Getting Started with Astronomy

Tools and Resources

Prepared by members of The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers, Inc. (AAAA)

Sky Calendar

A very nice monthly sky calendar with an emphasis on events visible to the naked eye. A subscription is available from Sky Calendar, Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, 755 Science Road, East Lansing, MI 48824. Also visit their web site, A subscription is included with membership in the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers, Inc.


A planisphere can show the sky at any hour for any night of the year. It is a very handy and inexpensive tool for learning the stars and constellations. They are available at many bookstores, and at science and nature stores. You can download everything you need to make one at


Stellarium is a free, easy to use planetarium program you can install on your computer. It will run on a PC, Mac, and under Linux, as well as a variety of other platforms. You can download it for free at

Sky Safari and Star Walk are excellent, low cost planetarium programs for your iPhone, iPad, or other Android device.


There are two fine magazines devoted to astronomy: Sky & Telescope and Astronomy . They both contain news from the world of astronomy, a wide range of articles, information on upcoming celestial events, and helpful information for observers and telescope users.  Some area bookstores and newsstands carry them. Discounted prices are available to members of the AAAA, Inc.


The miSci Suits-Bueche planetarium has 30′ dome theater and the only GOTO Star Machine in the Northeast. Call 518-382-7890 for further information. There is also a planetarium at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, located at 25 Quackenbush Square in Albany a block below the Palace Theater. Call 518-434-0405 for information.

Albany Area Amateur Astronomers

The AAAAs meet at 7:30 PM on the third Thursday of each month at the miSci (except August, when we meet at the George Landis Arboretum). The club also holds regular public Star Parties in at the Landis Arboretum in Esperance. There are also Star Parties at a variety of sites in Rensselaer and Columbia Counties, including Grafton Lakes State Park. Our meetings and Star Parties are open to all, and guests are always welcome. Visit our web site at

Adirondack Skywatchers Astronomy Club

An informal group that meets at 7:00 pm on the first Friday of the month from October through May at the Church of the Messiah, 296 Glen Street, in Glens Falls. They hold star parties at Ridge Jenkinsville Park in Queensbury. The club has a Yahoo group, Adirondack Skywatchers, open to anyone with an interest in astronomy, and a Facebook page, Adirondack Skywatchers.


While there are many fine astronomy books, we recommend the following for excellent coverage of their respective subjects:

  • The Stars: A New Way to See Them, by H. A. Rey, to teach everyone the constellations.
  • Nightwatch, by Terence Dickinson, an excellent introduction to amateur astronomy.
  • The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, by Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer, a comprehensive guide to amateur astronomy.
  • Binocular Astronomy, by Craig Crossen & Will Tirion, exploring the night sky with your binoculars.
  • Deep Sky Wonders, by Sue French, celestial objects for your telescope; Starware, by Phil Harrington, an extensive guide to commercial telescopes.
  • Build Your Own Telescope, by Richard Berry, detailed plans for telescopes that almost anyone can build.


We strongly recommend you avoid the impulse to rush out and buy a telescope. It is very easy to buy a $250 disappointment. You should learn something about telescopes before you buy. The public Star Parties, where a variety of telescopes are set up to view the heavens, are great places to learn about telescopes and what they can show. Nightwatch and The Backyard Astronomers Guide mentioned above contain good introductions to telescopes, as does Starware. The club also has a handout with “An Introduction to Telescopes” and “Buying a Telescope.”

Public Observing: Union College Observatory, located on top of the Olin Building, houses a 20″ telescope and is open to the public on a regular basis. Visit their web site at and you will find a schedule under “Open Houses.” Hirsch Observatory in the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center on the RPI Campus houses a 16″ telescope. The web site is For more information, call 518-276-6090 or e-mail

International Dark-Sky Association

If you are concerned about the inefficient and ineffective outdoor lighting that is also spoiling our view of the night sky, consider joining the IDA (3545 N. Stewart, Tucson, AZ 85716). You can also send them e-mail at or visit their web site at