beginner going nowhere

Don't be shy! If you're just starting out, here's the place to ask that first question

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alecras234
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beginner going nowhere

Post by alecras234 »

hi im ash, im 31 from north wales. im having problems with astronomy. i've liked astronomy for 3 4 years and i did join a club but everything they were talking about was way beyond my understanding so i left and i bought books because i thought that i might learn from those. i know a little bit about stargazing but these books i have on astronomy are confusing me more than anything, its like a jigsaw all the information is mixed up in my head, im not getting anywhere.

i bought the sky at night magazine this month and i liked reading the stagazing pages, a free cd came with the magazine, i understand whats on the cd better than reading the magazine because pete lawrence explains things. im disabled and i have a telescope on a table in one of the rooms in the house facing a window that points south. i go in there some nights when theres clear skies but im unable to go out to observe because i dont know anyone interested in stargazing to go somewhere with so i stick to looking at my planetarium software to see whats up and when skies are clear look through my scope that faces the window. Can anyone help me on how to improve on what i know now, should i read and watch the sky at night every month to gain information?
mike a feist
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Post by mike a feist »

Hi Ash........yes clubs can be very overpowering for the beginner.......and some clubs overpowering for the experienced too if that part of the subject is not your thing...as it were.
Astronomy is a vast "field of study" and it is hopeless to try and absorb everything at once.
My inititial target was the Moon....way back in the early 1960s, and the planets too, are generally easy to find and identify as such with even binoculars or small scope. The background stars eventually "fall into place" as you do this.
Some experts say that "observing through a window" (closed) is unsatisfactory but modern glass is very good so if it suits you....do it. As an example...........in the last few days I have found Mercury and watched a star disappear behind the Moon (an occultation) .........through the window, and watched meteors.
Finding an "observing pal" is probably rather harder than locating a general friend but local clubs/societies must be the first place look....but the "expertise differential" as you have found is problematic....also many groups are so desperate for speakers at meetings (when it is often cloudy) that real experts (professionals from Universities for example) are eagerally signed up At the end even the skywatcher with decades of experience (me for example) is left with the thought "what was that all about"
Ask questions!!!!!Here and elsewhere.
"There are no silly questions, only silly answers"
Best of luck....mike
ukmtk
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Post by ukmtk »

You learn over the years. I would recommend buying a book about general astronomy and read that. Something about our solar system as well as the universe (galaxies). You could always get these from the library - that is what I use to do when I was at school. Also see if you can join up with a group who have observing sessions? Don't forget that everyone is a learner to start with - even Stephen Hawking!
Last edited by ukmtk on Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Ash
Great to here from you.
I first got interested in astronomy many years ago and thought I made pretty good progess but now I am more confused than ever.
There have been occasions when I have felt very inadequate about my lack of grasping many aspects of astronomy but then I think no one person understands everything about astronomy and possibly some things astronomers know or think they know might not be right anyway.
Astronomy ain't easy that's for sure but it is good fun.
How much astronomy do I properly understand - not a lot.
You mention being disabled. I suppose that probably means some aspects of practical astronomy may be awkward for you to do, but fortunately there are still likely to be quite a number of interesting possibilities for you. It's just a matter of finding the right niche or niches for you.
I like being a Jack of All Trades astronomer myself but having said that there are still quite a few areas in astronomy I haven't tried doing still.

As Mike said although astronomical observing through closed windows is frowned on by some experts there are sometimes advantages in observing through windows. amongst other things it does tend to be nice and warm observing from indoors.
I once got an amazing superb view of a comet through our back bedroom window using binoculars. The comet was scraping a neighbours rooftop at Sunset and there is no way it would have been visible from outside in our garden and no time to travel to another vantage point.
If I remember correctly the great UK amateur astronomer George Alcock actually discovered a comet using binoculars through closed windows. I think George actually paid to have optical quality double glazing fitted to help his observing.
So I am sure that there are plenty of possibilities in astronomy for you.
Best of luck and have a good Christmas from Cliff
alecras234
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Post by alecras234 »

thank you for all your responses it was great to hear from you all and i feel better now knowing that i can write on here with whatever problems im facing. people told me that i shouldnt look through a telescope by a window thats closed, but hearing that i can sit by a window to stargaze with my scope i feel better, more relaxed about it than i was.

i still have a problem with knowing what im looking at. i have a book called turn left at orion, it talks about the moon and what you can see and how to find things using a small telescope. im reading about the moon but i get confused because theres so much to read and i dont know whether most of it i should remember, like it talks about the ejecta blanket, is that important or should i stick to it talking about the various craters and mare (seas)? also i get a magazine every month called the sky at night, theres a cd with a sky at night programme on it, i understand better watching the programme than reading information. what should i do, i've got a moon atlas on my computer.
orson
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Post by orson »

Hi Ash,

Please don't let anyone put you off. The nice thing about astronomy is that you can work at your own pace. There are a few good books you can buy to help you get started. One book I've found very helpful is Astronomy for Dummies, but I'm sure there are others. Good luck!
The Bat
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Post by The Bat »

Hi Ash and welcome!

