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
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
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
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...
Telescope Basics Home
Saturn image credit: NASA, ESA and
Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona)