Practical Astronomy

Cartoon of telescope

An introduction to Practical Astronomy. You’ll learn how to use resources to navigate the cosmos; how to recognise constellations and star-hop to help you find interesting things in the night sky. You’ll be taught how to observe with binoculars and how to set up a variety of telescopes, and how best to look at the Moon and planets.




Melanie Davies FRAS




8th June 2021


13th July 2021


6.30 – 8.30pm




Live Online


6 Weeks



Once enrolment is complete, full instructions for joining the course will be sent to you by your tutor.

Course Overview

Do you have a telescope at home gathering dust because you can’t get it to work properly? Have you been given a telescope and have no idea what to do with it? Or would you like to take up astronomy as a hobby and don’t know where to start? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this course is perfect for you.

In this 6-week online course we’ll discuss different types of telescope and binoculars and their pros and cons. You’ll learn how to set up a refractor, reflector and a Macsatov Cassegrain (a mixture of the two); how to balance an optical tube on an equatorial mount; and how to align a finder scope. You’ll learn how to polar align a manual telescope and how best to get a fix with a computerised Go-To mount. But to get the most out of using a telescope, we first need to know what to look for! So you will also get lots of practise using star maps, monthly stargazing guides and digital resources. This is an online course, so you won’t be doing any actual observing, but you’ll gain the tools and knowledge to start observing at home.

No previous knowledge of astronomy is required.

How will I be taught?

You’ll join the virtual classroom from home and will interact with your tutor and fellow students in real time. All learning styles are catered for: visual (seeing), auditory (listening) and kinaesthetic (doing). Which means… plenty of live presentations, including images and video; lecture-style talks with Q&As; plus downloadable hand-outs, quizzes and hands-on activities. Once you’re fully enrolled, you’ll be given access to the Online Course Page on Google Classroom, where you can chat to your tutor, download resources, and catch up on presentations if you miss any.

What will I need?

• Computer with built-in camera and microphone
• Zoom download (
• Strong internet connection
• iPad (or equivalent)
• Stellarium app for mobile (around £2.70 from App Store/Google Play)
• A copy of Sky At Night or Astronomy Now magazine
• Philip’s Planisphere (if you have one)
• A4 notepad and pen
• Folder or ring binder for printable downloads

After studying this course you should be able to:

• Use star charts to recognise and identify shapes made by the stars (asterisms)
• Use monthly stargazing guides and a Moon calendar to determine the phase of the Moon and locate planets on any night of the year
• Download and use astronomy apps for mobile devices and planetarium software for your home computer
• Review different types of telescope and identify which might be best for you
• Operate a home telescope with confidence and start truly enjoying your hobby!

What if I’m uncomfortable with online learning?

Some of you would rather be in a classroom. But until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, this won’t be possible. We’re hoping that during 2021, things will be back to something a little more like normal. If this is the case, we’ll run some of our astronomy courses face-to-face in a classroom in Hastings.

How does online learning work?

To access the virtual classroom online, you’ll need a computer equipped with a camera and microphone. If your computer doesn’t have these, Amazon sell a range of headsets that you can plug in. Then you’ll need to download the Zoom app (it’s free, secure, and easy to use).
Shortly before the start date, your tutor will email an invitation link plus a meeting code and password; clicking the link will take you to the Zoom website, where you can opt to open the application. Click to open Zoom and pop in the code and password, then wait just a few moments to be let into the virtual classroom. You’ll need the code to access the class each week. You can watch a tutorial on how to join a Zoom meeting here:

If you have any questions, or need more info, get in touch…

“It’s amazing… I’m actually looking forward to using my telescope and am more confident about what I’m looking at!”

Student, Practical Astronomy

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