Don't panic. You are not studying for an exam. As Orson says, you can take your time. There is a phenomenal amount of reading material out there, but you don't have to memorise it all. I have been stargazing for a little under 2 years now, but unless I look at the Moon regularly with a Moon map by my side, I start to forget which bits are which. Some features are now familiar, but others I still struggle with. Turn Left is a great book and with a southern aspect, hopefully you will see some decent sights. There are no rules. Just stick to what interests you and what is within your limits.

And there will be plenty of advice from friendly people here, so just ask away.

Rachel
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alecras234
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Post by alecras234 »

i have the books astronomy for dummies and turn left at orion, i dont know which book to read. ive noticed that astronomy for dummies doesnt show a map of the moon with descriptions about which mare is which and the names of craters, it says buy a moon atlas. turn left at orion does give moon diagrams with information about various craters and seas so i dont need to buy a moon atlas, but turn left at orion has so much information i struggle from one facsinating bit of information to the next which totally confuses me. help!
jb1970
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Post by jb1970 »

Don't panic. You are not studying for an exam. As Orson says, you can take your time. There is a phenomenal amount of reading material out there, but you don't have to memorise it all.
Good advice. You can only let things slowly fall into place. Rushing to try and learn everything will just lead to frustration. Read a good book like 'Big Bang' by Simon Singh - but don't expect to memorise it! I've been interested in astronomy for years and read many books/ magazines, but whilst I enjoy looking at the Moon am still rubbish when it comes to knowing which crater is which! Other things seem to have come more easily. Relax and enjoy your interest, some facts will stick in your mind and others wont.

All the best
Jack
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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Ash
Jack was dead right. Having said that, I am guilty of wanting to know too much myself and sometimes my lack of understanding really niggles me.
However, at the end of the day we are "amateur astronomers" and take interest in any aspect of astronomy we like.
I was trying to think of some suitable books that might interest you.
Not easy because there are a lot of astronomy books and what suits one person may not suit someone else.
There is one book I would mention, which funnily enough I did not like when I first got it, but I dabble into it more and more and now quite like it.
It isn't really a complete beginners book and it ain't cheap (£30 ish I think), but it is good quality hard back and nicely illustrated and provides lots of useful advice. THE CAMBRIDGE ENCYCLODEDIA OF AMATEUR ASTRONOMY by Michael Bakich.
There are one or two minuses about it - American orientated, published a few years back 2003 so a revised edition might be better if there is one (?).
Robin Scagell has written several books eg "Stargazing with Binoculars" paperback and a big hardback "Stargazing".
Best of luck from Cliff
Phattanglo
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Post by Phattanglo »

I know just what your going through.
I find Stellarium useful but it is still difficult sometimes to relate what is on the screen to the actual night sky just because everything is spread out more of course.
I'm hoping Santa will bring Turn left at Orion
I don't have a scope of my own but I've borrowed one from my Astro club and I'm still trying to get to grips with it.
I'm struggling with the change from binoculars to a scope as even the lowest mag eyepiece seems to make it hard to identify what your looking at.
The Moon is a fantastic sight through a scope compared to binoculars but I tried to find Andromeda for 30 minutes without success even though I could see it with the unaided eye.
To be fair it was directly above me and I don't really know how to use the guide scope when it's at a neck breaking angle.
We've all got to start at the beginning and I take pleasure from little successes.
Compared to the day you first decided to try Astronomy as a hobby just think how much more you know about it today.
Knowledge is like that, it creeps up on you when you're not looking :)
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alecras234
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Post by alecras234 »

hi i have read reviews about the book turn left at orion on amazon and all the reviews are positive about the book but im having trouble remembering the names of different craters of the crescent moon, do i have to remember the names of craters? im trying to memorize the various maria more than remembering the names of craters, do you think that is a good idea? what do you think of the book turn left at orion, is the information current in the book?

ash
M54
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Post by M54 »

You probably have the best idea and learn the big maria (or whatever) first. You will pick up a few of the other major craters at the same time anyway.

A minor problem with viewing the moon is the orientation in the scope. Traditionally a refractor will both invert top and bottom and left and right. With a diagional the I think that top remains as top but left and right are still swapped. Basically it's a pain.

Turn left at Orion: I have a copy but don't get on with it too well. Just doesn't suit me. Can only suggest that you look at several guides and find one that suits you.

As for basic astronomy again good book shop and look. Don't be afraid of the childrens/junior books either. They tend to explain with the assumption that you know almost nothing. And that is where we all start.
mike a feist
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Post by mike a feist »

Two other points..............
1. You do not need to remember everything (like the names of all the craters), you just need how to find out.
2. Do not observe through an open window, especially if there is a temperature difference between inside and outside (there nearly always is!) otherwise it will look like you are observing through as swimming pool as the hot air rushes outside. BUt even ths "rule" is breakable....for example, if a special object (say a comet) can only be seen by looking at an great angle through double glazing (thus distorting the image horribly) the only answer might be to open the window....but then use the lowest magnification you can.
maf
alecras234
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Post by alecras234 »

i have ordered a book on amazon called what is it like on the moon, its a childrens book but i know nothing about the moon so i thought this book may help me, aswell as reading turn left at orion which talks about the moon, What do you think? im not sure whether im learning the right way, ive got lots of books which ive bought on astronomy over the years like, constellations for every kid, but that has things to make aswell as it talking about the stars, im not able to make things. ive got others too but im not understanding. also what do ameteur astronomers do when the skies are cloudy?

merry christmas
ash
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