A beginner’s guide to learning about astronomy

Bismillah. Some recommendations:

1) All knowledge comes from God, so continually pray to him to teach you more. This Koranic prayer is great: rabbi zidni ‘ilma(n) – “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

2) The first and last learning resource for astronomy is the sky itself, especially the night sky. Get into the habit of watching the movement of the sun and moon, where and when they rise and set etc. (Never look directly at the sun.) Sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times are widely-available online and in good daily newspapers.

The apparent movement of stars and planets would be the next thing to learn. Make sure you know your N-E-S-W directions wherever you are. Learning about the North Star helps here! Binoculars are good for viewing the moon and fainter stars.

3) Visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG), http://www.rog.nmm.ac.uk – free entry with brilliant learning resources, planetarium shows and a good shop for books, software and telescopes.

4) There are many observatories and planetaria around the UK – do try to visit those.

5) Watch “The Sky at Night” on BBC1, it’s a monthly programme. Has a good website, too.

6) There are several national and international astronomical associations and astronomy magazines. The latter include “Astronomy Now” and “Sky and Telescope.” There are hundreds of websites.

7) Software: free, shareware or fairly cheap, and will show you on your PC screen what the night sky looks like at your location, at any time. “Starry Night” is about £10 at the ROG shop, and is excellent. Skyglobe is good shareware, available online. Others include Stellarium, but I’m not familiar with them. A good way to learn to recognise and name the planets, stars and constellations.

8. Many observatories, including ROG, run short courses with weekly sessions, teaching astronomy at beginner and more advanced levels, as do many adult-learning colleges. For children, there are GCSE and AS-level courses in astronomy.

9) My blog (https://unity1.wordpress.com) has a section on astronomy and Islamic astronomy.

10) There are many books on Islamic astronomy. Good websites include ICOP, the Astronomical Societies of Jordan, the UAE and Qatif in Saudi Arabia (qasweb.org) and various moonsighting ones.

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