"Fundamentals of Stargazing" helps stargazers in the northern AND southern hemispheres understand the night sky, choose and use telescopes and binoculars, and see the most beautiful and fascinating sights in the heavens
Author and master wit Oscar Wilde once said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
That’s a bit harsh perhaps. But he has a point. Stargazing, like music or art or poetry, is a way to ennoble your life, to rise above everyday concerns and try to make sense of your place in the universe.
If you’re reading these words, chances are you’re interested in learning more about stargazing yourself. And like so many of your fellow stargazers, you may have been struck with a burning desire to see more of the heavens… much more… during your all-too-brief time on our little blue planet.
That’s why each year Cosmic Pursuits offers to a select group of readers the detailed and comprehensive course called Fundamentals of Stargazing. It’s a detailed online course about backyard astronomy for those who wish to let ancient starlight, which has traveled thousands or millions of years across the vast space between the stars and galaxies, to enter their eye and excite their imagination.
The program is designed to…
- Provide personal guided tours that make the night sky snap to life over the course of the year through the stars, constellations, planets, and the finest deep-sky sights no matter where in the world you live
- Help you select and use binoculars, telescopes, and key accessories so you can see more and farther than you ever thought possible
- Decipher the science behind the planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies so you can grow your knowledge and strengthen your grasp of the inner workings of the universe
In short, Fundamentals of Stargazing fast-tracks you to a deep understanding of what to see in the night sky and how to see it, so you can enjoy some of the most astonishing sights in all of nature, understand a little about your place in the universe, and share your new-found expertise with your friends or your children or grandchildren.
Enrollment is Limited
Fundamentals of Stargazing is not for everyone.
If you’re happy to just look at pretty pictures of stars and galaxies on the internet, or maybe watch an occasional video on social media, and if you have no interest in understanding the night sky for yourself, then this program is not for you. Students of this course are a serious bunch, so I want to honor their commitment by ensuring they receive my full attention.
The program is offered only once per year. The night sky changes from month to month, so to make sure everyone starts at the same place in the sky, the course opens for new students for a few weeks only on February 16, 2017 and closes at midnight on Monday, March 6, 2017.
And this year, enrollment is limited to just 100 students (out of 30,000 regular subscribers to Cosmic Pursuits). Everyone who joins this program gets a direct email access so they can ask me as many questions as they wish during the course.
So I don’t want a thousand people in Fundamentals of Stargazing. I want the right people.
An “A-Z” Guide to Discovering the Night Sky
In each monthly installment of Fundamentals of Stargazing, you set sail on a guided expedition to the most prominent stars and constellations visible from the northern and southern hemispheres.
You’ll find ancient star groups known since the age of Gilgamesh — constellations used by the Egyptians and Romans to plan and reap harvests, monstrous red supergiant stars about to blow themselves to pieces as supernovae, shimmering patches of newborn stars that only recently emerged from the churning star factories of our own galaxy…
… and hundreds more sights and stories of the night sky each month through the year.
Each monthly guided tour of the night sky includes five detailed maps to bring along with you.
You also get:
- An audio version of each tour which you can load onto your smartphone or music player and take outside with you to follow along
- Detailed notes to help you see the most beautiful and easy-to-find star clusters, glowing nebulae, and incredibly distant galaxies with binoculars or a small scope
- The best tips on how to see and enjoy each object, and insight about its physical nature and importance
- A guide to the planets, Moon, and other solar system objects visible each month during the course, from 2017 through early 2018
- A monthly worksheet of selected activities to help you master the course material
From a few past participants in this course (which was called “The Art of Stargazing” in earlier years):
“The course is well designed and assembled with heaps of information for the beginner, and it has enough stimulating challenges to hook you into becoming a more adventurous and informed stargazer. The most valuable aspect was having someone available and prepared to answer any question. This has been a most worthwhile and enriching experience for me.”
