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An Astronomy Wish List for Beginning Stargazers

November 14, 2014

One of my main goals with this blog has always been to make amateur astronomy accessible to newcomers. So it’s probably past time that I post a list of the top 10 things I think a beginning stargazer needs. I’ve ranked them here roughly by my perception of how important or useful they are, especially for people just starting out. Almost everything on the list is something I’ve either owned or used myself, and the important exceptions are noted.

chandler_planisphere

1. A Planisphere

Yes, you can get a free app for your phone that will show you thousands of celestial objects. If you get one with a good night-vision mode AND turn the brightness way down on your phone, it might not destroy your night vision, but it will still only show you a small slice of the sky at one time. At best, you’ll be outside under the stars and still looking at a dadgummed screen. Here’s a thought: put all the devices away, get out a lawn chair or just lie down on the grass, grab a planisphere, and spend a quiet half hour picking out the constellations. One of the chief advantages of a planisphere over an app is that you can see essentially the whole visible sky displayed at once, so you can figure out how the constellations relate to each other. Planispheres aren’t just for newbies, either – I know a lot of experienced observers, myself included, who keep one handy to do a quick check on what’s up, or will be up, at a given time. There are lots of planispheres on the market but I prefer the simplicity and utility of The Night Sky series by David Chandler, which come in different models for different latitudes. I suspect that most readers of this blog will want the 30-40 degree one (link) or the 40-50 degree one (link); if you’re outside that zone, search for one that matches your home latitude. Cheap alternative: print out the free Evening Sky Map for this month (here), which in addition to a star chart has lists of objects for naked eyes, binoculars, and telescopes.

Orion Redbeam flashlight

2. A Red Flashlight

Yep, I’m giving this the number two spot. Why? Because you’ll need one right away, and you’ll never stop needing one as long as you’re stargazing. For my first month as an amateur astronomer, all I had were a planisphere and a red flashlight, and I still had a lot of fun out under the stars. As with planispheres, there are lots of models available. I like this one from Orion (link) – it’s small enough to keep on you at all times and just bright enough to be useful (a lot of red-beam flashlights are too bright). Cheap alternative: get a regular flashlight and tape some red cellophane over the end, or even some brown wrapping paper or part of a paper bag. If it’s still too bright, do what I do and tape a coin over the bulb to block more than half of the light.

Nightwatch cover

3. Nightwatch

That’s right, not just any beginning astronomy book, but this particular one (link). Why? I wrote a whole post about that (here), but here’s the short version: no other single book covers so many aspects of amateur astronomy, from the kinds of celestial phenomena to naked-eye, binocular, and telescopic observing – and what kinds of binoculars and telescopes to consider buying. It even has star charts to get you started as an observer. The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (link)treads similar ground, with more detail on the gear and how-to side at the expense of star charts or guidelines for finding specific objects. Cheap alternative: see if you can find a used copy, especially of one of the older editions (the current edition is the 4th) – some of the specific gear recommendations may be a little dated, but everything else will be just as useful.

4. Binoculars

I put binoculars ahead of a telescope for two reasons. First, if you’re on a tight budget, you can get decent binoculars for a lot less than you can get a decent telescope. Second, like the red flashlight, they’re something you’ll never outgrow. I am a committed binocular observer, but even if you’re not, binoculars can be a huge help at the telescope, mainly for finding your way around the sky before you attempt a star-hop in the ‘scope, but also for appreciated big extended objects like the Pleiades, the Hyades, the full extent of the Andromeda Galaxy, and so on. There are tons and tons of binoculars out there. Here are a couple of models that I own and use a lot, that I think are good values: for a general instrument, the Celestron UpClose 10x50s have decent optics and build quality and cost only $25-$30 (link). I spent one of my most rewarding nights of stargazing using only this instrument, a red flashlight, and a book I’m about to recommend (Gary Seronik’s Binocular Highlights) – here’s that observing report. If you’re really into binos and want to try some big guns, the Celestron SkyMaster 15x70s are a nice first step (link). They’re light enough that most folks can hand-hold them, but they’re easy enough to mount on a tripod if you’d like a steadier view. I use mine a LOT – I’ve seen almost all of the Messier objects with them, and probably close to 100 non-Messier NGCs and other deep-sky objects. Cheap alternative: whatever binoculars you already have lying around, or that you can pick up at a thrift store, or borrow from a friend. It was a view of Jupiter and its moons in the cheap 7x35s I’d had since high school that first got me hooked on stargazing. Any binoculars will be a useful and probably mind-blowing step beyond what your naked-eyes can show. That said, avoid binos with red-tinted “ruby” lenses if you can – they look and sound high-tech, but the tinting is pointless and crappy and only there to cover other optical faults.

