Getting started on a new hobby can be a daunting challenge when there are so many possibilities to consider. Although the internet offers a lot of information on the subject, much of it is disorganised and occasionally contradictory. This is especially important for astronomy where equipment purchases can be quite expensive and a wrong decision leads to much regret and wasted time.
The local astronomy club is a decent source of information, and the more experienced members can often point you in the right direction. For those who are able, I would strongly encourage you to join one as sharing a hobby multiplies the enjoyment of it. Not everyone however has the time or temperament to join a club, and this book aims to guide the budding amateur astronomer in making an informed choice in equipment and software purchasing.
A list of recommended items for each section is given along with estimated street prices for mid-2014. The main criteria used in my evaluation are cost-effectiveness, quality, and user-friendliness. I avoided listing cheap department store items as they often lack the precision necessary for serious astronomy. I also did not include very high end equipment as most amateurs will be unable to fully utilise their capabilities.
The recommendations made are based on the author’s experience and not meant to be exhaustive. Alternatives will be pointed out where present and the reader is encouraged to check the internet for user reviews, especially for expensive purchases. Keep in mind that everyone has their own preferences and priorities, along with budget constraints and other circumstances. So what is an ideal setup for one person, may be totally inappropriate for another.
As astrophotography is more demanding in terms of equipment and technical skill, this will be the book’s main focus. However, much of what is written is still applicable to visual astronomy albeit with a few caveats. Solar astronomy though is not covered as much of the equipment and techniques used are fundamentally different from astronomy of the night sky.
The appendix contains a detailed glossary with a selection of commonly used technical terms. The appendix also contains write-ups on certain topics which give an insight into some of the issues which astronomers face.