If you’re new to astronomy and not sure where to begin or how to get started, we strongly suggest picking up one of the books recommended below. There are several excellent astronomy books for beginners from which you can learn where to look, when to look, and how to look at the night sky even before buying a telescope.
Typically priced between $10 and $30, these books offer tremendous value and will be your go-to reference guides for years to come. Look for a book with sky maps and star charts to quickly get you started observing the night sky. A good astronomy book should be educational, entertaining, and make you excited to get outside under the stars.
What are the best astronomy books for beginners?
- NightWatch by Terence Dickinson
- Turn Left At Orion by Guy Consolmagno & Dan M. Davis
- The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide by Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer
- 50 Things To See With A Small Telescope by John A. Read
- Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide by Dinah L. Moché
NightWatch by Terence Dickinson
For the past 20 years NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe has been the best selling amateur astronomy book with over 600,000 copies sold. The book is now in its 4th Edition having been revised and improved for use through the year 2025. NightWatch is a great general introduction to astronomy for beginners.
Dickinson presents the a range of topics in a simple and easy to understand manner with high-quality, color photographs. Topics covered in the book include the Universe, backyard astronomy, stars, deep-sky objects, planets, the Moon and Sun, eclipses, comets, meteors and auroras, and astrophotography. The chapter on stargazing equipment provides advice on selecting binoculars and buying your first telescope.
Detailed seasonal sky maps and easy to use star charts are included for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Even if you have no immediate plans to purchase or use a telescope, the maps and charts are valuable guides for stargazing with the naked-eye or with binoculars. Tables of future solar and lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions and planet locations are also provided.
The 192-page book was designed for outdoor use as the hardcover spiral binding allows the pages to lay flat or fold in half while reading the sky maps and star charts.
About The Author
Terence Dickinson is an award-winning author of more than a dozen books on astronomy, and the founder and editor of SkyNews magazine.
Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno & Dan M. Davis
The 256-page Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope – and How to Find Them is one of the most popular books on amateur astronomy and is widely regarded as one of the best stargazing guidebooks for beginners. Even experienced backyard astronomers will find it to be an extremely useful reference guide.
The book is intended for Dobsonian telescopes with apertures of 8″ to 10″ and small reflector telescopes with apertures of 2.4″ to 4″. Turn Left At Orion includes chapters on using a telescope, understanding a telescope, the Moon, the planets, seasonal skies, and northern and southern skies. The ‘Seasonal Skies’ chapters arrange the celestial objects by the season when they’re best visible.
Large diagrams show celestial objects exactly as they appear in a telescope along with detailed descriptions of where to look and what you’ll see. Multiple diagrams are provided for each object to show views with the naked-eye, through a finderscope or binoculars, through a small refractor telescope and through a Dobsonian telescope. A number of icons also indicate the respective quality of the view you can expect to see through binoculars, small refractors or Dobsonian telescopes.
The latest edition includes larger pages and spiral binding making it easier to use outdoors alongside your telescope.
Several additional resources are provided on the book’s companion website. In particular, you can download and print off extra sky charts that weren’t included in the book for different orientations that match your particular telescope.
Note: Some readers have reported issues with the readability of the tables in the Kindle version. We recommend the hard copy version.
About The Authors
Guy Consolmagno is a research astronomer, author, professor and director of the Vatican Observatory in Vatican City. He is the 2014 winner of the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public. Dan M. Davis is a professor and chair of the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.
The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide by Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer
While The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide can be considered a sequel to Dickinson’s NightWatch, it stands on it own, expanding on the same topics in much greater detail. It is intended for beginner to intermediate backyard astronomers. The revised and expanded 3rd Edition was released in 2010. It is less of a field guide and more of a highly educational and informative book. The hundreds of color photographs and illustrations give it a coffee table book quality.
The book is 368 pages and broken up into 3 parts: Choosing Equipment for Backyard Astronomy, Observing the Celestial Panorama, and Advanced Tips and Techniques. If you’re looking for an in-depth discussion on choosing a telescope with pros and cons, considerations, and recommendations, there is no better book. The chapters on eyepieces and filters, telescope accessories, and using your new telescope are all excellent resources for beginners.
Almost 150 pages are dedicated to observing celestial objects and navigating the sky. The remaining chapters are filled with quality content on digital astrophotography, computerized telescopes, and astronomy software. A 20-page Milky Way Atlas is included at the end of the book.
The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide should be able to answer nearly any question a beginner would have on how to get started in astronomy.
Note: Some recent updates to the book are available on the book’s website.
About The Authors
Terence Dickinson is an award-winning author of more than a dozen books on astronomy, and the founder and editor of SkyNews magazine. Alan Dyer is an author of several books on astronomy, an associate editor of SkyNews magazine and a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope magazine.
50 Things To See With A Small Telescope by John A. Read
50 Things To See With A Small Telescope was first published in 2013 and has quickly become quite popular. It has been revised in 2017 for use through the year 2030. The book can typically be purchased for less than $10.
This version covers celestial objects visible in the Northern Hemisphere although a Southern Hemisphere Edition is now available. It is a simple and straight forward book, perfect for young astronomers. The author has regularly volunteered teaching kids about astronomy and that is reflected in the book.
Star maps are provided for each object as well as diagrams showing objects as they would appear through a small telescope. The objects include the typical stars, Moon, Sun, planets, galaxies, and nebulae but also comets, satellites and the International Space Station. Updated eclipse charts are also provided.
Some readers may complain that there isn’t enough detail as the book is only 72 pages long. However, the author’s intent is to help readers who have previously been frustrated and discouraged to get more enjoyment out of their small telescope.
A sequel book called 50 Targets for the Mid-Sized Telescope is also available and is intended for telescopes with apertures between 4″ and 8″. The celestial objects featured in the the follow-up book do not overlap with those found in 50 Things To See With A Small Telescope.
About The Author
John A Read studies Astrophysics at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is an author of several books on amateur astronomy as well as a science-fiction writer.
Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide by Dinah L. Moché
If you’re looking for more of a textbook style approach to teach you the basic concepts on astronomy, then Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide is the book for you. The book claims that the topics are similar to those of a college level course just with less math. It is not recommended for children.
Each chapter has clear list of objectives summarizing the information included and what you can expect to learn. There are questions throughout each section as well as longer self-tests at the end of each chapter to test your understanding of the material. Detailed answers to the self-test questions are provided.
Seasonal sky maps and a moon map are also included.
Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide is more of a technical book on astronomy than a practical guide to telescopes and locating celestial objects.
About The Author
Dinah L. Moche is an award-winning author of over 24 books and a professor of Physics & Astronomy at City University of New York. Her books have sold over 10 million copies in seven different languages.