My name is Allen. I’d say I am an advanced newbie at hunting photons. Being a practicing social misanthrope but falling short of anarchist, OAFs suit my sensibilities, sort of an aloof democracy.
To be honest I have not run across an astronomy shop that did not have integrity (well one, but they are gone now). The astro community is small … and we love to gossip (and bitch about the weather, … but of course it’s Attilla’s fault). Disreputable shops will not last long. Some are better than others of course in terms of knowledge and service, but nobody will outright stiff you. Just remember: If it is not in stock, anything you order will only take a week or two (ummm … for them to get around to ordering it, then it can be anyone’s guess after that).
Shops I have dealt with and like:
- Lire La Nature in Montreal
- KW Telescope in Kitchener
- Adirondack Astronomy in Hudson Falls NY
- Ken Dauzat in Texas. Great source for Synta clone mount accessories (i.e. EQ5/6, Sirius/Atlas, CG5, etc …)
Useful Free Astro Software
- CCDCalc: very nice image scale evaluator for astrophotography
- Aberrator software that allows you to study various optical problems with telescopes
- Exposure Calculator software that gives you a rough idea of exposures required for astrophotography (first link)
Books I can recommend
- NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe (Spiral Bound)
- ISBN-10: 155407147X
- Possibly one of the few must have books for the starting astronomer. Well written, easy to read, great for kids, and very well illustrated. It covers everything a beginner needs to know to “get out there”. Solid info on equipment to purchase, simple charts to identify the constellations and find objects of interest. Highly recommended.
- The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (Hardcover)
- ISBN-10: 155209507X
- By the same hoodlums as above. It is similar as well, but with much wider scope, with far more detail about everything. An amateur’s should have. Also very well written and is easy to read by everyone, tons of beautiful pictures. It is non-pretentious and even engaging. A great coffee table reference.
- Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer’s Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning about Over 125 Celestial Objects (Paperback)
- ISBN-10: 0471418048
- This book covers first objects you will look at when you start out in astronomy. In fact for the majority of the time in most urban environments these are the objects you will be coming back to again and again (come on, who gets bored with M13?). It helps you locate them and tells you what you will see in binos, and in small and medium telescopes. Rates the objects by WOW factor and finding difficulty. A really good clever practical guide to start your observing adventures.
- Celestial Sampler: 60 Small-Scope Tours for Starlit Nights (Paperback)
- ISBN-10: 1931559287
- Another really good guide for the beginner, directed to small telescopes and perhaps binoculars.
- Introduction To Digital Astrophotography: Imaging The Universe With A Digital Camera (Hardcover)
- ISBN-10: 0943396832
- Detailed and technical, but well written and easy to read, and very well illustrated. It has broad scope, covering everything to do with digital astrophotography. Detailed pros and cons of the equipment and software you will need and use to get into astrophotography. It goes into techniques and procedures with your scopes and software. A real leg up, and an excellent guide and reference book you will read several times and refer to often.