So you think you want to be an amateur astronomer.  WELCOME to the greatest hobby in the world!  As an amateur astronomer, you can go anywhere in the world, and find someone who shares your interest.  With the right equipment, you can view 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but if you do, your boss and family might not be to happy, so you may want to limit yourself - at least try.   


There are the flimsy ones bought in department stores (DO NOT BUY THAT ONE) that tell you that you can get 400 or 500 power!  Like I said, do not buy that one, it will only go into the closet and gather dust, or if you leave it set up, it may become a plant hanger (I do have one of these)  You want to purchase your telescope online at a reputable company.  They can can cost anywhere from $179.00 to $59,000 for the Porter Garden Telescope.  

Reflectors are made of a simple tube design using two mirrors, a primary and secondary.  The Reflecting telescope was invented in the 17th century as an alternative to the refracting telescope.  Sir Isaac Newton is credited with constructing the first "practical" reflecting telescope after his own design in 1668, therefore many times it is referred to as a Newtonian. 

Refracting telescopes are a combination of an objective lens and some type of eyepiece.  The lens gathers light and brings the image to the eyepiece.   It is the type of telescope used by Galileo to see the moons of Jupiter for the first time.  Refractors are used in many of the large observatories, for example Yerkes, Lick, Archenhold and Lowell Observatories.

A catadioptric optical system is one which contains both lenses and mirrors. Catadioptric systems are commonly used in telescopes and in lightweight, long focal length lenses for cameras.  They are used for astrophotography and can be relatively expensive


A good pair of binoculars is a great place for anyone to start.  Binoculars will show you things that will surprise you and will help you learn your way around the sky.  Having a good pair of binoculars is like having two mini telescopes in your hands!   SKY CHARTS AND HOW TO READ THEM   There are hundreds of sky charts on the market and most that I have seen are good, but if you are just beginning in the great hobby of astronomy, then all you need is something simple but something that also has lots of good information. Print your own charts Here.   VIEWING   Where to go, what to bring, who to bring, what to expect.

You always want to be sure that where you go is safe and that you have permission from the owner of the property to be there.   You can find a local astronomy club and go out with them to their dark site on the new moon  

Useful viewing aids:

Observation Log -

Observation Sketch Pad -

Planed Observation List  


If you are going outside to view because you don't have your telescope hooked up to your computer, go to the store and buy some kind of mosquito repellant.  Any other accessory is icing on the cake!    BOOKS ABD PUBLICATIONS   There are some great books and publications listed on our astronomy links page

But if you want a book now, NightWatch, by Terrance Dickinson is the book to get (ISBN 9781554071470).  It is a wonderful introduction to astronomy that can be found in a beginners library and in the professional's library as well.   It has star charts, information about equipment and the 4th edition's charts are good until 2012.



Copyright, Treasure Coast Astronomical Society, Inc. 2004