– Kay Robinson
“As a new stargazer I was hesitant to sign up for this course because I was concerned that it would be beyond my capabilities or it would talk down to me. I could not have been more wrong. The lessons were well planned, clear and concise, and in no way beyond the new stargazer. In a word: excellent. A friend who is well versed in astronomy described the course as a “must have, for all levels“. An excellent value for the money and a welcome addition to any library.”
– Garry Oman
“In the past, I bought and read a few guides and reference books on astronomy but they were confusing. But when I subscribed to “The Art of Stargazing” I found a great guide with an approach that allowed me to discover step-by-step the greatness of our universe. The course did a fantastic job of supporting my interest and the non-intimidating style makes you feel like you have a dedicated expert that uses easy to understand terminology that simplifies the introduction to the science of astronomy.”
– André Rousseau
“My husband and I decided to take up astronomy when we retired a few years ago as a hobby we could enjoy together. After joining One-Minute Astronomer, we discovered “The Art of Stargazing” and never looked back. It’s easy to follow month by month; it covers all aspects of astronomy including deep sky, solar, lunar, techniques, equipment, and more. If you are thinking of doing this course, go for it. You will always have it for reference on your journey in astronomy.”
– J. Blackburn
How to Pick the Perfect Telescope
Fundamentals of Stargazing takes the guesswork out of choosing and using the key tools of the backyard astronomer. You’ll discover dozens of expert-level tips to help you supercharge your view with your own telescope. And you’ll learn to select the best equipment to fit your budget and personal situation.
- How to extract the most detail from faint objects with your own eyes
- Tricks of the trade for choosing and using binoculars for astronomy, along with specific recommendations for binoculars that will give you the best value for stargazing without breaking your budget
- The pros and cons of each type of telescope for backyard astronomy
- How to avoid buying the wrong telescope. Discover a step-by-step guide to choosing the best telescope for your personal interests, situation, and budget. This section alone could save you hundreds of dollars and months of frustration
- How to select wide-field eyepieces for big objects like emission nebulae, and high-power eyepieces for smaller sights like planetary nebulae, double stars, and planets
- Money-saving alternatives to the more expensive eyepieces on the market
- The truth about the four major types of light pollution filters, which ones are right for you, and which are a waste of money for a visual observer
- Critical (and inexpensive) accessories that will double or triple your enjoyment of stargazing with even the simplest telescope
You also get an introduction to basic astrophotography, and a crash course in the new and amazingly fascinating world of video astrophotography, a technology that effectively triples the size of your telescope!
“I received substantial return on my investment for “The Art of Stargazing” course. The content of the materials was excellent. I decided to purchase the course because it offered to answer all my questions via email, and indeed it did. I saved much more than I spent on the course because it guided me in buying decisions for telescope, mount, and accessories. I am now a much better stargazer because I have so much more knowledge and I own the equipment which is just perfect for me.”
“Just wanted to say my wife and I enjoyed and learned so much from The Art of Stargazing. The course has been a great aid in learning the stars and actually understanding what we are looking at. We have since joined our local observatory and have purchased a telescope. This is a hobby that we can enjoy together. The course is an absolute bargain, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in astronomy and our night skies.”
“I purchased “The Art of Stargazing” and I found it most helpful and educational. I have an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and I can now enjoy my nights viewing much more now that I have a plan for each night. Thank you.”
“Although learning about stargazing has been a lifelong ambition, I would never have reached this point on my own. A whole year of comprehensive guidance, that I could understand with a little perseverance, has been a joy. I have also really appreciated the additional distillation of notes for the events happening during each month, not to mention learning about mythology and history. Fascinating!”
– Lyn French
Decipher the Science of the Stars
The famous artworks of the Vatican, for example, are far more interesting if you know a little about Renaissance art. So it is with the stars. Many readers, even poets and artists who’ve never studied science before, have said that knowing more about how the stars work (and nebulae and galaxies) makes them more beautiful, not less.
That’s why Fundamentals of Stargazing gives you, in each monthly installment over the course of a year, concise explanations of the science behind the most common deep-sky sights. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever taken a science course, because Fundamentals of Stargazing walks you through:
- How most of the atoms in our everyday world… the atoms in cars, computers, trees, and humans… were created in the blast furnace of an exploding star hundreds of millions of years ago
- Why stars have different colors (and the answer to the question I’m frequently asked… why there are no green stars?)
