Astronomy as a Hobby – Guide
There’s something inspiring and awesome about stargazing that makes you reflect on our lives as humans on Earth. Simply viewing starts at night can deepen your sense of awareness, but having the right tools can also be helpful to increase your knowledge and wonder about the solar system. That being said, you’ll need to become familiar with the right equipment to properly view and study the stars and planets in our solar system. Not only will you be able to view the stars and other planets in our galaxy, but with the right knowledge and supplies, you can ponder on other galaxies, nebulae and other objects.
The market for astronomy equipment can be expensive. Just like other hobbies, there are cheaper supplies to purchase as well as more expensive and higher-quality ones. So it’s up to you to become aware of the supplies with the proper equipment and correct features without spending too much money. Here’s a guide to help you get started in studying astronomy for fun.
What You’ll Need
Whether you’re familiar with the supplies needed from previous experience or you’re a beginner, there are a few things that are required without a doubt to properly study astronomy.
No City Lights
The easiest and most important thing you’ll need to stargaze is a night away from the big city lights. For those of you that have lived in a big city their whole lives, it’s difficult to tell but the city’s lights create light pollution. This makes it very difficult to view any stars or planets while inside, as the lights create an odd reflection and make it virtually impossible to observe anything.
Light pollution is caused by not only the lights planted inside houses and buildings, but the street lamps and car headlights also contribute to making star observation difficult. Because of light pollution, you’ll need a night away from the big city to properly view the stars and planets.
When you view the night sky and see a deep, rich and dark color, then you should be okay to stargaze. There should be millions of stars visible but the naked eye on a perfect stargazing night. But you may be too close to the city lights if you look up at night and see a light haze and the stars are difficult to view. Having the clearest visibility makes for the best viewing through a telescope or binoculars.
Star Charts or a Handbook
The next helpful thing you’ll need to successfully stargaze is a handbook that explains the position of the stars, planets and things to look out for specifically catered to beginners. Simply grabbing a telescope or binoculars and looking around at stars can be rewarding, but it’s not as fun if you don’t exactly know what you’re looking at or looking for.
Having a handbook by you can help you keep in mind the direction of objects in the sky, and it can inform you on tips and tricks for finding constellations and other identifiable objects. Star charts in particular are beneficial if you’re only looking for where certain star constellations and clusters are, so having a handbook along with a star chart can be helpful. One of the best star map books I’ve recommended is here if you’re interested.
Lastly, you’ll need to find some way that you can magnify your eyes and get a closer look at the stars. You can do this with either a telescope or a pair of binoculars. Most people have at least some binoculars at home, so you can maybe save some money and start stargazing today. But if you want to take a closer look at the stars and other solar objects, then you may want to invest in a telescope. Here’s some information about binoculars and telescopes that you may find beneficial.
If you’re trying to spend less money on stargazing, then binoculars would be a better option for you. They’re not as effective as a telescope, but they still magnify your eyes and let you see a lot closer to the solar objects than the naked eye allows you to see. Not only are they a more cost-effective option, but they’re very versatile as you can use them for various other hobbies.
I personally use the Celestron SkyMaster Giant Binoculars that I purchased from Amazon because they’re low in price and they’re high-quality. If you want, you can check them out here. If you want to see other binoculars I recommend, then you can view them by clicking on the “Telescopes and Binoculars” tab on the left.
Telescopes are a better option if you’re trying to take your stargazing hobby more seriously, as investing in a telescope can be costly. There are various types of telescopes to choose from though, so it’s important to become familiar with the different kinds before purchasing one. Each kind of telescope is equipped with different features, giving you the ability to choose one that caters directly to your specific needs.
Make sure you review each kind to find the one that will suit your needs the best. There’s a refractor telescope, a reflector telescope, a catadioptric telescope and a Dobsonian telescope. I’ve included a description as well as the pro’s and the con’s of each type to best inform you of the various types available.
Refractor telescopes are perhaps the most common type, as the design and features are the most versatile for their users. It features a large lens at the right end of the scope and a small eyepiece to look through at the left end of the scope. If you look at the picture to the left, you’ll see that there’s also a smaller-looking telescope mounted on top of the main scope. This is called the spotter telescope and it’s basically used to help you more easily find solar objects in the sky. Seeing as this telescope is the most common, you can find it for a relatively affordable price and it’s easy to find in stores or online. If you’re a more experienced stargazer though, you can find a higher quality refractor telescope that’s highly equipped for a more expensive price.
In contrast to a refractor telescope that uses a curved lens to refract the light through the scope into the eyepiece, the reflector telescope uses a mirror. If you look at the picture on the left, you can see a smaller tube than the refractor telescope. The reflector telescope works by letting light come into the tube from the left opening and then letting the light travel down through the tube and through the mirror that’s located on the right. The light is then reflected up into a smaller mirror so that you can see the image through the eyepiece visible on the left. Due to this design, you ultimately have the eyepiece on the same side as the opening which is different than the refractor telescope having the eyepiece and pointer at opposite ends.
