Curious about the Universe, but don’t know where to start?

This guide will introduce you to every aspect of astronomy—the study of our wonderful cosmos—in 10 steps! Each step has a list of things you can do to conquer that topic and a badge you can earn to show you've reached that level of awesomeness! To collect the badge simply prove your knowledge on the topic at hand by completing the assignment, which you can find below the badge. When you have collected all 10 badges, you get the superbadge, declaring you the awesome amateur astronomer that you’ll be! Then you can also join the ranks of other awesome people on the Wall of Awesome Amateur Astronomers!

Scroll down to get started!

1. Observe

The night sky awaits you! You can get to know the night sky by:

  • visiting your local planetarium. There you can view a show about the night sky, which will give you a nice overview of what’s up there.
  • going outside and looking up! Use only your eyes for now, though.
  • getting a star map (or a planisphere) to find out where stuff is.
  • witnessing an astronomical event! Maybe there’s a planet wandering by, a lunar eclipse, a meteor shower or something else happening. You can also look for the International Space Station!

Planetariums: Stellarium (free software), Planetarium
Apps for iPhone: Star Walk, Pocket Universe, Sky Map (free), Astronomy Events with Push, Stellarium Mobile Sky Map, Solar Walk, Cosmographia
Apps for Android: Mobile Observatory, Google Sky Map (free), Stellarium Mobile Sky Map, Star Chart, Zenith Mobile Telescope
Misc: Finding other constellations using the Big Dipper, The Scale of the Universe,
100,000 Stars

Get this badge!
Find five constellations
in the night sky!

2. Research

What is astronomy? And what are all the things you see in the night sky? Find out by:

  • going to the library. There you can find books and magazines about astronomy. Or you can check out the latest discoveries being made about the Universe in Space Scoop! Learn about alien planets, asteroids, stars, galaxies, spaceships, black holes and loads more ...
  • looking for online educational resources. Perhaps you find something cool off this list?
  • watching videos and looking at images online (they will take your breath away!).
  • listening to podcasts or watching science TV shows. In between your research you can watch an astronomy-related movie or find some science fiction books that take place in space!
  • visiting a science museum that has an astronomy section.
  • asking an astronomer anything you want to know! They know all about this stuff!

Apps for iPhone: NASA Space Images (free), NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (free), Wolfram Astronomy Course Assistant
Apps for Android: NASA Space Images (free), NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (free)
Podcasts: Cosmoquest’s 365 Days of Astronomy, NASA Ask an Astronomer (not active)
Videos: Science Kids, Science Daily, Cool Cosmos: Ask an Astronomer videos
Documentaries: Cosmos (a remake is coming in 2014!), Wonders of the Solar System, Wonders of the Universe, Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking, How the Universe Works, The Universe, The Astronomers, Journey to the End of the Universe, Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery, the Planets, Through the Wormhole, Space, the Elegant Universe

Get this badge!
Read a book, magazine or
web page about astronomy!

3. Build

Amateur astronomers love building their own equipment, ranging from the simple to the complicated. There are lots of things you can build. You could make:

  • a sundial to tell time using the Sun.
  • an astrolabe to measure the position of objects in the sky.
  • a solar viewer so you can safely observe the Sun.
  • a spectroscope to look at the colour spectrum of the light around you. Astronomers use this to determine what different stars are made of!
  • a telescope! Then you can get up-close with your favourite celestial objects!

Get this badge!
Build a piece of
astronomy equipment!

4. Measure

The heavens are filled with all sorts of objects and to learn about them astronomers have to take measurements, such as their size, how distant they are, how old they are and how many of them are around. You can (don't be intimidated, these aren't as hard as they sound!):

  • use the parallax method to measure a distance of something, like the distance between you and a tree, to understand how astronomers measure the distance of stars.
  • count the numbers of stars you can see in your night sky by counting the stars in a small area and assuming they are distributed evenly.
  • make an angular measurement of some of the objects you see in the sky: their size or the distance between them.
  • measure the period of a variable star.

Distance: Astronomical units, Measuring distances in astronomy, Cosmic distance ladder
Misc: Motion of the stars (calculate angles, rate of rotation, motion, size of Earth), How Do They Know That …

Get this badge!
Make an astronomical measurement!