- How astronomers measure brightness and distance of celestial objects
- How stars evolve through each stage of their life cycle, from protostar to white dwarf or supernova, and examples of stars at each stage you can easily see with your own eyes
- Types of commonly observed variable stars that you as an amateur can observe, and how some variable stars are used to help measure the unimaginably-large distance in our galaxy and beyond
- The nature and composition of dark and diffuse nebula which harbor the building blocks of brand new stars, planets, and maybe even future life forms
- The origins and nature of the two main types of star clusters you can see with your telescope
- The three main galaxy shapes you’re likely to encounter, and what the shape of a galaxy tells us about its evolution, size, history, and eventual fate
- The farthest thing you can see with a small telescope, an object nearly 1/3 of the way across the known universe
For New and Experienced Stargazers, Northern Hemisphere and South
The program benefits those who want to get out and see the stars, whether they live in the city or rural area, or whether they live in the northern or southern hemisphere. Fundamentals of Stargazing is designed for:
- New stargazers who are just starting out but keen to take a fast-track to getting into amateur astronomy
- Casual stargazers with a little experience, who know a few stars and constellations and might have some equipment, but who are ready to get more serious
- Those getting back into stargazing after many years who may have forgotten much of what they once knew about the night sky or about choosing and using telescopes and other tools
The program is intended for adults, but serious-minded kids 12 and over should be able to follow the course material without much problem. So Fundamentals of Stargazing can serve as an excellent gift if you know of a young stargazer with a restless mind who’s keen to know more.
Much of the know-how in the course — observing techniques, equipment selection, and science — remains useful no matter where you live.
But the course also includes separate sky tours and deep-sky observation for observers in the northern and southern hemispheres.
The northern tours are useful for anyone in the northern hemisphere… it doesn’t matter if you live in North America or Europe or Asia. In the evening hours, we all see more or less the same stars and planets (in fact, you learn this in an early lesson). You see slightly different stars are different latitudes, but the most prominent stars stay the same.
Same story for the south… the southern tours are applicable for observers in South America, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand… anyone at a latitude from about 25oS to 50oS.
“The course information for “The Art of Stargazing” was excellent. The monthly charts were great to have on hand when I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. As I hadn’t been looking up at sky at night much over the last few years this course got me back into stargazing and now I want to take it to the next step for me and take pictures. Now not only can I identify what I’m looking but understand what is happening out there so many light years away. ”
“For me as a total beginner this course worked very well. I have tried some books in the past but just couldn’t get orientated. However this material helped me really get to grips with the night sky. I now have a month by month reference list for the whole year of what’s up above me and also what’s what in the opposite hemisphere, too. I am glad that I have taken this valuable course.”
“This course literally opened up the sky for me. I can now look up and make sense of what I’m looking at. I spent many an evening listening and reading each month’s instalment, then headed outdoors to see it all for myself. You can go as deep into the material as you want…”
– C. Harvey
Available Anytime, Anywhere in the World
Fundamentals of Stargazing is an online course, so you don’t need to worry about receiving stacks of notes or DVD’s in the mail.
Nor do you have to waste time driving to a classroom.
Instead, each month for 12 months, you receive an e-mail with a link to a password-protected main course page on the Cosmic Pursuits website. This page gives you access to the monthly material which includes notes, maps, and audio. So if you’re online, you can access the course from any computer, tablet, or smart phone, anywhere in the world, any time you wish, and you can dip into the course whenever it is convenient for you.
There are twelve installments in total. The first 3 months are ready to go right away, and the remaining months will be added shortly. You can work through the material at your own pace, whenever you like.
Every month includes detailed notes and images in PDF format to read at your convenience. You also get an MP3 audio version of the notes to load onto an iPod to take along on stargazing sessions or to listen to while you’re out and about.
