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West Texas Astronomers

Beginners' Resources

last update 11-01-17  10:30 am

The best thing to you can do to develop your interest and enjoyment of astronomy is to join an astronomy club!  (And what better club than the West Texas Astronomers, huh?)  Attend the star parties and observing sessions - you don't have to own a telescope.

Perhaps you have just a casual interest in astronomy.  You would like to learn some constellations and maybe look through someone else's telescope once in awhile.  Not everyone wants to hunt seriously for obscure, faint fuzzy objects in the night sky.  There's nothing wrong with that.  If your interest is just casual, click here.

Okay.  If you're still reading, we'll assume you have more than just a casual interest in astronomy.  (Either that or you're just curious about these "details".)  You really need a "map" to begin learning the sky.  Each monthly issue of Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magzines contains a foldout star chart showing what's up for the month.  Also, you can find simple planetarium wheels and more detailed star charts at the local bookstores.  Finally, there are many good planetarium/star chart programs for you computer.  Some are free or very inexpensive.

There is alot of information here on the internet and rather than re-invent the wheel, here are some links to get you started.

Home Science: Backyard Astronomy Basics  An excellent introduction to amateur astronomy.  Thanks for recommending the link, Peyton!

Sky & Telescope

Sky & Telescope magazine site.  Very good articles and links for beginners.  Also, regular guides to what's in the sky on this date.

Cloudy Night Reviews

Probably the most active and complete non-commercial reviews of astronomy equipment on the Internet.


Get the most out of your Newtonian reflector by collimating correctly.

The Hawaiian Astronomical Society
Good information, including some mythology about constellations

Peoria Astronomical Society

Another good site for basic "what's in the sky tonight" info.  Some good how-to articles directed toward beginners.
Cartes du Ciel
A free planetarium program.  Excellent!

 Virtual Atlas of the Moon

 Freeware lunar mapping program.  Excellent!

  Sky Safari

 Excellent planetarium program for mobile devices.  Telescope control, too! 


Equipment Sales
Astronomics Dealer in Oklahoma rated highly on usenet.  This site also has some good articles.
Celestron telescopes On-line catalog of telescopes and accessories.
Meade telescopes On-line catalog of Meade instruments and accessories.
Orion Telescope and Binocular On-line catalog.  Request their free printed catalog from this site.  The catalog not only shows all their products and a fair selection of books but has some very good information for beginners.  Orion offers a 30-day money back guarantee on all their products.


The place to find/sell used equipment.  Very helpful to check used prices.

There are plenty of other good astronomy sites so don't limit yourself.  Search for more with any of the search engines.


The Casual Observer

If you just want to learn a little about the night sky and enjoy an occasional view through someone else's telescope you can have the best of all worlds just by joining the West Texas Astronomers and attending shows at the Blakemore Planetarium.  As a club member you'll be welcome at the star parties and observing sessions where other members will let you look through their telescopes and help you learn to appreciate sights.   If you anticipate buying a telescope at some point, there's no better research.

If later you decide to further the experience with a telescope, just remember that the best telescope for you is the one you will use.  Just as a "toy" telescope which frustrates you with fuzzy/shaky views will not get used, an expensive telescope that is a hassle to set up might not get used much either.  Find out before you buy.

Although binoculars have historically been the recommended "first telescope", lately the new "short-tube refractors" are recommended for beginners more and more often.  These small scopes are available new for $200-$350 (depending upon mounts, accessories, etc.) and offer alot of performance for the money.


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