Club member Denis Williamson gives a well received lecture on Astronomy 101

Getting started in astronomy

A guide to free and paid resources on telescope selection, astronomy software, books, magazines and tutorials for beginning and intermediate astronomers.

Planetarium Software



  • Stellarium – Free; an outstanding planetarium program for simulating the sky, it can also control a computerized telescope.
  • Cartes du Ciel – Free
  • Celestia – Free; unlike most programs, Celestia allows you to leave Earth and visit other planets, (even imaginary ones).


Smartphones & Tablets

  • Sky Safari – Depends on version ($2.99 – $39.99); available for both iPhone and Android devices.  Can control a computerized telescope.
  • Celestron Sky Portal – Free; available for Apple and Android.  Based on Sky Safari, but with fewer features.  Designed to control Celestron computerized telescopes, but works fine without a telescope.



Books & Magazines

These are some of our favorites – there are hundreds more.  For complete beginners, we suggest The Stars – A New Way to See Them or 365 Starry Nights.  Then look into Celestial Sampler, Deep Sky Wonders, or Turn Left at Orion.  These three are organized by season so you can find out what’s up and worth seeing.  To stay current with discoveries, space missions, and how-to articles, consider subscribing to one of the magazines described below.

  • Nightwatch – A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe, by Terence Dickinson ($25)  This and other books are available from, Amazon and other sources.
  • Celestial Sampler, by Sue French – both this and Deep Sky Wonders are devoted to particularly interesting and/or beautiful objects.
  • Deep Sky Wonders, by Sue French
  • The Backyard Astronomers’ Guide, by Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer – covers all aspects of amateur astronomy; more detailed than Nightwatch.
  • The Stars – A New Way to See Them, by H. A. Rey – a wonderful introduction to naked-eye astronomy, by, yes, the author of the Curious George books.  Very lucid explanation of how the sky works.
  • 365 Starry Nights, by Chet Raymo.  Highly regarded by a couple of club members as well as Amazon reviewers.  Organized by date: January – December.
  • Turn Left at OrionHundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope, by Guy Consolmagno & Dan Davis ($24) – covers some of the same ground as Sue French’s books; well organized and easy to use.
  • Astronomy and Sky & Telescope  – these two glossy magazines provide current information and astronomy news.

Articles & Podcasts

Litchfield Hills Amateur Astronomy Club