Each month also includes a set of maps in PDF format to show you the full sky as seen in the early evening hours to help you find the stars and constellations. Plus you get more detailed maps to help you find the deep-sky objects in each month’s tour with a telescope or binoculars.
All PDF and MP3 material can be downloaded to your computer so you can keep it at hand if you’re offline.
Each monthly installment also includes a “worksheet”, a list of activities you can try for yourself to help crystallize your new knowledge and apply it to your observations of the night sky.
No Science Background Required
Fundamentals of Stargazing includes all the explanation and insight you need to understand the heavens, even if you’ve never taken a science course since high school.
All the course notes are written in the same concise and easy-to-understand style you enjoy in the articles on the Cosmic Pursuits website. You learn what you need to know when you need to know it… and you don’t need to buy or search for any other background material. It’s all laid out for you to save time and effort and to get you looking at the stars as quickly as possible.
How about a telescope?
At first, you don’t need a telescope. In fact, if you don’t have binoculars or a telescope, the early sections of the course help you choose the best optical tools for your budget and personal situation. And even without a scope, you can still work through the entire course—it includes images of what many of the sights look like through a telescope— and you can still learn the stars and constellations and the science of stargazing.
Eventually, if you wish to see the deep-sky objects like star clusters and galaxies for yourself, and if you wish to see detail on the face of the Moon and major planets, you may want to buy a telescope, or perhaps borrow one from your local astronomy club. And if you’re not sure which instrument is best for you, you always have direct email access so you can ask for advice.
“Fantastic course… specific, concise, very encompassing, complete! I enjoyed it thoroughly and refer to it often to reinforce knowledge gained and missed the first time around. For a beginning stargazer, the “Sky Tour” and “Observing Tools and Techniques” were extremely helpful, revealing, and enjoyable. I look forward to expanding my knowledge in all the other areas covered in this very worthwhile course. Thanks for a job well done!”
– Bob Benscoter
“The Art of Stargazing is an awesome way to learn about the night sky. I enjoyed having the different star maps each month to know where to look in the sky and what to look for. I also liked having the deep sky object maps even though just now I cannot see most of them. I was surprised to also learn about the southern sky which I will put to good use when I travel to Australia soon. There was so much helpful information… I will be going over it for a long time. Any problems or questions I had were resolved or answered quickly which I appreciated. Job well done!”
– Karen Maddox
“A must for beginners and an extra-valuable source of information for someone like me with a couple of years experience. I’m looking forward to next year’s edition.
– Stefaan Bogaert
Gain A Lifetime of Expertise
Fundamentals of Stargazing was designed and developed by me, Dr. Brian Ventrudo, the creator and publisher of Cosmic Pursuits and its previous incarnation, One-Minute Astronomer, since its inception seven years ago.
What makes me an expert in astronomy?
I’ve been stargazer for most of my life. I learned the “fundamentals of stargazing” from scratch. I started out by myself as a kid in a small town… with no help from anyone… and at first couldn’t tell the Little Dipper from the Pleiades. It took much trial and error… and many screw-ups. I once made the mistake of nearly vaporizing my right eye when a bargain-basement solar filter cracked as I was inspecting sunspots.
I show you how to avoid beginners’ mistakes. Because I made nearly all of them.
At age 11, I completed a university course in astronomy, though I couldn’t go for drinks after final exams because I was still eight years too young to set foot in a bar!
In time, I earned a master’s degree in astrophysics and a doctorate in applied physics. I taught astronomy at the university level. And I designed optical and laser systems to peer into the workings of molecules in the atmospheres of planets and in the vast space between the stars.
All to say I know astronomy. And I know the business end of a telescope.
But I also know which things I don’t know. So when it comes to subjects where I’m not an expert, I bring in other experts to enhance the course, especially in areas such as astronomical imaging, digital processing, video astronomy, and so forth. If you have a question which I can’t answer, I’ll tap my extensive network of expert colleagues and find someone who does.
