Getting Started in Astronomy

The Summer holiday is here for students, or at least most students. These next few weeks are a time to relax and enjoy the sweet (and maybe scorching) summer heat, or indulge in a few ice creams here and there.

But now is also the perfect time to brush up on astronomy or just learn something new in general!

Astronomy? But it’s summer! It doesn’t get dark until very late, and I just want to be in bed!

Stargazing may be slightly more challenging to the heavy sleeper, but there’s more to astronomy than staying up late with a telescope.

Here’s a compilation of amazing astronomy resources to help you get started!

If you want to brush up on your astronomy…

With some spare time, why not try to expand your knowledge of space by taking an online course?

It’s a great way for students to get a feel of what studying astronomy is like at university, or for non-students to learn in an organised and structured manner.

If you’re a beginner and don’t want to be involved in too much mathematics, then I recommend Astronomy – State of the Art on Udemy. This course is fantastic for anyone wanting to get up-to-date on recent astronomical discoveries, like how our current technology works. The course covers exoplanet and solar system research and progresses on to galaxies and cosmology.

edX offers some good topic-specific courses such as Astrophysics by ANU. This is a four course series which costs $180 if you want a certificate, but if you’re not interested in that you can enroll for free! The mathematics can get a bit nasty, since these four courses cover 1st year undergraduate astrophysics. Great if you’re wanting to pursue a STEM degree, not so great if you hate maths!

Lastly, let’s not forget the amazing Khan Academy courses. Short but detailed lessons that covers not only topics like the big bang and the distance ladder, but also Earth science (tectonics, seismic waves etc).

All the courses above are free!


An online course just isn’t for you?

I totally get that. You like to not worry about getting a passing grade, and want to learn whatever you like whenever you like.

Crash course is a wonderful YouTube channel for astronomy, as it does short 9-15 minute videos. This playlist has all their astronomy videos, from lunar eclipses to deep time, you’ll definitely learn something new!

Or perhaps you just want to listen. Podcasts are simply audio of people talking and explaining. Astronomy Cast has over 500 podcasts ready to download, and covers a vast amount of subjects, for example gravity mapping. Most podcasts come with a transcript, so if you are deaf of hard of hearing, you can still join in on the fun!

Other great podcasts are The Naked Scientists, The Star Spot, and The Jodcast.

Alongside my growing blog, there are other websites that are full of lessons and pages of resources. Astronomy for Beginners has lots of resources on planetary science and observational astronomy.

Books are probably one of the best resources you can find. All libraries will have some books on Astronomy, so don’t feel that you have to spend cash.

The Urban Astronomy Guide by Robin Scagell covers just about everything you need for stargazing in the city, from telescopes to targets.

Or if you want short summaries with no nasty equations, 50 Universe Ideas You Need to Know by Joanne Baker is for you! This book covers planets, dark matter, the CMB, relativity, stars, Kepler’s laws, basically a huge amount of topics.

Philip’s has a lot of books for stargazing, and they cover things like constellations, telescopes + equipment, and observing the moon. I recommend checking them out too.


If you want to be more up-to-date about current events…

If you subscribe to Universe Today, you get a weekly compilation of the most recent news in your e-mail. You don’t even need to do anything! is a newsletter that also covers recent news, but they also do printed copies in shops.

Sky and Telescope cover news, observing, equipment, you name it!

Sci-news and Astronomy Now are also great news websites, an we cannot forget the amazing!


If you want to get started with stargazing…

Although I’ve covered Telescopes, Eyepieces, and Filters, your equipment is no good if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

I swear by In the Sky. Input your town/city and the date + time you’re observing, and this website will make an interactive sky map! You can even hover over objects to see what they are.

Although the summer makes observing time shorter, I really can’t stress enough how important it is to just simply get outside and look up! Even if you don’t own any gear, just getting to know the night sky is a huge leap forward! Search up pictures of constellations and see if you can find them.

For the novices out there, have a look at One Minute Astronomy.


Hopefully all of these have given you ideas on how to get into astronomy. Leave a like if it helped, and I shall see you next week to discuss the beautiful and colourful nebulae!

Image: The Lagoon Nebula (NASA/ESA/STScI)

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