Getting started with your new telescope might seem as easy as taking it outside and pointing it at the sky, and in a way it is! But if you want to be able to make best use of your telescope and find the most interesting things in the sky then you'll need some help.
If you can't wait to use your new telescope then one of the easiest things to look at is the moon. It's visible for about 3/4 of every month and is an easy way of getting used to your new telescope as well as seeing some amazing sights. The moon can seem very bright, so it's best to view it when it's not full. The shadows caused where the sunlight meets the darkness on the moon (called the terminator) also make it easier to see the details on the surface.
This one might seem obvious, but have a look at the night sky. You will probably see at least a few stars that look more interesting than others, either because they are a different colour or because they are in a group. Until you have a star map or something similar (see our resources section below) it's hard to find things to look at by name, but you should manage to find a few interesting things by luck.
Luck will only last so long however. Get yourself a star map, either from a book, a website or one of the many apps you can get for your phone. We list our favourite ones below. Without it you'll find it hard to find things, even if you have an idea of what you want to look at.
Some of the books and apps we list below also contain lists of targets for you to view. We'll go through so of the objects below, but we will only cover a few so it's well worth having a list. There are also some great websites that list visible objects for each month of the year.
Check out our guide on what you can see with your new telescope to find out more.
This is a great book for learning the night sky, especially if you have a manual telescope mount. It can be difficult to find things in the night sky at first as star maps take some getting used to. This book has chapters for each period in the year and will guide you from object to object, starting with the brighter and more obvious ones.
By following along you'll soon start to pick up the main constellations and their relationships to each other. This will make it a lot easier to locate what you are looking for. It also gives you ideas of what to look for as otherwise it can be hard to know what is visible in the sky each night.
Here at Beginners Telescope we're big fines of all the stargazing apps you can get for your laptop and phone, but sometimes a simple star map is easier to use to get your bearings. This one is pocket sized, but still shows enough stars to be useful without getting too confusing. It's spiral bound so you can hold it easily when observing.
Here are some of our favourite websites. Most of them have loads of great, free resources to help you get started.
SkyMaps publish a sky map every month of the year which shows you how the sky should look above you. These are the right size to print out or you can simply use them on your computer to plan your observation session. They also have hints on some interesting objects or events that you might want to view throughout the month. If you've just got a new telescope and haven't got access to any star maps yet they are a brilliant first step. Make sure you choose the map for your area of the earth!
Wikipedia list of Messier Objects. The Messier objects are a list of astronomical objects published by an 18th century French astronomer, Charles Messier. The list contains many of the most famous astronomical objects, most of which will be visible through a beginners telescope.
Clear Outside is a really useful website that gives an astronomical weather forecast for your location so you can plan your observation sessions a few hours or days ahead.
Stargazers Lounge is a great online forum for all types of astronomy, stargazing and astrophotography. It's very friendly and a lot of great information and advice can be found there.
Stellarium is a free and open source planetarium/star map for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. This is an easy to use and good looking app that will let you see how the sky will appear from wherever on Earth you are and at any time. Great for working out where to look for certain objects in advance and planning how to find them.
SkyChart/Cartes du Ciel is another open source star map application. Also available for Windows, Mac and Linux this is arguably more powerful than Stellarium but less easy to get started with. Since they are both free, give them both a try and pick your favourite.