Orion Starblast

5. A Decently-Sized, Solidly-Mounted Telescope

I imagine a lot of beginning stargazers must get frustrated when they ask what telescope to buy, and more experienced people keep saying, “Get a planisphere and some binoculars and learn the sky first.” We say that because you can get months or years out of enjoyment out of those things, for an outlay well under $50, whereas most of us would have a hard time recommending a telescope under $100 as a rewarding instrument. But if you’re here for scope recommendations, I have some.

A word about the qualifiers I put in the heading: by “decently-sized” I mean something with an aperture in the neighborhood of 4 inches (100mm) or larger. Yes, people can and do get a lot of enjoyment out of smaller telescopes, and some of us have a possibly unhealthy fascination with tiny telescopes. But if you’re just starting out, you need some early wins, and a 4- to 8-inch scope will make everything bigger and brighter. “Solidly-mounted” is crucial; on many objects rewarding magnification starts at 50-100x, and at those magnifications, every little shake in the scope or mount is going to be magnified 50 to 100 times. A shaky mount can make an otherwise decent telescope essentially unusable. I suspect that frustration with shaky mounts has probably killed more budding observing careers than any other single factor.

So what should you get? If you know you’re in for the long haul, follow the standard advice and get a 6- or 8-inch Dobsonian. I’m a big fan of the Orion XT6 (6 inches, ~$300) and XT8 (8 inches, ~$370), but Dobs are hard to screw up and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. If you’re less certain, or have less dough to throw around but still want a decent scope, get a smaller Dob or tabletop scope on a Dobsonian mount. Popular choices that don’t suck include the Orion SkyScanner 100 (4 inches, ~$125, observing reports here and here), Orion StarBlast 4.5 (4.5 inches, ~$200), Orion XT4.5 (4.5 inches, ~$260), and the Astronomers Without Borders OneSky (5 inches, ~$200, observing report here [as the Bushnell Ares 5 – same scope, different branding]). Personally, I’d avoid the Celestron FirstScope and Orion FunScope (3 inches, $35-70 depending on model and outlet), for reasons explained in this post. Cheap alternative: already covered – binoculars and a planisphere! Yes, you can probably find some rickety undermounted disaster on eBay or Craigslist for less, but it will almost certainly not be a good choice for a beginner. As a beginner you need something that Just Works, not a project scope. Wait to rescue one of those trash-heap darlings until you know what you’re doing.

Field Map of the Moon

6. A Moon Map

Depending on your tolerance for light pollution and willingness and ability to navigate when there are few visible stars in the sky, most other astronomical objects look less than stellar for at least one week each month, and maybe two, centered on the full moon. Also, the moon is one of the few objects that looks fantastic in almost any telescope. And you’ll enjoy looking at the moon more if you have some idea of what you’re looking at. Plus, moon maps are so cheap ($5-$12 for all of the models listed here) that there’s not much reason to pass on getting one. Sky & Tel have a couple of models available, their basic laminated moon map (regular, reversed) and the much nicer Field Map of the Moon (regular, reversed). As the links indicated, both are available in two versions, one showing the moon as it is in the sky, and the other with the moon reversed from left to right, to match the flipped orientation in most refractors and CATs. Cheap alternative: if not a moon map, how about a moon app? My favorite is Moon Globe by Midnight Martian. The basic app is free, and Moon Globe HD is a worthwhile upgrade for a couple of bucks. You can ignore my griping about apps wiping out your night vision, because the moon is bright enough most nights to wipe out your night vision all by itself. And for your computer, Virtual Moon Atlas is the reference standard (link); it’s been continuously updated for more than 10 years and is a very mature piece of software.

