Interested in astronomy? Backyard stargazing is a simple first step. Experts advise us to learn the sky with the naked eye before investing in a pair of binoculars (and don't even think about a telescope yet!) More great advice can be found online in these marvelous sites.
Ever wish you had an experienced astronomer standing by your side to guide you to the nightly show? Now you do. Meet Deborah Byrd, Skywatching columnist. "Each day's segment is designed to guide your eye to something you can see that night, or the next morning before dawn. It might be a constellation, a star, or a planet. Or it might be a celestial event, such as an eclipse." In addition to this feature, teachers and lower-elementary kids have their own sections, accessible from the lunar menu at the top of each page.
"Confused about the cosmos? Can't tell a planet from a star? Then give us just five minutes and we'll show you what they are." Star Gazer is a syndicated PBS radio show, and this site contains twelve months of video archives in RealPlayer format. Because of the illustrations, viewing the archives is even better than listening to Jack Horkheimer on radio. Click through the December episodes to learn about the best times to see Mercury, Saturn and Venus this holiday season.
"How good an astronomer you become depends less on your instrument than on building your knowledge and skills." To get the most out of backyard stargazing, start with this collection of eight articles from Sky and Telescope magazine. Highlights include Words Ya Gotta Know (from arcsecond to zenith) and Understanding Celestial Coordinates (exactly what are declination and right ascension?) Best clicks are the two printable ten-page guides "Getting Started in Astronomy." To find a copy for your hemisphere, look for the link at the bottom of Your First Steps in Astronomy.
The Hubble Space Telescope has been our photographer-in-the-sky since 1990. Circling the Earth every ninety-seven minutes, orbiting 370 miles above our atmosphere, the Hubble sees "ten times more clearly into the cosmos than typical Earth-based equipment; it can see objects one-billionth as bright as the human eye can see." National Geographic's Star Journey is a three-pronged look at the stars: the Hubble Space Telescope, Star Attractions (the constellations), and Star Chart (sky maps superimposed with images from Hubble.)