatory Greenwich.  They sell the same book that TW has linked to (which is unsurprising, as it's their own publication anyway) but they also offer it complete with a 'Planisphere' to aid finding celestial objects:

(They sell the book for £6.99 and the Planisphere for £12.99).

The ROG also offer this publication for sale, at £9.99:

I bought this when I was 16, it cost £2.50, paper back. I was already hooked by an impromtu lecture from an English teacher (more detail on request). It was a lot of money for me at the time. I still have it, I learned the greek alphabet that I can still recite today. It may be out of date in some respects but I have found it invaluable over the years: User Recommendationref=sr_1_9?crid=2AHRG14AC4ZKH&keywords=hamlyn+guide+to+astronomy&qid=1701975297&sprefix=hamlyn+guide+to+astronomy%2Caps%2C98&sr=8-9

Can I be nosy and ask what telescope it is?

Some beginners scopes are not worth the money.

I would recommend going to your local club/society or even just getting in touch with them for advice.

I would also say don't use the solar filter that comes with telescopes (the ones that screw into the eyepiece - there is a risk that these can break in use, letting the full light/heat of the sun direct into your eyes.) 

Question Author

Thank you all for taking the time to respond.

Definitely food for thought.


How about Turn Left At Orion by Guy Consolmagno ? A bit pricey perhaps, but it gets some ver good reviews.

It kind of depends on what she knows already. The thing about (amateur) astronomy is that you need to learn to navigate around the sky.

That is to say, know your Cassiopea from your Pegasus and then work out how to get to the big sights: nebulae; variable stars; dense clusters and so on.

The planets are (relatively) easy. But I'd say a couple of things

1. the telescope mount is (almost) as important as the 'scope itself.

The earth rotates on its axis, which means the sky moves relative to the observer on earth. If you want to keep an object in view, you havbe to move the 'scope relative to the earth.

There are two types of telescope mount. Equatorial (better) and altazimuth (cheap). Altazimuth is basically up/down and left/right. As the earth moves, you have to twiddle both controls to keep your object in view.

Equatorial is much better but a bit more complicated to set up (and a lot more more expensive). You have to align the axis with the earth's polar axis. That way, you only have to twiddle one control to compensate for the earth's movement (or on fancy mounts, use a motor drive to do it automatically).

If it's a 'rather nice beginners telescope', then it might come with an equatorial mount. But she will still need to align the axis of the 'scope with the earth's north/south axis before doing any observing.

2. The most important factor in choosing an astronomical 'scope is the light-gathering power. That is to say the diameter of the front end. Ignore anything that tells you the magnification. That's just the eyepiece. It's the diameter of the front end that matters.

3. For the hobbyist astronomer, the most important skill is knowing your way around the sky. Knowing your Cassiopea from your Pegasus; Your Sirius from your Vega. The techies talk about declination and right ascension. Those are the astronomy equivalents of latitude and longitude. But for the amateur, it's much more important to know your way around the sky. Books help. In the old days you could buy a planisphere that shows you where the stars are, but they are far superseded by modern apps like StarWalk or Starmapper. Look for 

free star gazing app.

They revolutionised star navigation for amateurs.

Because the night sky changes, and an app can show changes, meteor showers and other points of interest, as well as the planets.

Learning the night sky is pretty essential for the hobbyist. I'd honestly say an App is far better than any book, but if it has to be a book, I'd say the other posts are as good as any.

Hope it helps

good luck with this, I've often thought Britain is a fairly suboptimal place to see stars. For next Christmas a trip to the Andes or the Australian outback or Hawaii might be in order. A cloudless, pollutionless night sky is astonishing.

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