My one line answer - "Nothing except interest" !!! :) The only thing that will get you started, keep going, learning more, enjoying or completely stopping is your interest and love for this science. I often hear time but that I believe is a function of interest. I will share with you what I think about getting started and what helped me when I started. I have often heard this question camouflaged as "Which telescope should I buy ?" and its often due to the mental picture of a telescope with a guy peeping into it. In all fairness, you can get started with naked eyes and any freely available star maps (check out the Reference & Resources section for star map links). I went this way purely due to availability / resources and it made logical sense to me, I could gradually move forward , explore more and also see if this hobby sticks to me or not. Sure enough, its stuck to me so far and I cant get enough of it. I'd say there are different ways / levels (of your ability and interest) and you don't always have to follow this sequence. Before I start I must warn you to not observe sun without guidance - Looking at the sun through an unfiltered binocular or telescope will result into blindness. - Naked Eye Astronomy : If you have decent vision to be able locate some stars when you look up, you are set and qualified to get started :). Get star maps either online or any of the printed ones. This is the best way to get to know the sky and get a general sense of constellations - directional aspects. My fav part was star hopping , when you find one or a few stars and then locate the next one and keep moving around until you find what you wanted to find. Thankfully ,we humans, have super wide field of view so hopping from one star / constellation is pretty easy. The best part is that you don't need anything else and you are ready all the time. The only limitation, if at all, is clear sky. Dont look at white lights, preserve your dark adaptation by using red lights and after a few minutes of looking up you will start finding more stars.
- Binocular Astronomy : After figuring out the sky with naked eyes and having a general sense of direction, you are ready for some magnification now. Binoculars reduce the stretch of sky that you could see with naked eyes but now you can see bigger / larger view of the smaller piece of sky ( otherwise called as FOV or 'Field of view' ). The FOV would depend upon the binocular you choose. I have 3 - 8x40, 10x50 (my fav) & 12x70 and as you increase magnification (8x,10x,12x) the FOV would reduce. Binoculars are great to star hop and you can start seeing some of the other objects - nebula (they would be b/w, don't expect science book type pics), galaxies, star clusters etc. Pick a pair of bino's that are light weight since you would be holding them upright for long duration.The same star charts work well - I use Sky & Telescope's- Pocket Sky Atlas. Its a $20 inexpensive ,great detail, no-hassle star map. Binocular are fun to carry around, easy to use in day and night and show quite a few things in night sky. Dont be in a hurry to pick the most expensive one or the cheapest one, go for good optics and light weight. Brands to look out for are Meade, Celestron, Bushnell, Olympus and many more.
- Telescope Astronomy : Telescopes have serious magnification power and as you know that with increasing magnification, the FOV and brightness will reduce . Here as well optics matter (APOs better than Achromats, ED better than normal...don't worry if this doesn't make sense right now :) ) more than size. You can start with a basic entry level scope (anything from 40 mm - 80 mm) and then work your way upwards. There is no limit to what you could upgrade to, no matter what you buy there are always better scopes :). There are multiple types of scopes available (Reflector / Newt, Refractor, Mak, SCT etc), I won't tell you to go and buy a specific type however I always stick to Refractors (low maintenance). As you enter the world of scopes, you will also have to get a mount.( whats a mount now). I'll explain the 3 main parts of a telescope setup : 1. Long tube to peep in is the OTA - Optical Tube Assembly, 2. Mount head - that moves the scope to compensate earth's rotation. I would strongly suggest to choose between EQ (Equatorial) or Dobsonian. 3. Tripod - the 3 legged metal work that holds the mount head and the tripod. Often the mount head and tripod are together. Common brands are - Celestron, Orion, William Optics, Vixen, Meade, Takahashi etc...there are many many more. Search online and choose the right mix of - optics, weight, ease of setup / carry. The best scope is the one that you use most often!
Once you get started you can always upgrade your gear if you feel your current gear isn't giving you what you want. Then there are other fun things like - tracking mounts, camera only mounts, CCDs, reticle, eyepieces, filters,finder scopes, guide scopes, flattener, reducers etc , you will figure that out as once you get started. Magazines like - Sky & Telescope and Astronomy , give the latest news happening in astro world. I have tried to add more links on the Resources section, feel free to check it out and let me know if you have other urls to share.
I hope this helps you in getting started , if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me. Take care & Clear Skies !
This lunar eclipse was full of twist due to the cloud laden Manila skies. These images are taken from the small windows in the cloud cover , amidst huge controversy or Total and Partial. These shots were taken from a fellow ALPer's roofdeck in Binondo area, Manila.
Hi ! I'm Shubh ! I'm glad you here ! I'm an avid astro fan and recently got interested in photography. Naturally both these hobbies merge to Astrophotography. I would love to know what you think of this page.