‘Fundamentals of Stargazing’ – Course Home Page

Jewel_Box_clusterWelcome to Fundamentals of Stargazing! This detailed course takes you on a tour of the night sky over a full year and gives you a grounding in the basics of how to choose and use binoculars, telescopes, and accessories. It also explains the basics of the science behind the objects you see in the night sky. The course is organized by month so you can follow the constellations, planets, and sights of the deep sky throughout the year.

About this Course: Start Here

Bonus ‘Mini-Courses’ – Access the notes and recordings for the bonus ‘mini courses’ on lunar observing, urban stargazing, and basic nightscape imaging.

Below you will find the main Table of Contents for the course. Click on each link to open new browser pages with the course notes, maps, and recordings.

Month 1 – March 2016


Science of Stargazing – The Layout of the Night Sky
Tools of Stargazing – Visual Observing Basics
Solar System – A Tour of the Planet Jupiter
Sky Tours (North) – Orion and region, Taurus, Canis Major, Auriga, Eridanus
Sky Tours (South) – Orion and region, Taurus, Canis Major, Auriga, Puppis, Eridanus
Deep-Sky Tours – Star clusters and nebulae in the March sky
Month 1 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 2 – April 2016


Science of Stargazing – The Motion of the Night Sky
Tools of Stargazing – Evaluating the Night Sky; Small Angles
Solar System – The layout of the Solar System; Retrograde Motion
Sky Tours (North) – Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Hydra, Lynx
Sky Tours (South) – Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Hydra, Carina, and Vela
Deep-Sky Tours – Star clusters, nebulae, and double stars in the April sky
Month 2 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise 

Month 3 – May 2016


Science of Stargazing – Star Brightness and Star Names
Tools of Stargazing – Choosing and Using Binoculars
Solar System – A Tour of the Planet Mars
Sky Tours (North) – Ursae Major and Minor, Bootes and region
Sky Tours (South) – Bootes and region, Centaurus, Crux
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, and double stars in the May sky
Month 3 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 4 – June 2016


Science of Stargazing – Star formation, star colors, star classification
Tools of Stargazing – Telescopes for amateur astronomers
Solar System – A Tour of the Planet Saturn
Sky Tours (North) – Virgo, Corvus and Crater, Hercules, Draco
Sky Tours (South) – Virgo, Corvus and Crater, Hercules
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, and double stars in the June sky
Month 4 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 5 – July 2016


Science of Stargazing – How stars evolve
Tools of Stargazing – Telescope mounts
Solar System – “Seas” on the Moon; lunar craters
Sky Tours (North) – Lyra, Ophiuchus, Serpens, Scorpius
Sky Tours (South) – Lyra, Ophiuchus, Serpens, Scorpius
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the July sky
Month 5 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 6 – August 2016


Science of Stargazing – Distances to stars; motion of stars in the galaxy; double stars
Tools of Stargazing – Wide-field and planetary eyepieces; light-pollution filters
Solar System – Meteors, meteoroids, meteorites, meteor showers
Sky Tours (North) – Cygnus, Aquila, Scutum, Vulpecula, Sagitta, Delphinus, Sagittarius
Sky Tours (South) – Cygnus, Aquila, Scutum, Vulpecula, Sagitta, Delphinus, Sagittarius
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the August sky
Month 6 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 7 – September 2016


Science of Stargazing – Emission, reflection, and dark nebulae
Tools of Stargazing – Long-relief eyepieces; telescope resolution; dew control
Solar System – Zodiacal light and Gegenschein; Lunar mountains
Sky Tours (North) – Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Capricornus, Lacerta
Sky Tours (South) – Capricornus, Pavo, Indus, Octans
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the September sky
Month 7 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 8 – October 2016


Science of Stargazing – Variable stars
Tools of Stargazing – Binoviewers, Urban observing techniques, Bortle dark-sky scale
Solar System – Uranus and Neptune
Sky Tours (North) – Pegasus, Aquarius, Piscis Austrinus, Sculptor
Sky Tours (South) – Pegasus, Aquarius, Piscis Austrinus; Sculptor, Phoenix, Grus, and Tucana
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the October sky
Month 8 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 9 – November 2016

Science of Stargazing – Open and globular star clusters; stellar populations
Tools of Stargazing – Finder scopes, Barlow lenses, Clear-sky charts, the Caldwell list
Solar System – The ‘Lunar 100’
Sky Tours (North) – Pisces, Andromeda, Triangulum, Aries
Sky Tours (South) – Pisces, Andromeda, Triangulum, Aries
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the November sky
Month 9 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 10 – December 2016


Science of Stargazing – Galaxies and galaxy classification, structure of the Milky Way
Tools of Stargazing – Color filters, Moon filters, Comet filters, Solar filters (white light and H-alpha)
Solar System – Venus and Mercury
Sky Tours (North) – Perseus, Cetus, Camelopardalis
Sky Tours (South) – Perseus, Cetus, and the deep-southern constellations
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the December sky
Month 10 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 11 – January 2017

Science of Stargazing – The cosmic distance scale; Type Ia supernovae
Tools of Stargazing – Basics of astronomical imaging
Solar System – Observing Comets
Sky Tours (North) – Tour of the southern constellations
Sky Tours (South) – Tour of the northern constellations
Deep-Sky Tours – Star Clusters, galaxies, double stars, and nebulae in the January sky
Month 11 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise

Month 12 – February 2017


Science of Stargazing – Quasars: the farthest thing you can see
Tools of Stargazing – Introduction to deep-sky video astronomy
Solar System – Solar Observation; Solar and lunar eclipses
Sky Tours (North) – Orion revisited
Sky Tours (South) – Orion revisited
Deep-Sky Tours – Five ‘challenge objects’ to find in February
Month 12 Worksheet – Test and use your new astronomy knowledge and expertise


Course Table of Contents

Click here to download the full Table of Contents for Fundamentals of Stargazing.