To help spread the word that backyard astronomy is easy and fun, our free Getting Started in Astronomy pamphlet is available as a downloadable 10-page, black-and-white Adobe PDF file suitable for printing and photocopying. It comes in two versions: one for stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere and another for those in the Southern Hemisphere. Each version contains the following:
- "Your First Steps in Astronomy," offering simple tips for starting out right and avoiding frustration.
- "Finding Your Way Among the Stars," with helpful instructions for using naked-eye star maps.
- Six bimonthly charts of the stars and constellations visible in the evening sky throughout the year. (These maps do not show the positions of the Moon and planets, which are always changing. As noted in the instructions, if you see a bright "star" near the line labeled "ECLIPTIC" that's not on the map, you've located a planet. To figure out which one it is, consult the latest issue of Sky & Telescope or Night Sky magazine — or use our Interactive Sky Chart).
- "Exploring the Moon," with a lunar map suitable for use with binoculars or the unaided eye.
Getting Started in Astronomy is © 2003 by Sky Publishing and may not be reproduced in any form, either printed or electronic, except as follows: You are granted the nonexclusive right to print, photocopy, and freely distribute any or all pages of the flyer for personal or noncommercial use as long as you preserve the Sky & Telescope logo and copyright notice on every page. Appropriate uses include distributing copies of the flyer at your club's Astronomy Day exhibit, or handing out the current evening-sky chart at a star party.
Downloading the PDFs
To download your free copy of Getting Started in Astronomy, click on either of the following links:
Northern Hemisphere version (858-kilobyte PDF) with charts suitable for skywatchers in midnorthern latitudes such as the United States, southern Canada, and Europe.
Southern Hemisphere version (963-kilobyte PDF) with charts designed for observers in midsouthern latitudes such as Australia, southern Africa, and parts of South America.
Opening the PDFs
One of two things will happen next:
1. If you don't already have Adobe Reader on your computer, or if you do but it isn't configured to launch automatically when you download a PDF file in your Web browser, a dialog box will pop up and ask you where on your computer you'd like to save the PDF file. Specify a location, and the file will be saved there. You can then open it later using Adobe Reader, available at no cost for computers running Windows, Mac OS, or Unix from Adobe's Web site.
2. If you've already installed Adobe Reader on your computer, and if it is configured to launch automatically when you download a PDF file in your Web browser, it will launch now and display the article.
In this second situation, the file is not yet saved on your computer! If you close your browser window, the file you just downloaded will close too — and you won't be able to reopen it. You must explicitly tell Adobe Reader to save the file to disk before you exit your browser.
Saving the PDFs
When Adobe Reader launches within your browser, you'll see two toolbars: the browser toolbar at the top of the browser window and the Adobe Reader toolbar just above the displayed PDF file. Look at the left side of this second toolbar. You should see a floppy-disk icon. Click this icon to save a copy of the PDF file to your computer's disk, and make sure you pay attention to which directory (folder) you put it in so you can find it again later. If you don't manually save the PDF in this way, then when you exit your browser you'll lose the file.
For more information on using Adobe PDF documents, visit Adobe's Web site for technical support.
Printing the PDFs
Like most software, Adobe Reader lets you choose which pages to print out. This is useful for Getting Started in Astronomy if, for example, you wish to print out only one of the star charts or only the Moon map.
If you plan to distribute the current bimonthly sky chart to friends, family members, or the public for use during a star party, we recommend that you manually mark and label the positions of the bright naked-eye planets. You can find them on the current month's sky chart in Sky & Telescope magazine or by using our Interactive Sky Chart.
Thanks, and clear skies!