How To 

How to Teach Yourself Astronomy



We spend most of our lives only thinking Earth thoughts. What do I want to be when I grow up? Where will I live? What do I want to eat for breakfast? This isn’t surprising, given that we’ve created such complex and involved lives and societies on our planet. There’s enough down here to keep us preoccupied for decades. Sometimes, though, it’s important to remember to look up. Because when you do, you’ll realize that you’re a small dot on a small dot in a universe that might very well be infinitely vast. To truly understand the scale, some knowledge of astronomy is recommended. Here’s how to teach yourself about planets, stars, and galaxies:



1. Observe.
You can learn a lot by simply looking up. After all, that’s how our ancestors got started. You don’t need to know a single thing about astronomy to be able to appreciate the sight of the stars. Of course, if you want to, you can download a star map and let it act as your guide. Become familiar with the location of large stars and the planets, identify as many constellations as you can, and simply get to know the night sky.



2. Read every resource you can find.
There are so many books on astronomy, it’s almost overwhelming. From expansive texts that cover every topic from Alpha Centauri to the Zeeman Effect, to bite-sized coffee table books that will give you a brief overview, you can find hundreds if not thousands of reliable resources. Even better, you can “customize” your self-teaching program based on what you want to know more about. If stargazing interests you, find beginner stargazing books. If you are leaning towards astrophysics, get a college 101 textbook. If reading isn’t your think (and it doesn’t have to be), look for documentaries on streaming sites that cover astronomy topics. Youtube has also become an excellent resource. You can find lectures from well-known colleges and short videos by astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts.

3. Keep up with current research.
Astronomy is always evolving and changing with every passing year. Each time we make a new discovery, it opens up our eyes a little more and allows us to glimpse additional pieces of the universe we didn’t know were there. By learning about the astronomy research taking place today, you can have a better understanding of where the field is headed, not just where it has been.
 
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Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
Do you mean astronomy in the widest sense, to include related matters such as astrophysics, cosmology, planetary science . . . ?
No matter, the same applies. I have obtained copies of old OU Books which include questions and model answers. You can also check the answers are still applicable.
There is no better way to learn than checking your own written answers. Another tip I may pass on: Look at lots of books, articles, whatever sources of information are available - especially search engines. Also search around the subject. Follow the "see also . . . " suggestions. There are many ways and suggestions related to any subject, and sometimes this effort can be rewarded with much better illustrations.
I wish I had understood this when I was at school and university.

Cat :)
 
Last edited:
Nov 19, 2021
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Scrounge around, work your contacts, keep your eyes open. Make your own telescope.
I ran a metalworking shop for 16 years, allowed a guy named Carey to take away my scrap. One day he said: "I got the contract to clear out XYZ Printing. The guy left it intact, took nothing away. Wants it taken to scrap. Come by, take what you want and pay me ten cents a pound to meet my contract".
I got an Apo- Nikkor 1:9 f=480mm (2" dia) copy lens for 20 cents. I put it to a tube, used an old microscope for an eyepiece. Gives great views.
Other finds, mostly thrift shops:
6" Tasco reflector minus tripod for $20.
2" Meade refractor minus tripod $20
4" WWII vintage aerial photography achromat $30
25x100 Celestron binoculars, out of collimation, $100
Quikset 4-70150-4 TV studio quality tripod - in a back alley in a pile of trash
 
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This forum is a great potential learning program. Have a question, ask it. Ignore how dumb it may sound, we like all of them because it sharpens our teaching skills if we know the answer, and we learn new stuff if we don’t.

For initial reading, choose some astronomy history books. How we got where we are helps explain where we are.
 
May 14, 2021
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Boy, I wish we had this internet and all the access to information to go with in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We only had what the local library and what we could buy, and that was usually outdated even then. I argued with my 5th grade teacher over the number of moons of Jupiter. That science book was way outdated.
 
Boy, I wish we had this internet and all the access to information to go with in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We only had what the local library and what we could buy, and that was usually outdated even then. I argued with my 5th grade teacher over the number of moons of Jupiter. That science book was way outdated.
It was in the 60’s while working in the school library that I learned about S&T magazine. I have few older astro books, but one detailing Von Braun’s 1930’s (?) proposal of 900 launches to send three craft to Mars.
 
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