Beginners

Welcome to the great hobby of amateur astronomy!

The purpose of this page is to give new astronomy enthusiasts some ideas about buying a telescope and beginning your journey to the planets and stars. There are many excellent books and web sites to get you on your way, so we can only give you a few links.

Amateur astronomers are very generous and almost always willing to help you, whether it’s assisting you with a new telescope or showing you celestial objects through their own instruments. We recommend that you come to a WAA star party to see and look through some members’ telescopes before you purchase anything. You’ll find our members eager to show you their scopes and answer your questions.

Buying a telescope is not a simple process. Do not buy a telescope on impulse! There are many elements to making a decision: size, complexity, cost, portability and features must be considered and weighed against your goals. There are many different instruments out there, and unfortunately there are too many cheap and fundamentally useless scopes that end up in a closet. Remember: the best telescope is the one you use!

We also do not recommend trying to become an astro-imager before you learn about the night sky and have a substantial experience with telescopes, mounts and computer processing. The learning curve for astrophotography is very, very steep and the time commitment to do good work is substantial. Wait until you are an experienced telescopic observer.

Here are some links to information beginners might find helpful:

Articles
Sky & Telescope magazine How to Choose a Telescope (published 1/25/21)
Sky & Telescope magazine Hobby Killers: What NOT to Buy (published 11/26/2019)
New York Times Wirecutter article Best Telescopes for Beginners   (updated 12/16/22)

Books
Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer: The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (4th edition, 2021)
Guy Consolmagno & Dan M. Davis Turn Left at Orion (5th edition, 2019) [observing guide]

Web sites:
The Turn Left at Orion web site https://www.cambridge.org/turnleft
CloudyNights.com web site for astronomy enthusiasts.
SkyandTelescope.org astronomy news, observing information, articles, images,  more.

Planetarium programs for your computer (free)
Cartes du Ciel https://www.ap-i.net/skychart/en/start
Stellarium  http://stellarium.org/
Best for iOS and Android (but not free) SkySafari https://skysafariastronomy.com/

The page is still under construction!