Similar to the refractor telescope, the reflector telescope has a small spotter telescope as well which can be used to more easily find objects in the sky. This reflector scope is better than the refractor telescope in that it can gather more light while only costing a certain amount. More specifically, you can find an affordable reflector telescope with a ten-inch mirror. But it’s difficult to find a refractor telescope with a ten-inch lens for under a few thousand dollars. However, some disadvantages to the reflector scope are that they’re not as reliable and they don’t have the ability to create an image that’s as clear as the image a refractor telescope would create. If you find a refractor and a reflector telescope of the same size aperture, the refractor will almost always outperform the reflector in quality. You can find a good reflector telescope right here.
Featuring a combination of the two, a catadioptric telescope uses both a reflector as well as a refractor mechanism. Also known as a Maksutov telescope, the catadioptric scope features both a lens in the front as well as a mirror in the back. Because it combines the two mechanisms, this type of telescope is deemed of superior quality. Not only that, but even purchasing a telescope of this kind in a smaller size will almost always outperform other telescopes on this list. The only disadvantage is its price, as this scope has an extensive arrangement and gives off more high-quality features. On the brighter side, this scope outperforms and it’s more transportable than other telescopes on the market. It’s very easy to pack up and transport with you to a different location, making it perfect for those of you that live in a big city and want to vacation out to a better stargazing location. If you’re looking to invest a bit more money, then you can find a great catadioptric telescope right here.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a more high-quality option and you’re a beginner, then maybe the Dobsonian telescope is suitable for you. Pictured here on the left, you can see that the Dobsonian telescope looks very different from the cradle that other telescopes are mounted on. This specific design makes the Dobsonian very easy to use and more cost-effective. It features a reflective mirror mechanism similar to the reflector telescope, but it features a different design. Seeing as it’s easy to use and is available at a more affordable price, the Dobsonian telescope is most recommended for you if you’re a beginner. You can check out a high-quality one here.
Some Recommended Telescopes
Aside from the types of telescopes mentioned above, here are some of the best telescopes that are recommended for you. If you’re interested in browsing, Amazon also has a telescope store where you can scroll through loads of different kinds of telescopes. You can view the Telescope Store on Amazon right here.
Orion SpaceProbe 130 EQ Reflector Telescope
This telescope from Amazon is perfect for those of you that are beginners and may not understand how to work the features of telescopes yet. Telescopes, in general, come with loads of different features that you can alter to get a better image, but as a beginner, this can be too much to handle. The Orion SpaceProbe scope solves this problem because it’s extremely easy to use and doesn’t cost too much. It delivers a high-quality image at an affordable price allowing you to successfully become more comfortable with stargazing in your free time. It doesn’t have difficult features to look through and can teach you how to manage the power, magnification, optics and much more on a basic telescope. You can check out the Orion SpaceProbe 130 EQ Reflector Telescope here.
NEW! Astrocan Plus Telescope
This is one of the better telescopes I’ve used, as it delivers a high-quality image and it’s extremely easy to use. It’s a reflector telescope that’s equipped with a 4.25-inch mirror, meaning it has great light-gathering power that creates a clear and crisp image. Not only that, but it comes with two eyepieces that many other telescopes don’t have. One of the main problems that many astronomers have is the tunnel that’s created from trying to view things from a very narrow tube. But this Astrocan telescope eliminates that problem as it has a wide field, making the telescope easier to spot objects through. Even more, this telescope is small and compact, which makes it perfect for transporting around with you everywhere. This telescope is equipped with Edmund Scientific optics, ensuring that you’re getting the best quality telescope for your money. You can view this telescope here.
Many individuals wanting to study astronomy don’t have the money to invest in a telescope right now, so what can they do? Telescopes are expensive so paying a large sum of money to start a hobby that you don’t know if you’ll enjoy yet can be a hard decision. Here are some other accessories that you can utilize to further get to know the solar system’s components.
As mentioned previously, binoculars are a great addition for beginners in stargazing. They won’t get you quite as close to solar objects as a telescope can, but they’re still capable of letting you see details in objects that the naked eye prevents you from seeing. They’re cheaper than telescopes and easier to use. Also, they’re easier to transport and can simply be placed around your neck when you’re not directly using them.
Also mentioned previously, you can benefit from having a good star map handy during your stargazing quests. A star chart basically guides you through the different components of the solar system so that you can more easily spot objects in the sky. Especially if you’re a beginner, it can be challenging to find certain constellations and planets, so having a chart to help guide you can save you time and confusion. There are free star maps online or you can purchase more detailed ones online.
Lastly, having a flashlight can be handy as well. Many people forget to bring one on their stargazing trips, but it’s important to have one because it’s dark out and you’ll need to view your star maps clearly to see where you’re supposed to be looking in the sky. Make sure you have a flashlight with an easy-to-use on and off button, as you’ll need to be turning it off to look through your binoculars or telescope. Make sure you keep the flashlight off as much as you can so that your eyes don’t take too long to adjust to the darkness. Even more, you can even purchase a flashlight with a red lens that doesn’t negatively affect your night vision.