Getting Started...the backyard astronomy basics

Often considered the trifecta of novice astronomer handbooks, the three books below provide a great introduction to an overview of backyard astronomy. Each book has its particular strengths and they complement one another, but they are also enough used alone. All books are available through OC Public Libraries.

Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them
by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis, 2000.

An excellent book on how to easily find the most interesting nightime objects -nebulae, star clusters, planets, galaxies, etc. - by starhopping your way from one object to the next. Organized season-by-season and written in a very easy-reading style.


NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
by Terence Dickinson, 2006.

A classic that has been revised and updated for use through 2018. A personal favorite of many amateur astronomers of all levels. This book is spiral-bound to lie flat or folded back, making it a fantastic field guide. Covering all of the important introductory topics, it is filled with lots of practical information for the beginner.

Call # 520 DICKINSON T

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide
by Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer, 2008.

A fully comprehensive guide filled with gorgeous color photos. More than any of the guides to backyard observing, this book focuses on equipment: how to choose between different models, telescope designs, eyepieces, and accessories. The recommendations (and warnings!) are particularly helpful, and all of it written in non-technical language!

Call # 522 DICKINSON T

                                         Portable Stars                                                       Star Maps

Portable-sized books that still pack a powerful punch. Offer unique slants on the usual astronomy books. You need a good, detailed star atlas to do really serious stargazing. Check out these two classics:

An Intimate Look at the Night Sky
by Chet Raymo, 2001.

A lyrical and moving homage to the beauty, mystery, and wonder of the heavens. Stimulates the imagination and appreciation for the experience of skywatching, while blending practical information. A nice change of pace that takes you beyond simple stargazing.

Call # 523 RAYMO C

Night Sky Atlas: The Moon, Planets, Stars and Deep Sky Objects
by Robin Scagell, 2005.

Highly practical atlas for beginning star gazers using binoculars and telescopes. Each chart is accompanied by a corresponding photo of the sky for easy reference.

Call # 520 SCAGELL R

Backyard Guide to the Night Sky
by Howard Schneider, 2009.

This National Geographic guide is full of tips, facts, and interesting history and legends, making it entertaining and educational at once. Everything you need to know to begin observing!

Call # 520 SCHNEIDER H

Sky Atlas 2000.0
by Wil Tirion, 2001.

Tirion is perhaps the biggest name in star maps and the beauty of this one is second to none! Large format and spiral bound to lay flat, easy-to-read maps. Great reference tool to have on hand.

Call # 523.80223 TIRION W

O C Public Libraries carries the two major titles in magazines aimed at the amateur astonomer: Sky and Telescope and Astronomy. Both magazines will keep you abreast of current celestial events and discoveries, and they both provide monthly star charts. To find out which branches subscribe to these titles, do a power search in the catalog and enter "astronomy" for subject and select "magazine" in the pull-down menu under type.

Sky & Telescope is also available through our online databases. Go to Our Online Databases in the catalog or library website, click on Magazines and Newspapers, and then the Popular Magazines database (you will need your library card #). Click on the tab for Browse Publications. Type in the title "Sky & Telescope" and you will be taken directly to the magazine contents, where you can browse current and past editions, and search for subjects.

Searching for Books

Astronomy Activities

One of the best ways to learn about backyard astromony is to connect with people who share the same interests. Joining an amateur astronomy club is a good option. The Orange County Astronomers Club holds monthly meetings (keynote lecturers include speakers from JPL and NASA!) and star parties. In addition, they have a free beginners class in astronomy!

Griffith Observatory

Visiting a major observatory is another recommendation for any budding astronomy enthusiast. Southern California has several observatories, including the renowned Griffith Observatory in L.A. Admissions to the Observatory building and grounds is FREE!

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