Turn Left at Orion

7. Books That Show You the Way

You can get a really good start with free resources like the Evening Sky Map and Stellarium (free planetarium software, get it here), but a lot of beginning stargazers find it helpful to have a book that not only tells you what to point the telescope at, but also tells you how to get there. Turn Left at Orion (link) is the standard recommendation here and indeed it will show you a lot; I own a copy and it was very helpful in carrying me along until I could fly for myself. A not-so-obvious choice that I also recommend a lot is Gary Seronik’s book Binocular Highlights (link) – almost every one of the 99 objects he shows you how to find in that book are dynamite targets for telescopes of all sizes, and the finder charts are very clear and well thought-out. Although I haven’t used it myself, Peter Birren’s Objects in the Heavens (link) is another popular choice–frequent commenter Doug Rennie calls it “the best observing guide out there”. If you’re a little more seasoned or just want more of a challenge, Sue French’s books Celestial Sampler (link) and Deep Sky Wonders (link) have zillions of things to find, organized by constellations or small areas of the sky, with targets appropriate for scopes of all sizes (Sue does most of her observing with a 4-inch refractor and a 10-inch reflector). Finally, the Deep Sky Companions series by Stephen James O’Meara is nicely organized and presented, with 109 objects per book plus a few bonus objects at the end; the individual titles are The Messier Objects (link), The Caldwell Objects (link), Hidden Treasures (link), The Secret Deep (link), and Southern Gems (link). Cheap alternative: a used copy of one of the above. Heck, used copies of the 2000 edition of Turn Left are currently going for a buck and a half on Amazon – observing guides don’t get much better or cheaper than that.

Pocket Sky Atlas

8. The Pocket Sky Atlas

Wait, if I just recommended books that will drive you to dozens or hundreds of objects in the sky, why do you need an atlas? Because no matter how nice the path that other authors have blazed for you, sooner or later you are going to want to step off it, and go wander in the wilds of the sky on your own. When you take that step, you’ll need an all-sky atlas.

Once again I’m skipping past a lot of other possible contenders to recommend a single book. There are lots of sky atlases out there, which cover a wide range of “depths” in terms of numbers of stars and objects shown. Some, like the Bright Star Atlas (link) and the Sky Atlas for Small Telescopes and Binoculars (link), simply show too few stars and objects to help you get on target with a telescope, although they are both fine binocular atlases. Others, like the Sky Atlas 2000.0 (link) and Uranometria (link), are overkill for a beginner – you’ll know when you need to move up to something like that. The Pocket Sky Atlas (link) hits a happy medium: for most of the hundreds of objects that beginners are likely to go after, it shows enough stars to get on target, but it’s still conveniently sized and intuitively laid out. The PSA has been my guide for the Messier objects, the Caldwells, the Astronomical League’s Deep Sky Binocular, Urban Observing, and Double Star observing programs, and the first 40% of the Herschel 400, and I’m still very far from exhausting the 1500 or so plotted deep-sky objects. (For the record, I also own the Bright Star Atlas, Sky Atlas for Small Telescopes and Binoculars, the Cambridge Double Star Atlas, and Uranometria, and I have used the Sky Atlas 2000.0; I recommend the PSA because it’s my most-used atlas, not my only one.). For a dissenting view and an alternative recommendation, see this post and its comment thread for a discussion of Eric Karkoschka’s Observer’s Sky Atlas (link). Cheap alternative: there are several nice sets of free, printable atlases that cover the entire the sky; these have the advantage that you can print only the pages that you need, and at the level of detail that is best for your equipment. My favorites are the Mag 7 Star Charts (link) and the TriAtlas (link); this last one is actually three atlases of varying sizes and levels of detail.

