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How To Learn Astronomy 

By Warren Yates 

Why would I want to look at the stars?  Have you ever looked at the mountains or ocean and experienced the peacefulness that only nature can provide?  Seeing something so enormous and wondrous makes you feel so small and insignificant.  It can stop you in your tracks and bring you back into reality.  Try looking at the moon through a crystal clear  telescope and  you'll feel like you are there.  It's a thrill to see  your first star cluster or galaxy as something more than a twinkling star in the night sky.  It's amazing to imagine how large some of the things are out there.  Looking through a good telescope, you are there.  Not at work, not inside with the same TV shows; but free, even if only for a little while from the worries that are here on Earth.   How to learn Astronomy

OK, where can I see some of that?  Local astronomy clubs have a variety of great telescopes and the members love to get together and share their hobby with others.  You can join a club or just pay a visit once in a while.  You can learn a lot just from hearing the members talk.  Sometimes the clubs get together and have all night "star parties".  The word party is probably not the best word to describe this event.  People get drunk at parties, that isn't the case here.  If these people are drunk it is because they are dizzy from walking around and looking straight up.  The worse thing that you can do at a "star party" is turn on a white light.  Please read Star Party Etiquette. After being in the dark for so long even a cigarette lighter will blind you.  These parties take place in localities that can provide as complete darkness as possible.  You'd be surprised though just how much you can see in the dark after your eyes have adjusted, so you're not gonna get away with kissing that good-looking blonde and claiming you thought it was your wife!.   

Where do I start?  The first thing is to look up into the sky as often as you can (preferably not while driving).  If you go outside just after dark or just before dawn you might see a satellite pass overhead.  It will look like an airplane, very high in the sky, without blinking lights.  Look at the moon.  Have you ever wondered why it is bigger at the horizon than when it is high in the sky?  Well it is not, it just looks that way.  It'll play tricks on you.  Try this; look at the full moon, extend your hand out toward it and cover the moon with your pinky nail.  Most likely you will completely cover it.   Do this when the moon is at the horizon and again when it is high.  You will see that it's always the same.  As you learn little things like that you will be hooked.     How to learn Astronomy

Free astronomy software and web tools: StarCalc 5.6   Sky Charts  Your Sky  

The Constellations and their Stars

 

Before going out to view the stars, print off a Sky Chart from Heavens Above so that you can map the sky.  These charts can set for any time that you want.  When you go to the site, you will get a view of the sky that is current.  If you want to see where the planets will be next Tuesday morning at 4:30 AM just set the page up and submit it.  People wonder how I am so knowledgeable about where the planets will be; now you know my trick.  When you print your map, set it up as black and white to save your ink.

 

How to read the chart 

The map will be round with North, South, East, and West marked.  If you are looking to the West, put the W to the bottom.  After you have located one set of stars, you will understand the size of things for future locating.  

 

Learn about the planets

Earth  Jupiter  Mars  Mercury  Neptune  Pluto  Saturn  Uranus  Venus  Sun  Moon

 

Satellite Tracking

Heavens Above Satellite Tracking

Go to J-Track 3D. After the simulation of the earth has loaded, you can rotate it.  Zoom out and rotate it; you will see that earth is starting to form a ring like Saturn.  It is a  man ring of satellites.  Notice that there are satellites close the earth that are moving.  Those are the ones that you will see after dark.  Notice the ones that are to the  outside; they are not moving it seems.  They are set at the distance that stays in one place in relation to the earth's speed, such as TV satellites.  They are along the equator so that they can send signals to more of the earth's population.

The trick to seeing satellites

There is a window of time for about two hours after dark, and two hours before daylight that moving satellites can be seen; it is the time when you are in the dark but the satellites are in the sun light.  Satellites move straight through the sky and do not have blinking lights.  You can just sit out look for them or you can look up what can be seen and only go out when it is time.  It is nice when you know and can invite the neighbors out to view them with you.  I saw the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle traveling together one night.  That was beautiful.              How to learn Astronomy

How to pronounce the names of the constellations.   Many people face the same problem; when they start studying the sky charts, the names of the constellations seem to be from another language.  The idea is to pronounce them however you think they are, then as you are around other astronomers you will hear them try it their way.  Which ever way seems to be the most common must be it. 

Maybe I will see a spaceship!  Click here and see mine.               How to learn Astronomy

What kind of telescope should I buy?  Don't go buy a telescope right away; there are so many kinds that you might make a mistake.  They're all good, I'm sure, but for different purposes.  The more you learn about telescopes, the better decision you will make when it is time to buy.  There is plenty of time and the stars are not going to go away.  The scope I use is the Meade ETX-90EC.  It is easy to carry around and works perfect.  It is good for sight seeing as well.  You can read about it through the banner at the bottom of the page with the picture of the telescope.  Or look at them here  Telescopes 

Where can I find information so I can get started? There are some very good sites that will carry you from the beginner to the advanced level.  They will tell you what to look for tonight, tomorrow, this month, etc.  Try learning about the space station and even how blasts of the suns energy can shift the magnetic field lines of the earth.  It can make a compass point the wrong way or cause power blackouts.  Try the links at the bottom of the page and see what you can learn.  If you're allergic to the outdoors then try my section on "How to build a website" , if that doesn't appeal to you then try to grow an African Violet.  There is always something to do here, just look around.

Where did the idea of Christmas light come from?

Infrared Astronomy

Astronomy & Astrophysics

X-ray Astronomy

Moon Phases

Astronomy for Kids

Big Telescopes

Astronomy Dictionary

Glossary

DiscoveryStore.com

I believe that the Earth orbits the moon.  Click here and see what you think!                                    

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A picture of the world at night.               Print off a Sky Chart before star viewing. 

Warren Yates  www.projectandhobbies.com      How to learn Astronomy

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How to learn Astronomy

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