Guide to the Night Sky and Basic Astronomy

Face-on spiral galaxy Messier 101 (image credit: Terry Hancock)Interested in learning more about stargazing and the night sky? Here’s the place to start. On this page, you find basic guides and articles to help you learn the night sky and the major stars and constellations. You discover the amazing range of objects you can see in the night sky, from the Moon and planets to distant galaxies. You also get clear advice on how to choose a telescope and binoculars for backyard astronomy.  These articles are available for free, and you can return here anytime to learn more about how to enjoy the night sky.

Stargazing Basics

Basic stargazing isn’t that hard.  If you can follow a map to find your way around a new city, you can find your way around the night sky.  Follow the links on this section to learn the layout of the night sky, as well as how the sky appears to move during the year.

What You Can See in the Night Sky

In these articles, you discover a little about the amazing range of beautiful objects you can see in the night sky, from the Moon and planets to star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.  This knowledge will be a huge help with your stargazing sessions.  Because understanding the celestial objects you see in your binoculars or telescope is sometimes as much fun as seeing them.

Basic Night Sky Tours

These basic sky tours of the northern and southern hemispheres are organized more or less by season: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.  Start with your current season and go from there.  Each has a one-page circular map you can print and take with you for your stargazing sessions, as well as a few tips about how to read the maps.  Move onto the other seasons of the year as your schedule allows.

Northern Hemisphere

Southern Hemisphere

 Choosing Telescopes and Binoculars

These articles will show you the basics of choosing a beginner’s telescope and a good pair of binoculars for visual observation of the night sky.  With this know-how, you’ll be able to choose the right stargazing tools for your budget and personal situation, tools that will let you see thousands of beautiful and memorable celestial objects that few people ever get to see.