Seeing in the Dark

9. Books About the Why

Many books will tell you what’s in the sky and how and where to go find it, but only a few capture the “why” of stargazing. A lot of committed observers end up spending a considerable amount of time alone in the cold and the dark – what is it that keeps drawing us back out there? I am certain that there are almost as many sources of inspiration as their are stargazers, and what works for one may not work for the next. But this is my list and I have to recommend something. The two books that crystallize for me the wonder and romance of observing the night sky are Leslie Peltier’s Starlight Nights (link), and Timonthy Ferris’s Seeing in the Dark (link). The former goes in and out of print. Sadly it is out of print right now, and used copies are going for ruinous prices. Happily there is a Kindle edition that is not too steep. Seeing in the Dark is one of my favorite books of all time, and I wrote a whole post about it, which you can find here. Cheap alternative: used copies of Seeing in the Dark start at $0.01 plus shipping, so you’re not risking much by giving it a try.

Universe the definitive visual guide

10. An Almanac of What’s Up There

For cloudy nights and quick reference, it’s handy to have a book that just has tons of data. Say you want to find out how many moons in the solar system are bigger than Mercury*, or the orbital period of Neptune**, or the distance to the Orion Nebula***. Yes, you could just look all of that up on Wikipedia, but sometimes it’s faster and easier to use a book. Plus, everyone needs stocking stuffers, right? Now, there are shedloads of books that cover this ground, and if you have access to a Barnes & Noble or other large brick-and-mortar bookstore you can probably find any of half a dozen likely candidates on the bargain rack. I have a couple of favorites to recommend. First, the pocket-sized Smithsonian Handbook: Stars and Planets by Ian Ridpath (link) has a special place in my heart, because it was the first astronomy book I bought back in 2007 when I was first getting into the hobby. Although I couldn’t have known it at the time, I got lucky: the book has a simply amazing amount of information in a very compact package, and I’ve keep it close by ever since and referred to it often. If you want a big fat book to curl up with on a rainy evening, Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide is hard to beat (link). If there’s an important topic in astronomy that’s not covered, I don’t know what it might be. I wrote a whole post about this book, too – go check it out. Cheap alternative: A used copy of one of the above. Universe seems to be out of print now, but you can get new copies for under $20 and used copies for about a buck and a half, plus shipping.

Conclusion

Well, those are my top recommendations. If there’s something awesome that I missed, let me know down in the comments. And in the words of Cloudy Nights user gnowellsct, “May peace be upon your high end consumerism”.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Two: Ganymede (the largest moon of Jupiter, and the largest moon in the solar system) and Titan (the largest moon of Saturn).

** 164.9 Earth years.

*** Approximately 1344 light years.

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13 comments

  1. Good picks, Matt. Here are a couple of my thoughts on this list.

    1. Yes, a planisphere is almost a necessity. I used mine (the Chandler, same as the one depicted here) a lot for the first 6 months or so, but a lot less after that, using instead more detailed charts of specific sections of the night sky. But for a beginner, absolutely essential. Ditto the small red flashlight. Obviously, this is something we all use in every observing session.

    2. Agree wholly on Nightwatch. Nothing even comes close for a one-stop introduction to stargazing. Again, of the half dozen or so books I bought when I started out, this was the one I went back to over and over again; the star charts in it are just about perfect for the novice: what you absolutely need to know (the main, most dramatic objects), and nothing more to confuse you.