5. Share

Want to share your newfound interest in astronomy? You can:

  • join an astronomy club or association.
  • find an online discussion forum about astronomy. There you can discuss what you see when you are out observing the night sky or ask for guidance.
  • find out if there’s a star party coming up! That’s when amateur astronomers meet and look at the sky together. You can even go to a Messier Marathon!
  • try inspiring a friend or two to take part in your astronomical endeavour!
  • share the link to this website so that others also can get excited about astronomy!

Online forums: Cloudy Nights, Astromart, Cosmoquest, Astronomy

Get this badge!
Share your love for astronomy with someone!

6. Observe II

Now that you know the night sky a lot better, it’s time to get some equipment and have a closer look! You can:

  • start off with a pair of binoculars. You will see plenty of stars that you couldn't see before! Even without a telescope, you'll already be able to see some pretty interesting things, such as the planets of our Solar System, the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy. Plus, binoculars are much easier to handle and bring with you than a telescope.
  • visit the local observatory, if there is one. They might be open to the general public on some nights, allowing you to see some amazing stuff!
  • check if your local astronomy association is having a star party, hopefully they'll let you look through their telescopes.

Get this badge!
Find these objects with your binoculars: a nebula, a star cluster and a galaxy!

7. Observe III

After scanning your way across the sky with your binoculars, it might be time to bring out a telescope! Be sure to do your research on what type of telescope to buy. You can ask your friends from the amateur astronomers association or on online forums, they will have plenty of advice! Or you can build your own!

Even though you're now looking through at the sky through telescope, which takes you much closer to what's out there, don’t expect objects to look like they do in famous images. Most of these were taken using high-tech telescopes that cost billions, and often show colours that you can't even see with the human eye, like X-rays and infra-red.

App for iPhone: AstroView (let’s you know what you get from any given telescope-eyepiece combination), Astro Planner

Get this badge!
Become the owner
of a telescope!

8. Record

When you are observing the night sky it’s nice to record what you are seeing, especially if you see something unusual! You can:

  • take your very own astrophoto! Use your regular camera to take photos of the night sky in general or something prominent like the Moon or a comet. If you want to get really serious, you can get some extra equipment (such as a CCD camera) so that you can use your telescope to take some up-close pictures of your favourite planet or galaxy!
  • make a detailed drawing of what you see through your binoculars or your telescope. That’s what Galileo did!
  • make field notes in an journal. Gather photos and drawings (and badges!) along with your notes.

Inspiration: The best amateur astronomy photographs of the past four years, Stunning Amateur Images

Get this badge!
Start keeping an
astronomy journal!

9. Analyse

Do you want to get your hands on some real science? Then you can:

  • go online to participate in a citizen science project! In these projects you will be processing data or images collected by various professional telescopes. There are many subjects to choose from!

Citizen science projects:

  • Zoouniverse: has many projects. You can look for planets around other stars, spot explosion on the Sun, look for bubbles and clouds in our galaxy, classify galaxies and so on.
  • Cosmoquest: map craters on the Moon, Mercury and on asteroids.
  • Citizen Sky: Observe a variable star and note its brightness compared to other stars.
  • SETI@Home: search for extraterrestrial life.
  • Stardust@Home: look for tracks of interstellar dust particles.
  • Globe At Night & Great World Wide Star Count: measure light pollution.

Get this badge!
Participate in a
citizen science project!

10. Publish

Astronomers love sharing their findings. Why don’t you:

  • create a blog to keep track of your awesome astronomy activities! Gather your recordings of what you have observed and experienced. You can include drawings, photos, screenshots, links, badges, etc.
  • write an article for your school newspaper or astronomy club.
  • give a talk at your school.
  • post your photos and thoughts on online forums.
  • tweet about your own observations or research, or share cool facts about the Universe.

Create a blog (free): Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, Weebly

Get this badge!
Publish your observations, experiences or love for astronomy somewhere!

You have finished all the steps!
Now you really are an Awesome Amateur Astronomer!
You can show off your awesomeness with this superbadge!

Send us a photo of yourself with your badge at
and we’ll add it to the Wall of Awesome Amateur Astronomers!

Now that you're getting a hang of this:
How about becoming a real astronomer?
How to become an astronomer
Frequently asked questions about a career in astronomy

UNAWE      European Union