Home Page    Directory    Specials    My Account    My Wishlist    My Basket  

Welcome to the Starizona Telescope Basics website!  This is a comprehensive guide to understanding and using telescopes.  The site gives details on the different types of telescopes, binoculars, and accessories available for stargazing.  It includes tips and tricks to get the most out of observing with a telescope.  It also includes instruction on using and caring for optical equipment.  Most of the information is intended for beginners, but more detailed discussions are included for amateur astronomers who want to know more.  This Welcome Page gives an introduction to amateur astronomy and provides new visitors with a starting point for using the website.


Introduction to Amateur Astronomy

So, you've decided you are tired of wasting your nights sleeping and are ready to join the ranks of obsessed stargazers.  Congratulations!  Amateur astronomy is a wonderful hobby that is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.  It is an activity that allows one to pursue any level of interest, from those who just want to peek at the moon every now and then, to those who wish to conduct actual scientific studies of the universe.  Astronomy is the one science left where amateurs make major contributions and discoveries.  But it also something even the most casual skywatcher can enjoy.  Just sitting out under a dark, starry sky, looking up at meteors and satellites passing by can be very relaxing.  It also puts things in perspective.  When you realize that all those tiny points of light in the sky are other suns, trillions of miles away, and that Earth orbits one star out of 100 billion in one galaxy out of 50 billion, you realize that getting cut off in traffic this afternoon wasn't such a big deal.

Part of the popularity of amateur astronomy is that it appeals to both hemispheres of the brain.  Astronomy is both art and science.  There are the aesthetics of simply viewing beautiful celestial objects, or taking colorful photographs of them.  There is even beauty in the elegance of telescope optical and mechanical design.  But there is also a huge potential geek factor, for those of us who enjoy that aspect (and I say this as an admitted nerd).  The numbers are overwhelming, the science behind astronomical phenomena fascinating, and the technology is enough to keep any tech geek happy for a long time.  Astronomy is something that appeals to almost anyone.

One of the most wonderful aspects of amateur astronomy is sharing the sky with others.  That is a big reason behind this website.  At Starizona we love to teach people about astronomy, whether it's visual stargazing or capturing images of the heavens or any other aspect of the hobby.  And while astrophotography is a wonderful way to enjoy the sky (see our Guide to CCD Imaging), there is simply nothing like viewing objects with your own eyes.  There is no better example of this than Saturn.  Everyone has seen pictures of the ringed planet, so everyone knows what to expect when they look into an eyepiece for the first time.  But possibly the most amazing thing about Saturn is that no matter who looks, the reaction is universally the same.  We've shown Saturn to literally thousands of people during our free nightly viewing at Starizona, and everyone--regardless of age or occupation or nationality or anything else--says, "Oh Wow!"  Then, "It looks just like a picture!"  The universality of this reaction is truly astounding, and it speaks of how we all connect to astronomy on a very basic level.

Whether the universe is infinite or not is a matter of philosophical debate, but for practical purposes, it is safe to call it such.  There are a million stars in the observable universe for every grain of sand on every beach on Earth.  Think about that the next time you are wading out into the surf.  A small telescope will show you millions of stars and thousands of galaxies and nebulae.  It will show you objects billions of light-years away, as well as the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, polar ice caps on Mars, and craters, mountains, and valleys on the moon.  There are exploding stars, merging galaxies, stellar nurseries, planets with storms bigger than Earth, galaxies that pour out deadly radiation, comets that appear unexpectedly in the inner solar system, asteroids that threaten to wipe out civilization.  The universe is far too large and bizarre to ever be boring.  There are people who have been into the hobby for decades and are every bit as enthusiastic now as they were years ago.  Hopefully you will end up as enthusiastic as we are now, and that we will all still be enjoying this hobby for a long time to come.


Using the Telescope Basics Website

The Telescope Basics site is divided into three main sections:  Telescope Equipment Basics, Using a Telescope, and Observing with a Telescope.

The Telescope Equipment Basics section describes all the various hardware that exists out there.  It is a great resource for learning about the different telescope designs and which might be best for your use.  This section also discusses binoculars, eyepieces, filters, and other accessories for stargazing.  It also includes a more detailed section (for more advanced astronomers) on telescope optics and how they work.

Using a Telescope talks about some of the basics of operating and caring for a telescope.  Tips and tricks are included for setting up and observing with a telescope.  Details on balancing and polar aligning a telescope are there as well.  Possibly most useful are the pages on aligning computerized telescopes.  These pages walk you step-by-step through the procedure of aligning some of the most popular models of computerized telescopes.  Much more concise and intuitive than the technical instruction manuals included with a telescope, these pages tell you everything you need to know but nothing you don't.  These instructions will help get you up and running in no time!

The Observing with a Telescope section covers a little of everything from beginner's level to advanced.  For new amateur astronomers, there is a listing of the best objects to view with your new telescope.  Also included are tips for getting the most out of your observing--sort of a "secrets of the pros."  For more advanced amateurs who wish to know more about how everything works, there is a section on observing theory which discusses some of the physics and physiology behind observing (more geeky stuff).

Finally, there is a section with frequently asked questions that should be helpful to newcomers.  There is a glossary of terms defining over 160 of the words and phrases you are likely to encounter when reading about astronomy.  Links to the glossary are included throughout the website when terms are used.  There is also a handy calculator for determining magnification and field of view with any telescope and eyepiece combination.  Whatever you are looking to learn about astronomy, you should find it here.


May you have clear skies and many "Oh wow!" moments...

Scott Tucker

Telescope Basics Home Page


Saturn image credit: NASA, ESA and Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

Copyright ©2000-2017 Starizona
Adventures In Astronomy & Nature, All rights reserved
5757 N. Oracle Rd., Suite 103 · Tucson, Arizona 85704 · Call Us: (520) 292-5010
Map & Directions -  Return Policy