    3. The first instrument I bought was the Celestron 15×70 SkyMasters you highlight here. Just about a perfect for learning the night sky, and even better, for guaranteeing those first “OH WOW!” moments that hook you on the hobby. Like the first time the Pleiades popped into the fov and I had to remind myself to breathe. Pretty much the sweet spot for magnification and fov and weight. And I’d say forget the tripod, at least at first, in favor of the freedom going hand held gives you. I was amazed at how much I could see those first few times out lying back in the back patio chaise. I still use these all the time, almost every session, just to get a feel for what’s going to be good to look at that night, and to get a general orientation locked in my head.

    4. I think your overview of the ideal first telescope is spot-on. My first telescope was the Orion StarBlast 6 and having the scope and mount all in one, and the ease of set up and use, were huge assets, along with the 6″ aperture that showed me all kinds of objects not accessible to my 15x70s. Frankly, I could still probably get by with just these two. Plus, probably, a smaller refractor such as the ST-80. But for those on a budget and/or uncertain as to how long they are going to be at this, the SkyScanner 100 might be the more prudent choice. Only 2″ less in aperture, about a third the cost, and WAY more portable. You can really pull in a lot with this little sucker, as Terry has so impressively demonstrated.

    5. So, our newbie, now has an excellent binoc, a solid heavens-opening telescope, a planisphere to tell him/her what is where and when, and a red flashlight to read it with. And Nightwatch as an ongoing astronomy course and initial trail guide via its basic, readable charts. Pretty well set up, I’d say, with no need, really, to buy any more gear. But then we know how that works out, don’t we?

    6. Turn Left at Orion is a good first beyond-Nightwatch choice mainly for all the sketches it offers which give you some idea of what kind of shape(s) and pattern(s) to look for, so when you come across, say, M44 or M37 or the Double Cluster, you have a far better chance of saying “Okay, that’s it. Got it.’

    7. The Pocket Sky Atlas is terrific; I use mine all the time. But it really isn’t an observing guidebook. It shows you were things are, but doesn’t tell you anything about them, or whether you have a reasonable chance of seeing this or that object with this or that instrument. It’s just a star map. An excellent one, for sure, but nothing more. And having to go back and forth among pages of its relatively small sections of the sky could be difficult for novices.

    8. So I would strongly advocate Peter Birren’s Objects in the Heavens which on its own is a superb, and total, celestial trail guide for over 800 objects plus the Moon. You get 4 seasonal maps which show you what’s up during each quarter, outstanding individual maps of every Northern constellation with every object in each depicted with easy to understand symbols; even better, Birren covers everything of note up to Mag 10, and every Mag 7 or brighter object is identified in bold type and the Do Not Miss This objects further identified by an exclamation point (!). Moreover, he provides information as to # of stars, key pattern(s) or shape(s) to look for, his own revealing labels (“Patriotic Triple”, “Star Chain”, “Archangel”, etc to provide further clues as to what to look for). Lots of asterisms, too. Also, for each constellation, Birren provides corresponding chart #s for both the Pocket Sky Atlas and SA2K atlases if you want/need more detail. Objects in the Heavens paired with the PSA is all you need for multi-year observing project. Oh, and there is also a section on the Moon, complete with photos, that tells you which phase provides the best looks at all of Luna’s features.
    As I said, the PSA is a star map, OITH is a complete observing guide. You need them both.

    9. Timothy Ferris is a superb prose stylist and Seeing in the Dark is a mandatory read for every astronomer, from novice on. That I could not only enjoy, but actually understand what he has to say is all the proof needed.

    Good list, Matt. Sage advice and a lot of fun to read. I hope we get a dialogue rolling here.

    Doug


  2. I absolutely agree with your list! Fantastic. I’m always amazed when “Starlight Nights” still comes up. 30+ years ago I was working in a college planetarium with David Levy (before he’d discovered any comets) and he would rave about that book. It took me a while to get around to it, but it’s pretty wonderful. Years later my teenage son picked it up in my office and he was engrossed. I also love “Turn Left at Orion” as much for the back story as the sketches and text. Thanks for compiling this list!


