Best Astronomy Books for Beginners

Have you ever picked up a book just wanting to learn something new? I know I have done this and one of the things I wanted to learn about was astronomy. Astronomy is one of those amazing things where you can always learn and discover something new. Below is my list of the best astronomy books for beginners that will help you become a better stargazer.

50 Things To See With A Small Telescope

50 Things To See With A Small Telescope is specifically tailored towards those who do not happen to own an overly expensive, professional telescope. The author provides readers with detailed tips and tricks on how to get the most out of a basic model. Other publications can be misleading when discussing the capabilities of the equipment. However, this guide manages to explain the realistic expectations of what these smaller telescopes can find in the sky. The complexity of different telescope lenses and how they affect objects viewed is broken down in simple terms easily understood by the average person. Although highly recommended for beginners’, individuals seeking a book with more specific or advanced technical information will most likely find this guide has many shortcomings. An abundance of astrophotography is available as a referencing tool and depicts the celestial bodies observed. Useful star searching strategies accompany detailed diagrams and constellation charts. The lunar and solar eclipse calendars are a nice addition to let readers know the best times to view these astronomical phenomena. A perfect read for those in the southern or northern hemisphere.

Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

Nightwatch is ideal for space enthusiasts of all ages and levels of expertise. In the first section, Terrace starts off by simplifying and condensing the entire world into a captivating 11-step summary. This thought provoking introduction is explained in language easily understood and sets the foundation for getting beginners excited about astronomy. The physical material of the guide is of high quality, and the spiral binding makes it very practical to use out on the field. The book design lays flat, allowing the pages to be quickly flipped through. The equipment section focuses on basic stargazing apparatus and provides realistic descriptions of the viewing capabilities. The author also presents the pros and cons of accessories, which is helpful before making a purchase. Astronomical maps and charts are not only crucial for locating specific arrangements in the sky, but also providing the ideal times to observe these star clusters.  Perfect for the casual backyard stargazer to keep up to date is the list of every celestial event up to 2025 included. Nightwatch also caters to readers who prefer to read about astronomy, rather than looking for stars. There is plenty of basic astronomical information about the galaxy and universe written in an easy and straightforward style. Additional suggestions on reference books and websites are provided to help further expand on the teachings of this guide.

The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide

The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide is a must read for any self-guided novice. The author manages to touch on every possible aspect of astronomy without using overly complicated and intimidating jargon. This book arms the reader with the information necessary to purchase a telescope or binoculars that will work best for them. Equipment suggestions are up to date and not only include newer telescope models but computerized models as well. This advice is viable for both beginners and veteran backyard stargazers. There is even a section that lists the best accessories and outlines the not so useful ones. The overall tone, written conversationally is both informative and engaging, managing to keep the interest of the reader. A great addition is the Atlas of the Milky Way, which illustrates the locations and context for many celestial objects mentioned in the guide. This atlas is a helpful referencing tool for beginners that do not know what they are looking for. Unlike other books, the Backyard Astronomer’s Guide also includes an informative chapter focusing on astrophotography and digital cameras. For anyone interested in astrophotography, this section outlines the different types of equipment and specifies the kinds of photographs taken. The hundreds of vibrantly colored photos are realistic and only helps emphasize the usefulness of this guide. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn how to navigate the sky with minimal frustration.

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

The National Geographic Backyard Guide includes all the necessary components to teach the unfamiliar the basics of astronomy. The hardbound edition is durable and holds up well when brought along to the field. A comprehensive section on equipment provides an insightful breakdown on the various types of solar equipment. Howard and Patricia do a great job at outlining which constellations are most suitable to view using either binoculars or a small telescope. Constellations are also arranged in alphabetical order, making the process of looking for a particular arrangement of stars less difficult. The addition of a complete one-page summary of every constellation in existence and their significance to Greek mythology is beneficial in giving first timers a quick overview before getting started or providing more experienced stargazers a refresher. National Geographic does not fall short of incorporating detailed or images or illustrations. The authors even go as far as touching on the brief history of astronomy and providing simple explanations of basic astronomical science. An appendix consisting of planetary resources that range from associations, websites, and clubs included is a helpful resource for those wanting to expand their knowledge beyond what this guide can offer. Overall National Geographic is simple to follow, educational and not overly wordy making it an ideal guide for any beginner.

Night Sky – A Field Guide to the Constellations

Night Sky is a compact field guide ideal for anyone with interest in stargazing. A great starting point for any beginner but contains well enough researched information to benefit any seasoned veteran. The size makes it practical to carry around on the field. There is even a pocket at the back of the guide specifically designed to store a LED light. The style of formatting is worth mentioning and executed impeccably. Readers can readily find details on specific arrangements with little hassle. The organization of constellations, maps, and descriptions is done so, according to seasons and the difficulty of finding each star arrangement. This formatting makes it very simple and straightforward for beginners to gauge their stargazing ability efficiently. One can gradually increase this capacity by moving onto harder to locate constellations. The astrophotography, diagrams, and charts are all in color, adding to the ease of following and understand these supplementary additions. The back of the book also includes a compilation of general facts, history, and information about the various stars, clusters, galaxies, and nebula within the universe. Although this guide does briefly touch on the science behind the world, anyone looking for something more in depth will find the Night Sky lackluster.

