Astronomy: Beginner's guide to get started

The study of stars is a science of rare complexity. However, anyone can recognise most of the stars in the solar system if they have the right accessories.

Here’s a beginner guide to astronomy
© Greg Rakozy/Unsplash
Here’s a beginner guide to astronomy

Space is something quite remarkable. You may want to get into star-gazing or into astronomy more seriously but don't know where to start. If that's you, our guide can help.

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A science that studies space in great detail

As its name suggests, astronomy is a science based on the study of the stars. Through the progress made by researchers, this discipline has enabled us to learn more about the origin, evolution and properties of the sun, the planets and the galaxies.

Its vital importance in society lies in the fact that it constantly justifies our existence in the universe while shaping the contours of our perception of the world according to scientific advances.

It is true that the immensity of the universe can quickly make us fear that understanding what happens in it and how it works is literally impossible.

But with a little practice and a relatively small amount of learning, you can already get a pretty good idea of what makes up our solar system.

How does one become an astronomer?

Becoming an astronomer requires a minimum of 11 years of study, but this is not for nothing. Analysing data that is indecipherable for the average person, developing theories based on precepts that require extensive knowledge, and using observation instruments with complex specifications.

In this profession alone, there are several specialisations:

  • Astrometry consists of studying the position and movement of stars
  • Celestial mechanics focuses on the laws governing the movement of stars
  • Astrophysics, which is based on the application of the laws of physics to astronomy
Here’s a beginner guide to astronomy  Adrian Swancar/Unsplash

Tips for getting started in astronomy

Despite what you have been told above, the fact remains that even a beginner can understand some of the workings of celestial activity. The sky is full of unsuspected wonders, but you still have to be able to identify them.

Before jumping into the deep end, you will obviously have to go through a learning phase. The aim of this preparatory work is, of course, to obtain information on the various bodies that can be observed in the sky and in space.

All this while also developing the ability to spot the different constellations, as well as the positioning of each star, so that your approach initiated at the base for intelligent entertainment is not in vain.

Knowing the right places to observe, knowing what events to observe, what precautions to take... these are all questions that will have to come to your mind before you become an astral expert.

Without these preliminary steps, the likelihood of becoming discouraged is much greater, particularly because of the frustration generated by having the impression of not understanding anything.

Reading to understand the sky better

Several books will serve as a real bible of astronomy, and will best accompany you in your quest for knowledge.

Whether in the form of magazines, practical guides or highly theoretical books, these literary works are the best way to acquire the knowledge needed to understand space.

We recommend the French guide: Le Grand Guide de l’Astronomie, written by a group of experienced astrophysicists. An absolute must-have, it contains, among other things, NASA satellite images, a directory of 88 mapped constellations, as well as an impressive archive of space research.

What equipment to use to observe the sky?

Even though astronomical observation is perfectly feasible with the naked eye, it is preferable to have a minimum of equipment.

To get started in astronomy, the most important tool to have in your possession is of course the telescope. This is a device initially used by astronomy experts, which is becoming more and more popular with amateurs.

For a beginner, the Bresser Classic 60/900 AZ refractor telescope is the perfect accessory, thanks to its versatility, the sharpness of the image and stability.

Here’s a beginner guide to astronomy  Simon Delalande/Unsplash

How to choose your astronomical equipment?

Here are the main criteria to take into account:

  • The diameter of the tube opening
  • The solidity and durability of the instrument
  • Stability
  • The ease of setting up the instrument
  • Recurrence of adjustments to be made
  • The quality of the optics
  • The comfort of use

Once you have the equipment at your disposal, start slowly to familiarise yourself with its use. This will allow you to keep in mind any possible complications before you go on a real observation session.

It is best to operate for short sessions at first, in places close to your home. Don't forget to check that the climatic conditions are suitable: a perfectly clear sky, relatively calm weather, all in a place protected from visual nuisance and preferably at altitude.

What can you see in the sky?

  • The moon
  • The sun
  • The stars
  • Galaxies
  • Planets
  • Nebulae

This article was translated from Gentside FR.

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