  3. I’ve been kicking around this list in my head for a couple of days now. I like the list, but I do have a couple of comments, and they are likely related to my age……

    I’m not keen on Planispheres. I do now have the one you picture, and I find it a lot more usable than most, but, mainly due to my aging eyes, I find it difficult to read. I much prefer to print out charts, which also helps me do some planning on what to observe for the night.

    I do like having an app to use, but as you point out, they can be problematic. I have one friend, though, that uses the planning features of the app, and lets it drive his observations for the night. But, I’ve never completely relied on using an app.

    And, this is what I’ve been kicking around, and again, likely due to my aging eyes. I would add a wide field EP to the list, just not sure which one. I didn’t really become comfortable observing until I had an EP that was much easier to look through. I should also add that I became better at observing once I stopped trying to get as much magnification as I could, so it should also be a longer f/l. I’m just not sure which one to recommend for a beginner, to not break the bank.


  4. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts.

    Doug wrote:

    Objects in the Heavens paired with the PSA is all you need for multi-year observing project. Oh, and there is also a section on the Moon, complete with photos, that tells you which phase provides the best looks at all of Luna’s features.
    As I said, the PSA is a star map, OITH is a complete observing guide. You need them both.

    Interesting. You’ve talked up OitH before, but I’ve never pulled the trigger. It’s probably past time that I did.

    Somehow, I end up doing a fair amount of stargazing with people who have never been out before. The most recent time was just a couple of nights ago. For nights like that, I would like to be able to show the following:
    – at least one good double or multiple star, preferably with color contrast like Albireo, but ideally a gravitationally-bound pair or system–people get very excited when they understand that the two (or more) stars they are seeing are actually orbiting each other;
    – at least one bright, star-forming nebula, so people know where stars come from;
    – at least one open cluster, so people can see what those star-forming nebulae turn into;
    – at least one planetary nebula, so people can see what happens to (smallish) stars at the ends of their lives;
    – at least one globular cluster, so people can experience that class of object and understand that the galaxy is more than just a frisbee made of stars;
    – at least one bright external galaxy, for obvious reasons.

    Ideally I’d like to show people two or three objects in each of those classes, so they get a sense of the diversity that exists in each category. One of my favorite tricks in the summer is to show people M5 and M13 and ask which one they think is prettier. I’d also like to hold back one or two showpiece objects for the end of the observing run–I have a bad habit of blasting through the best and brightest in the first half hour, and then being forced to show people less exciting examples of objects they’ve already seen.

    Now, if that was all I needed, just 6-12 objects, it would be child’s play to put together a list for each season. But often at least one horizon is wiped out by light pollution or a mountain, and sometimes such hindrances render about half the sky unusable. So what I really need is a big enough set of objects in each class that at least one will be visible in any given half of the sky in any given season. Now it’s more of a challenge to fill all of the slots, especially for stellar nurseries.

    I’ve gotten as far with this as to fill one page of my logbook with candidates for the summer months, but I haven’t done the other seasons. I should turn this comment into a full post and include my current summer list, and solicit suggestions for the other seasons. But from what I’ve read, I should also get a copy of Objects in the Heavens, both as a general observing guide and to help with this ‘outreach sky tour’ project in particular.

    I would add a wide field EP to the list, just not sure which one. I didn’t really become comfortable observing until I had an EP that was much easier to look through. I should also add that I became better at observing once I stopped trying to get as much magnification as I could, so it should also be a longer f/l. I’m just not sure which one to recommend for a beginner, to not break the bank.

    Over time my observing has fallen more and more into two distinct modes: ‘work’ mode where I’m trying to hunt down specific objects that I’ve never seen before, for which I am usually using the largest available scope and the full range of magnifications, and ‘aesthetic’ mode where I’m out to see beautiful things, for which I usually grab a refractor and just two or three of best eyepieces, and pretty much never push the magnification too hard. Now that I have the Explore Scientific widefields, I find that I use them for both applications. But those are definitely up the ‘break the bank’ territory for a beginner.

