Stargazing Basics: Tools, Equipment & Advice

Getting started in stargazing can be daunting — after all there’s a whole universe out there! But astronomy doesn’t have to be hard. Sky & Telescope editors (with more than 100 years of collective experience) are here to help you learn your way around the night sky.

The best way to start is with the unaided eye. Our star wheels are easy to use and in no time you’ll learn the constellations and names of the stars. And that’s only the beginning!

Get to Know Your Night Sky
Stargazing Projects for the Family
Stargazing Basics – in Spanish

During the spring and summer, the Sun shines down on the readout face, and the shadow falls on the top.

How to Make A Sundial

Sundials are amazingly simple yet effective devices. They range from sticks planted in the ground to precision-machined marvels costing thousands of dollars. The design shown here can be constructed in minutes from materials lying around your house, but it's surprisingly accurate.

John Grunsfeld

Party with the Stars

Want to gaze at the Milky Way all night or peer into the eyepiece of a 12-foot-tall telescope? Then escape the city lights and head for the nearest “star party.”

warm air from mirror

Beating the Seeing

"Seeing" — the atmospheric quivering that fuzzes out high-power views — is the bane of every telescope user. Here's how to minimize its impact.

Getting Started in Astronomy

An easy guide to exploring the universe is just a quick download away. This PDF document contains valuable tips for beginner stargazers, a detailed Moon map, and six bimonthly star charts for either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

Binocular exit pupils

Power and Aperture in Binoculars

They come in a wide range of apertures. But for astronomy, large aperture is only part of the story. High magnification is just as important when binoculars are used on a night sky that's not absolutely dark.