Astronomy is the study of stars, planets, and other things that you can see in the night sky. Most aspiring astronomers start studying the night sky at home in their own backyard with a telescope. A telescope is a scientific tool that uses lenses and curved mirrors to help you see distant objects and make them appear closer than they are. Earth is just one planet in the vast solar system, and having a telescope can help you to see the billions of stars and other solar systems and galaxies that are out there. Even with an advanced telescope, there's still only so far into the universe we can truly see, and as an amateur astronomer, you will only get a glimpse of what's out there, but even with a telescope in your backyard, you can see more than you'd expect! You can spot stars, planets, and maybe even comets flying by, as long as you know what to look for.
When you want to explore the universe from your window, balcony, or porch, the most important thing you'll need is a telescope. There are three main types of telescopes you can get: refracting telescopes, Newtonian telescopes, and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. Refracting telescopes use two or more lenses to collect light and focus it on a specific point to give the best-quality image, especially for photography. They tend to be among the most expensive telescopes for their size. Newtonian telescopes use a mix of curved and flat mirrors instead of lenses to focus light directed to an eyepiece. These telescopes are the least expensive to build and the easiest to use, so when you're looking for your first telescope to start your scientific adventures, a Newtonian telescope is a good choice. Finally, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are smaller telescopes that use a series of mirrors to direct the light's path. It's a popular type of telescope among professionals, but they can be tricky to use because you have to carefully focus the light using the mirrors inside; if you don't do it right, the image will be blurry.
Once you have a telescope set up, you're ready to get started exploring the universe beyond Earth. For a better idea of where to look and what's out there, downloading an astronomy app, buying or borrowing an astronomy book, or looking up astronomical resources online can get you started learning about the different stars, constellations, planets, and celestial events right above your head.
One of the best things about taking up astronomy as a hobby is that you can do it from almost anywhere. It doesn't even have to be dark for you to learn about the night sky: You can do research online, look at star charts, or even build models of the planets and moons to learn more about everything that's beyond Earth.
Tips for Beginners
- Tips for Beginning (and Not So Beginning) Astronomers
- Backyard Astronomers for Beginners
- Getting Started in Astronomy
- A Beginner's Guide to Reading the Stars
- The Beginner's Sky
How to Choose a Telescope
How Do Telescopes Work?
- Q&A: How Do Telescopes Work?
- How Telescopes Work
- The Optics of Telescopes
- How a Telescope Works
- Telescopes and Astronomy
- NASA Kids' Club
- What Can You See in Tonight's Sky?
- Constellations and Yearly "Skylights"
- An Introduction to Our Galaxy
- How to Create a Solar System Scale Model
- Observing the Moon
- Does the Moon Rotate?
- Protect Our Night Sky
- Outdoor Lighting to Preserve Dark Skies
- The Size and Distance of the Planets
- Astronomical Society of the Pacific: Educational Activities
- Tour the Solar System
- Stargazing Diary
- Meteor Showers
- Photos From the Hubble Space Telescope
- Astronomy for Beginners
- Modeling the Universe
- Astronomy Timeline
- Ten Steps to Rewarding Stargazing
- Astronomy for Beginners: Learning to Explore the Night Sky
- Star Deck: Guide to the Constellations
- Understanding the Moon Phases
- Astronomy Facts
- History of Astronomy