Beginners’ Sessions

Beginners’ Meetings List

Brief aims

Beginners Programme

The Beginners' sessions run once a month from September to June of the following year. Each session will start at 19:30 with the exception of the June meetings which start at 19:00. The normal pattern of the society meetings is that the Main meeting takes place on the first Wednesday of each month and the Beginners’ meeting takes place on the Friday of the following week. Full details of the Beginners’ programme with dates can be found near the top of this webpage. Typically, each session will have two topics plus a look at what is visible in the night sky. However, on the occasions when we get a clear sky, at least part of the programme will be abandoned in favour of getting outside and observing. This may cause the programme going forward to be altered. 

The new programme is designed to run over two years and will be appropriate for new beginners or those who have some previous knowledge. You can join the course at any time by using the contact email below. Further down this page, you will find a considerable number of resources, many generated within the society. It is also a good idea to have some means of keeping notes at the meetings. That could be pen and paper or an electronic device, providing the screen brightness is turned down and the sound is off so as not to disturb other attendees.

If you own binoculars and it looks like a clear night, then bring them along. Make sure you also bring warm clothing as standing outside around telescopes can get very chilly in the winter. A hot drink and a biscuit will be available for a small fee.

Please note that children under 18 are very welcome and we do have several attending meetings, but they must be accompanied by an adult.

Beginners’ sessions contact

For further information and to join the course please contact beginners' organiser, John –

Resources and sources of help

Links to external sites are provided for additional information. We do not endorse such websites; we are not responsible for, and cannot be held liable for their content.

Society for Popular Astronomy. If you are interested in joining a national society the SPA is a good starting point.

Optical Equipment

You can do quite a lot of stargazing just using your eyes. However, binoculars will reveal huge numbers of stars you could not see with the naked eye. They will enable you to see the colours of stars, split double stars, probably see some of the major moons of Jupiter and get a much better look at the Moon. It is very important to try binoculars before you buy them. 10 x 50 binoculars are often recommended for astronomy, but any binoculars will make a big difference to what you can see. If you have a pair bought for bird watching, they will do just fine. A tripod for the binoculars can greatly improve their usefulness. Any questions - talk to us. If you want to buy a telescope, talk to society members before you buy. They can help you narrow down what you’re looking for, even if they don’t always agree with each other!


There are many, many astronomy books for beginners. Choosing a suitable book depends very much on your personal preferences – don’t take our word for it!

If you just want to get more familiar with the night sky, then StarFinder for Beginners, published by DK, is a new and beautifully illustrated book well worth looking at. Much more detailed is The Practical Astronomer published by DK.

There are a number of small books published annually which show you month by month what is in the night sky and any special events to look out for. For 2023, these include: 2023 Guide to the Night Sky published by Collins and 2023 Stargazing published by Philips.

Another book worth considering is Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis (Cambridge University Press) – 24 Jan 2019 edition. Our link is to Amazon but the book is available from many other booksellers. The 2019 spiral edition is very convenient. This book is quite expensive and is one to grow into if you have a telescope.

If you are interested in books for younger children, the best thing is probably to Google ‘astronomy for kids’. Some websites offer you the opportunity to view sample pages and read other peoples reviews and see what would be appropriate for your daughter or son and, of course, they can look for themselves!


The Sky at Night’ magazine (linked to the well-known TV programmes) and ‘Astronomy Now’ are two monthly astronomy magazines which include substantial sections on what is in the sky in the coming month as well as a range of articles and news items. You might not need one of the above year books if you were regularly taking one of these magazines. A third possibility is the ‘All About Space’ magazine. This puts more emphasis on the space programme and some people find it more accessible. Try them out and see which is right for you!


If you want to look out for the International Space Station and other satellites, you could try these two websites: (make sure you put in your latitude and longitude), (has the advantage that it will send you emails alerting you that the ISS is going to be visible).

If you are interested in what is currently happening in the space programme, there is up-to-date information at and as well as the websites for ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA.

Stellarium – free planetarium software. As you enter the Stellarium website, it will prompt you to give it permission to use your location. You should allow it to. In the lower right hand corner of the screen, you will find the time and date. The time will likely be wrong. Click on the date and then click on the clock icon (return to real time). The time will immediately change to your current time.

Handouts and related links

These are all resources produced for, or used in, the Beginners’ sessions.

CDAS Glossary.

CDAS Finding your way around the Moon.

CDAS Observing the Moon with binoculars.

Pete Lawrence's Moon guides (Section 1: The lunar seas).

CDAS Identifying craters on the Moon.

CDAS Understanding the order in which events have occurred on the Moon.

CDAS Session 5 – Guide to the Mare Imbrium.

CDAS Moon sessions 6 & 7 – Interesting telescope targets.

Find the Apollo landing sites.

Finding your way around the sky (pdf of old no longer live website).

CDAS Orion handout.

CDAS Summer Triangle handout.

CDAS Our Solar System (Keynote).

CDAS Our Solar System (PowerPoint).

Life cycle of stars.