Getting Started in Astronomy


Astronomy is the oldest science as far as we know. What's really cool is you can see a lot and learn a lot about astronomy using your own eyes. No equipment is necessary to get started.


Learning to See

The most interesting part of discovering astronomy is learning to see.  There's all this incredible stuff right above our heads and we hardly ever notice any of it. Stop and think for a moment. Did you ever notice that the stars are different colors? Did you notice they are different brightnesses? Stars are white, blue, yellow, gold and even red. Some are really bright. Some, you can only see when you look slightly away from them! 


What? You can see some stars better if you look away? Yup. That's called using "averted vision". Your eyes are more sensitive to light along the edges than they are in the center. That's why sometimes you "think" you see something but when you look, it isn't there! Try this experiment on a dim star. Look straight at it and then look slightly away and you'll see that it gets brighter as you look away.  There!  You've got your first experiment.


I Can See What?

Here's one for you to think about. Light travels 186,000 miles in one second. In one hour, that's 11,160,000 miles in one minute! 669,600,000 miles in only an hour. Did you know you can see a galaxy over 2 million light years away with just your own two eyes? How far is that?


14,664,240,000,000,000,000 Miles!


Did you know you could see that far with your own eyes? That's how far away the Andromeda galaxy is.


Sounds Fun! Where Do I Start?

You start by looking. When it gets dark, go outside and look up. It's that easy. You can learn constellations and star names later. For starters, just look up. Soon you'll see differences in color and brightness. Notice too if a particular is all alone or if it has other stars around it. Pick out a few that you like and see if you can find them for 3 or 4 nights in a row.


It's a great idea to make some simple notes about what you see.


I made you this Beginner Log Form to help you get started. Keep your forms in a binder and look back at what you've learned.


Try to notice color, bightness and any patterns that jump out at you. Have fun! Don't get to serious about trying to learn specifics. You're learning when you're looking!


You can actually see satellites too!! In fact, I'll bet you'll see a satellite your first night out! You can see the most satellites during the first hour of dark after the sunsets.---Chris