2020 November 12
Over the years, the British Astronomical Association (BAA) has produced a series of tutorials as a guide for the beginning astronomer. Grouped together here in a logical order these links will take you through the basics of astronomy. Of course, if there is one particular area that interests you, such as choosing a telescope, feel free to cherry-pick the items that interest you most.
The majority of these tutorials were written specifically for the BAA website. However a small number originated with articles in the Journal of the BAA. Some of these latter ones refer to the positions of planets at the time of the articles’ publication. These positions will not now be correct and should be ignored. The bulk of the article however remains relevant and informative.
New tutorials are added frequently. These will appear on the home page and also in this list so be sure to check back often.
The sky above
- The beginner’s sky. An introduction to the objects seen in the sky.
- The size of things. A guide to the scale of the universe.
- The turning sky. How the stars appear to move across the sky.
- Patterns in the sky. The constellations.
- The brightness of stars. A guide to the stellar magnitude scale.
- The colours of stars. What star colours tell us about the stars themselves.
- The Sun. An introduction to ‘our’ star
- Mercury – the iron planet. The innermost planet of our solar system.
- Venus as a planet. An introduction to the second planet from the Sun.
- The motion of the moon. An explanation of why the moon has phases and details of its apparent motion.
- The motion of the planets. How the planets appear to move as seen from Earth.
- Loops in the sky. A closer look at some of the gyrations planets appear to perform in the sky.
- Light pollution. How bad lighting ruins the view of the night sky and what can be done about it.
Naked eye observing
- Earthshine. Seeing the “old moon in the new moon’s arms”.
- The aurora. A guide to observing these potentially spectacular lights in the sky.
- Noctilucent clouds. Little known clouds of the summer skies.
- Meteors. Observing “shooting stars”.
Choosing and using a telescope
- Binoculars. Binoculars are a good starting point for a beginning observer, this tutorial covers all you need to know about this type of telescope.
- Common types of telescopes. A guide to the different types of telescopes available on the market today.
- Mounting your telescope. A telescope is not just a tube but needs a sturdy mount to support it. This guide describes the two main types.
- Through which end do I look? The basics of telescopes.
- A telescope for a child. Choosing a telescope for a young astronomer.
- A telescope for an adult beginner. A guide to choosing your first telescope.
- Eyepieces. What these do and how to select them.
- Which way is up? The way objects appear in an eyepiece.
- Finder telescopes. A guide to this key accessory for locating objects with a telescope.
- Using a Polarscope. The best ways of using this attachment to align your equatorial mount.
- Dealing with dew. Dew can often form on a telescope’s optics, particularly at night. In this tutorial David Arditti discusses ways to deal with this annoying problem.
- Colour filters. How filters can improve views of the planets.
Finding objects in the sky
- Finding the way – part 1. An introduction to the tools available for discovering what is in the sky at any one time.
- Finding the way part 2. Using star charts.
- Star hopping. How to find things in the sky using prominent patterns to lead to fainter objects.
- The Pole Star. All about this important (to us) star.
- Right ascension and declination. The celestial coordinate system.
- Astronomical seeing – part 1. What seeing is and how it affects the view in a telescope.
- Astronomical seeing – part 2. More on seeing and its effects.
- Solar observing. Studying our nearest star.
- The Moon. What to see on our nearest astronomical neighbour.
- Drawing the planets. How to record the details you can see through your telescope.
- The phases of Venus. Why they arise and how to measure them.
- Jupiter. A guide to the Solar System’s largest planet.
- Saturn. The lord of the rings.
- Variable stars. An introduction to observing stars that vary in brightness.
- Star trails. How to take photographs that reveal the Earth’s rotation.
- Wide field astrophotograpy. How to take stunning pictures of the night sky with just a camera.
- Comet photography. Imaging these visitors from deep space.
- Understanding image defects. A guide to common astro-imaging problems and their resolution.
- Astronomical history. How to get started exploring Astronomy’s rich history.
- Articles for beginers
- Dark adapting an iPhone/iPad