Backyard Astronomy Basics

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There are countless celestial bodies in the night sky that you could be exploring right now from your backyard. Basics begin before you even put your eye to a telescope or purchase one for viewing. It starts with learning about the sky, the constellations, and some of the larger objects that you can view without the aid of a telescope.

Learning the Night Sky

You don’t have to purchase a telescope to see the stars. Before you decide on the exact kind you want, whether that’s a refracting or reflecting telescope, you can explore the night sky with your unaided eye. Head into your backyard, spread out a blanket, and spend some time trying to find constellations. When you can point out the North Star or understand where to find the Big Dipper, you’re practicing for when you purchase your telescope.

If you are not able to see much in your backyard because of light pollution, you can visit your local park. It’s easier to see objects when you don’t have as much light blocking your vision. On the other hand, you don’t need to see all the stars in the sky to concentrate on the ones that are visible.

The Moon is the biggest object in the sky, and it’s visible to all of us even if you’re dealing with a ton of lights. There’s so much to explore on the Moon that you could spend weeks or months on it without becoming bored. There are craters, mountains, valleys, plains, and seas to explore.

Stargazing Apps

There are online sites that can help you map the night sky and find objects that you can name. It’s easy to get a stargazing app on your phone, too. There are plenty of free ones to download that will get you started with your backyard astronomy.

Stargazing apps will get you started with the basics. You’ll be able to observe the movement of the sky, and how it changes during certain parts of the year. Some of the major constellations are visible during certain months. Leo is visible in the spring while Pegasus is seen in the fall. The app will help you while you’re practicing your observations and finding stars in the night sky.

Visit the Library

Your local library will have plenty of books for you to check out. The best thing about astronomy is that you’re constantly learning. If you’re sharing this hobby with your child, you’ll be able to find kid’s books in the library that will explain the basics. It’s not unusual for you to learn as much from your child’s books as he or she will.

Guidebooks and magazines are available at the library, too. You’ll be able to check out reference books as well as history books that will help you learn. It’s best to start with an organized resource that helps with the basics, and that can be found at the library.

Meeting Other Astronomers

While you’re learning and deciding whether you want to dive deep into the world of stargazing, you are likely alone in your pursuit. Even if you have your child at your side, the two of you can use the company of others who have the same interests. When you seek out other amateurs, you’re able to share your passions.

Groups of amateur astronomers can belong to clubs and groups in the local area. They’ll often hold star parties and other events that will help you learn more. It doesn’t have to be a solitary practice, and you’ll learn plenty from the others in your group. It’s great company, and they’ll have plenty of advice.

Buying a Telescope

After you’ve spent some time learning about stars and know that you’re ready, it’s time to start researching telescopes. You’ll want a large aperture, but don’t forget other considerations. Ask yourself questions based on the kind of viewing you’d like to do. Will you want a telescope that’s easily movable? Will it be set up permanently in the backyard? Is your child going to have access solo?

Don’t be too concerned with buying the most expensive telescope for your first. Instead, make sure that you’re learning about the sky each time you press your eye to the eyepiece. One of the biggest things you should get out of astronomy is a sense of wonder.

When you’re gazing at the Moon, you’re seeing something formed millions and millions of years ago. If you’re searching for distant planets, it will feel as if you’re almost able to touch them.

Backyard astronomy can be a passion that takes up all your waking hours, or it can be a casual pastime that you share with your family once a week. There’s something freeing about searching the star, and it’ll fill you with a sense of wonder when you’re thinking about your place in the universe.

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