Binocular Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users (Sky & Telescope Stargazing)

Binocular Highlights is a guide that is neither too simplistic nor too overly technical to use. It is ideal for anyone wanting to leave the big telescope at home. One aspect worth mentioning is the quality and overall design of the actual book itself. The spiral binding is very convenient which allows the book to remain open while conducting fieldwork. This is particularly important if one needs to reference back and forth from book to binoculars. Durability is not an issue; the thick pages, made from a weighted and glossy paper can withstand moisture and dirt. Although many falls under the false impression telescopes provide a better view of all celestial objects, this is not always true. In some instances, binoculars are more efficient when viewing particular planets and formations. The author does an excellent job at outlining those stars and planets. The star charts and diagrams are organized into seasons making navigation very simple and straightforward. The organizational feature is helpful when wanting to see certain objects in the sky during a particular time of year. Another point worth mentioning is the author’s advice on what to look for when purchasing a pair of binoculars and tips on how to use them. Each binocular feature includes a brief description, outlining the pros and cons.

The Total Skywatcher’s Manual: 275+ Skills and Tricks for Exploring Stars, Planets, and Beyond

The Total Skywatcher’s Manual is ideal for anyone wanting to have a better grasp of the night sky and understand the beauty of the solar system. The content is both informative but not overly complicated. The author presents the subject matter and does so in a way that makes each concept easy to comprehend. Any scientific or astronomical jargon is explained using layman terms, perfect for readers who aren’t well versed in the realm of astronomy or scientific terminology. Aside from the many star charts and diagrams, there are also quick facts that help build one’s knowledge regarding the universe. This includes information on planets, size, distance from the sun, gravity, the number of moons for each planet and astronomical phenomena. Chapters use an indexing system that allows the reader to follow along and quickly reference back to certain areas. Although the majority of the content focuses on locating celestial bodies in the sky, included is a brief section on the various types of accessories, telescopes, and binoculars. An interesting thing to note would be the section about the use of household items that improve viewing eclipses and stargazing. Overall, an excellent resource for amateur astronomers wanting to learn something new and a great refresher for those with more advanced astronomical knowledge.

Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky

Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky is necessary for those wanting to gain insight into the creation of the solar system, galaxy, and everything beyond. Each chapter and the subject matter stay inside those chapters and does not go bouncing all over the place. Great at minimizing the time spent finding information about specific topics. There are over 100 photos and star charts, both of which are in color. The text is concise, easily understood and does an adequate job at explaining science-based topics that make sense to the average person. The style of writing is simple and easy to read for all ages but written well enough for adults to enjoy. As well as being informative the author provides tips and tricks on what the amateur astronomer can do to gain the most out of a casual stargazing session and is incredibly helpful for those who cannot afford an expensive, high tech telescope. Dr. Jason Lisle also includes step-by-step guides on choosing the right telescope and optimal times to observe constellations and other galaxies. Not only does this guide cover the basics of stargazing using binoculars and telescopes but also provides guidance on scanning the sky with the naked eye. The material of the book is of exceptional quality. Durable plastic covers the front and back, and the pages are thick and glossy.

The One-Minute Astronomer: Tips, Tales, and Tours for the Casual Stargazer

The One-Minute Astronomer is composed of over 100 short, easy to follow articles covering every aspect of astronomy. This guide focuses on the history of astronomy, famous astronomers, equipment advice, and stargazing. These materials are comprehensive, concise and ideal for someone looking for a quick and straightforward overview of astronomy and the universe. Size-wise, the book is small and compact, making it easy to grab on the go. Unlike many other “beginner” books, the author does not assume that the reader already has previous knowledge of the subject. The language is not overly technical but incorporates a thorough explanation of scientific principals without being overwhelming. Historical backgrounds on famous astronomers is a nice addition for anyone wanting to know more about the historical figures who set the foundation for modern day astronomy. The diagrams are easy to follow and inform the reader exact locations and the most efficient times to search for a particular celestial object. Each constellation includes detailed facts and the history behind the stars. The equipment section covers both binoculars and telescopes, outlining which to buy and what to avoid. Although other books have more detailed pictures and in-depth information, anyone interested in learning more about astronomy should look for other science based resources. The One-Minute Astronomer does an adequate job at covering most basic questions new astronomers may have about astronomy and the universe.

Field Guide to the Night Sky (National Audubon Society Field Guides)

Field Guide to the Night Sky delivers informative and easy to understand astronomical information in a small, compact book. Despite the size, this guide does an exceptional job at covering every area of astronomy. Areas include the solar system, astronomical names, instruments, systems of measurement and a “how to” section on observing the sky. Filled full of vibrant astrophotography, terminology and sky maps, this guide is an excellent starting point for anyone with little previous knowledge in this scientific field. What makes this guide so beginner friendly is the way the author can magically break down the most complicated of topics without using technical language. For instance, the first section of the book focuses on getting the reader familiar with most astronomical concepts. The author describes the astrological terminology avoiding the use of jargon. The next section is composed of “color plates,” which incorporates a wide variety of information. Included is a collection of astrophotography, various maps (moon, constellations) along with a description of each map. The monthly constellation maps are easier to read in comparison to some of the more “professional” resources available on the market. Monthly sky tours are another helpful tool, which lists the best time to view stars in any given month. The last bit of the guide is a referencing section of general astronomy knowledge. This area contains detailed information about constellations, planets, and moon phases. The organized layout and easy to understand format make this guide a definite read for any amateur astronomer.

Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope – and How to Find Them.

Turn Left at Orion makes a great addition to anyone first starting out in stargazing upon acquiring his or her first telescope. The equipment section covers a wide array of accessories, ranging from larger telescopes to smaller light reflectors. Equipment advice caters to both novice and intermediate astronomers alike. Beginners most often do not realize how difficult it can be to search the sky and find anything aside from the more prominent celestial objects (moon, sun, planets). This guidebook provides all the necessary information to observe a vast spectrum of celestial objects confidently. A key feature is addition of a spiral bound spine, and large diagrams make this book much easier to refer to while in the field. An important thing to note is this guidebook covers both hemispheres but focuses on the objects found in the southern hemisphere in greater detail.


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