Beginner Checklist

The sky will be there forever.  You will find it can be lots of fun getting to know all the objects in the sky, and how to use instruments.

Things to know in the sky, for anybody with OK vision.  Each of these items has the potential for hours of discussion, and repeated visits are a good idea

       The Moon, phases and motion


       Celestial Motion

       Named navigational stars

       RA and Dec, alt-az coordinates

       Sidereal time

       Milky Way, zodiacal light

       Meteors, fireballs

       Predicting appearances of Ir flares and other human-launched objects

        Mercury and Venus

       Mars surface features and retrograde motion

       Jupiter and Saturn

       Uranus and Neptune

       Oppositions and conjunctions

       Minor and dwarf planets


       Dark and reflection nebulae

       Emission nebulae

       Supernova remnants and planetary nebulae

       Open or galactic star clusters

       Globular clusters


       Algol and variable stars

       Albireo and pretty double stars

       The Sun

Useful tools for optical observing, and things to know about telescope systems.  

       Your eyes


       Paper and electronic charts

       Light paths:  refractor, reflector, Cassegrainian, Maksutov

       Mounting systems:  equatorial with a wedge, alt-az, computer controlled

       Tripods, rocker boxes




       Field of view



       Finder scopes and devices

       Star hopping

       Digital setting circles do push-to

       Goto still requires knowledge

       I-products as controllers

       Optimizing your scope—visit the ASEM ATM SIG meetings

       Connecting cameras to scopes—visit an ASEM Imaging SIG meeting

       Viewing with others—visit an ASEM Observer’s meeting

Stuff to investigate on a cloudy night, roaming the Internet.

       Was Kepler’s Mom a witch?

       Is faster than light possible?

       How do we know how far away something is?

       What is spectroscopy?

       How do we know a star’s temperature?

       Is  a fun place?

       What’s a pulsar?

       What’s a black hole?

       Can you build your own radio telescope?

       Who is Halton Arp and why is he such a trouble maker?

       Antimatter is not the same as dark matter

       Which is a bigger concern for us on Earth:  when the Sun expands as a red giant, or when the Milky Way gets gravitationally messed-up by the Andromeda Galaxy?

       And much, much more…