    How about the venerable 32mm Plossl? It gives the widest field in a 1.25″ barrel size, and it’s a terrific ‘finder’ eyepiece. Mine is still one of my most-used EPs, even now that I have the ES widefields.

    I actually thought about recommending an eyepiece or a Barlow, but to me those are one step beyond the very beginning that this list represents. Maybe I’ll do another list for people who already have a scope and a book or two and need to know what to get next.


  5. I now realize after looking over my EP list that my longer wide field EPs are 2″, and that would not likely be on a beginner list. However, I have an OPT 32mm Plossl, it might even be labelled Super Plossl, whatever that really means, and I actually use it all the time. It is more or less permanently seated in my Galileoscope. I don’t have much problem using it, and it has shown me some wonderful things. And, a decent one (OPT doesn’t seem to have a 32mm right now) can be had for less than $50, less if you pick one up on sale.

    I find myself using a Barlow less and less. I might take it out when I want to limit the number of EPs I take out. Also, 2″ Barlows can be a problem with focus range. I still have a couple of 1.25″ Barlows. They just don’t get used as much anymore – especially since I have wide field EPs. HOWEVER, a Barlow is good to use with a Plossl to get more magnification while still having the better eye relief and lens size of a longer f/l EP, e.g. a 20mm Plossl with a Barlow is much easier to see through than a 10mm Plossl.

    Knowing what I know now, I think I would have been very happy when I first started out, to have a 32mm and 20mm Plossl and a 2x Barlow. That would have been sufficient for everything except planet and moon viewing, where I like as much magnification as I can pull out of the scope. Also, considering a beginner scope, those two EPs plus a Barlow would likely do just that.


  6. My experiences mirror yours. I used to use my Barlow a lot. Now I only use it under one circumstance: when my 6mm Expanse does not yield enough magnification by itself. And even there I am looking to replace the Expanse with a better, shorter EP. I am seriously tempted by the TeleVue 3-6mm clickstop zoom; it would ably cover the high-mag spectrum for my refractors and I think it would even be useful in the XT10 and the Maks on those nights when the atmosphere is stable enough to support “stupid-high” magnifications.

    So anyway, yeah, my Barlow sees less and less use these days. I’m glad I have one, and I’ll probably never get rid of it, but it’s not in regular rotation. BUT I agree that for people starting out, it is a great way to double your magnification range.

    As for 32mm Plossls, I think the Telescope Warehouse on eBay regularly has good Meade and Celestron Plossls for under $40. In fact, that site has all kinds of cool stuff. I seriously need to stay off it, for my mental and financial health.


  7. […] Update: This post seems to get a lot of traffic, especially around the holidays. If you’re looking for good gifts for amateur astronomers, including telescopes and binoculars that won’t break the bank, you may also be interested in my astronomical wish list for beginning stargazers. […]


  8. […] Update: This post seems to get a lot of traffic, especially around the holidays. If you’re looking for good gifts for amateur astronomers, including telescopes and binoculars that won’t break the bank, you may also be interested in myastronomical wish list for beginning stargazers. […]


  9. Hello, I was hoping that you will help me over here. I am 16 and I am thinking about going all astronomy when I’m done with high school. What are the subjects I should focus on more if I want to get a good job one day? Any good books that I should read? Something that will help me gain more knowledge about stars and galaxies. Lets say I’m at level zero. Please do reply. Thanks.


  10. […] book was one of the booster rockets that got my observing career off the pad back when, and I still recommend it regularly. The legacy of work he’s already produced in other books, magazines, and at his website is […]


  11. […] telescope for a little over a hundred bucks. I recommend the Orion SkyScanner 100 – see this and this for more […]


  12. […] just like stargazing or most other hobbies – you can avoid most of the frustration for a trivial outlay of research […]


  13. […] like a whole new scope. That said, there are still better choices out there – see my astronomy wish-list for beginning stargazers for some […]



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