Astronomy for Beginners

ncs0001Astronomy for Beginners


Start Date: contact us for details

This course is your chance to begin to understand a little more about the marvels of astronomy. You will use your computer, your own senses and the night sky to learn some of the basics about stars, the solar system and how to make observations.

You will start to find your way around the sky and identify some important stars. You will begin to picture the place of our own planet, the Earth, in the wider universe. You will be encouraged to discover for yourself how to identify the stars and the planets, and your tutor will guide you through a number of practical projects that you can try.

Who should take this course?

You could just be curious about the night sky, or perhaps you are intrigued by all the media coverage on astronomical events.

You could be a sailing enthusiast looking to understand the basics of navigation.

You could be a teacher, youth leader or community educationalist looking to improve your knowledge of astronomy to enthuse a new audience.

With the basic skills and knowledge you will get from this course, you will be able to begin your own observing programme. You will be able to make more sense of media coverage, documentaries and books on astronomy and space and be able to find answers to your own questions.

This is an ideal course to help build confidence as you return to learning after a break away from education. This course could be a valuable step on the way to returning to formal education.

You will need

All materials are provided online through the course – there is nothing additional you have to purchase. However, there are books and other resources recommended by the tutor to supplement the course.

Basic projects can be attempted with no special equipment save pencil and paper. However, the course will be more rewarding if you have a basic pair of binoculars. A good telescope is desirable but not essential.

Cameras are good for sharing observations, but not a snap-shot model. The minimum spec is that some sort of long-exposure mechanism should be available (usually a B setting). Digital cameras with this facility are great – you can send your pictures to the tutor. Film cameras get good results too, but you will need some method of scanning the prints into a computer.

Entry Requirements

There are no formal entry requirements apart from some basic arithmetic and IT skills.

How long is this course?

About 30 hours, and we suggest you set aside about 4 hours a week – but it’s up to you. You will have tutor support for 3 months. You will have access to your course for a year.

1: The Stars – what is a star? 

2: Where to find stars – identifying the stars in the sky. 

3: The Sun, Earth and Moon System – understand the importance of their relationship. 

4: The Earth and the Planets – planets under observation. 

5: Putting it into practice – use your new skills to view the night sky.

Tutor: Mark Toner

Mark’s astronomy career has spanned amateur and professional activities with Dumfries Astronomy Society (which he founded in 1992) and the University of Glasgow.

Mark is a solar physicist working on gamma-rays from solar flares. He combines his interests in astronomy and education through the New Curiosity Shop, the Spacepod ( and occasional evening classes at the Crichton College of the University of Glasgow, in Dumfries.

His degrees are BSc (Hons) Astronomy, MPhil (Astrophysics) and a PhD.