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[ Sky Sense | Binoculars | Telescopes | Sky Maps | Tips & Tricks ]
MANY ARTICLES in Sky & Telescope and SkyWatch introduce the basics of backyard astronomy to new and aspiring hobbyists. Here are some features from past issues to help you make the most of your time under the stars.
How to Start Right in Astronomy
What advice would help beginners the most? Sky & Telescope's editors brainstormed this question. Pooling thoughts from more than 200 years of collective experience answering the phone and mail, we came up with a number of pointers to help newcomers past the pitfalls and onto the straightest route to success.
Starmagnitudes and colors, celestial coordinates, and the different kinds of time used by astronomers are basic to your understanding of the night sky.
The Stellar Magnitude System
Everything you need to know about how astronomers describe the brightnesses of celestial objects.
The Spectral Types of Stars
Why the Sun is called G2V and Polaris is called F5-8Ibvar.
Understanding Celestial Coordinates
All about right ascension and declination. What makes precession happen?
Latitude Is Everything
Your location determines much about the behavior of the sky.
Names of the Stars
Understanding the star-naming systems that astronomers use.
Names of Deep-Sky Objects
The nomenclature of galaxies, clusters, nebulae, and more. What does NGC mean, anyway?
Time and the Amateur Astronomer
Standard time, Local Mean Time, Universal Time, and much more explained.
[ Sky Sense | Binoculars | Telescopes | Sky Maps | Tips & Tricks ]
When most people think of astronomy, the first word that comes to mind is "telescope." If they thought "binoculars" instead, they would probably have an easier time getting into the hobby. Binoculars provide the best way to tour and learn the night sky.
Binoculars: Halfway to a Telescope
All the optical power you need to become an expert amateur astronomer may already be knocking around the back of your closet.
Choosing Binoculars for Astronomy
Sorting through a world of choices.
Power and Aperture in Binoculars
Why both of these matter equally for skywatchers.
[ Sky Sense | Binoculars | Telescopes | Sky Maps | Tips & Tricks ]
While naked-eye and binocular observing are two excellent skills all amateur astronomers should learn, buying the right telescope and learning to use it well are the two most critical actions a backyard astronomer can take. Sky & Telescope's editors help you do both well.
Choosing Your First Telescope
A no-nonsense primer to an astronomical rite of passage.
The Art of Using a Telescope
Once you’ve got a telescope, here’s how to put it to rewarding use.
Caring for Optics
When cleaning lenses and mirrors, the most important rule is that of the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm."
[ Sky Sense | Binoculars | Telescopes | Sky Maps | Tips & Tricks ]
How quickly we learn our way around the night sky is directly dependent upon how well we know how to use a good star map or chart. Just a couple hours spend learning to read a star map can open a lifetime of observing pleasures.
Using a Naked-Eye Sky Map
A quick primer on how to locate and identify stars and constellations.
Star-Finding with a Planisphere
A planisphere, or star wheel, is every skywatcher’s most basic tool for finding what’s up. Here’s how to use one.
Using a Map at the Telescope
The essentials of navigating the heavens at high power with a star atlas.
[ Sky Sense | Binoculars | Telescopes | Sky Maps | Tips & Tricks ]
As amateur astronomers, we do battle with Mother Nature nearly every time we observe. Here are some tips that will help us emerge warm and dry with a pocketful of memorable observations.
Keeping Warm at the Telescope
Skywatching on a clear winter night is the coldest activity known. Some practical tips can keep you surprisingly comfortable.
Dealing with Dew
How to keep your optics dry and clear even on the dampest, dewiest nights.
Beating the Seeing
Atmospheric "seeing" is the quivering, shimmering, and fuzzing of images at high power -- the bane of every telescope user. Here are experts’ tricks for minimizing it.

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