Three Bonus ‘Mini Courses’
For example, when you enroll in Fundamentals of Stargazing, you also benefit from four special ‘mini courses’ created with the help of my fellow stargazers and teachers:
- Lunar Observing for Beginners takes you on a journey through time and space to reveal the fascinating history of our Moon, from its cataclysmic beginnings more than 4 billion years ago to its present-day state of “magnificent desolation”. Developed by the late and beloved astronomy writer Tammy Plotner, this course helps you find nearly 200 distinct features on the Moon’s surface visible over the course of a month with a small telescope. In downloadable PDF format.
- The Urban Astronomer’s Survival Guide, based on an interview with renowned astronomy author and teacher Rod Mollise, reveals dozens of tips and ideas for urban and suburban stargazers to overcome the scourge of light pollution. Using a small telescope, with this small course, even city-bound observers can see hundreds of star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae, as well as the Moon and planets. Notes are in PDF, and also includes a 60-minute MP3 audio file as well as streaming audio.
- Introduction to Nightscape Imaging shows you the basics of how to use a DSLR camera to take stunning images of the night sky highlighted by foreground earthly landscapes. This mini-course, developed with the help of the well-known photographer and teacher David Kingham, shows you all the equipment and software required to get started. Comes in a 45-minute streaming video format with many examples of expert nightscape images.
- An Observer’s Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017. It will be the most watched event in astronomical history– the total solar eclipse that’s visible across the lower continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina on August 21, 2017. This 25-page guide shows you how to safely observe this solar eclipse and select a location to see it. And it gives you a little of the science behind solar eclipses so you can understand and appreciate this magnificent event.
All four mini-courses sell together for more than $100, but as a student of Fundamentals of Stargazing, you get them at no charge when you register for the course.
Program Fee (and a Price Break)
With such a detailed and state-of-the-art stargazing course, you might wonder… how much does it cost to enroll in Fundamentals of Stargazing ?
Well, a major British university charges more than $700 for a year-long introductory online astronomy course. General-interest college courses go for $400-$500 plus the cost of books. And a well-known online Australian university charges more than $1,800 for a unit of study… for just a four-month course.
So a one-time fee of $500 to $1,000 for a lifetime of expertise seems reasonable. I should charge that amount. But I won’t. I want to keep this course as accessible as possible to all serious would-be stargazers.
This year, enrollment in this comprehensive professional-grade 12-month program costs just US $197. That’s less than four dollars a week for a program that helps you build a lifelong skill and makes you a member of a small group of your fellow humans who have, for a time, gazed into the true heart of nature on its grandest scale.
To make it even easier, you can choose a payment plan of 4 monthly installments of $59. It costs a little more this way– you get a price break of 20% if you pay the one-time fee of $197 instead– but I want you to have this monthly-payment option if it works better for your situation.
With either option, you can pay with a major credit card or with your PayPal account through the secure PayPal website. You do not need a PayPal account to enjoy this course.
One you get inside Fundamentals of Stargazing, you’ll be delighted with the detail, scope, and accessibility of the course. I’ve heard that many times from previous students.
But you have to be completely convinced yourself that the program is right for you. If you’re not, I’ll gladly refund your enrollment fee without any questions or hassle.
In fact, if you’re not happy, I want you to ask for your money back.
Take 60 days to evaluate the material, ask questions, try some stargazing for yourself… and if it’s not for you, just send me an email and I’ll refund the full enrollment fee or your installments… you’ll get back every dime and you won’t be charged again.
What To Do Now
Fundamentals of Stargazing is open to new students on Thursday February 16, 2017.
It closes a few weeks later just before midnight on Monday, March 6, 2017… or sooner if it fills up. After that, the program won’t be offered again until next year… if ever.
There are limited spaces available… I want to make sure everyone who registers for this program gets the individual attention they deserve. To secure your position in Fundamentals of Stargazing.
I look forward to welcoming you on your stargazing adventure and helping you find and see the most beautiful objects in the heavens.
Brian Ventrudo, Ph.D.
Publisher, Cosmic Pursuits
P.S. Remember, there’s no risk at all for you to try Fundamentals of Stargazing. Take up to 60 days to look through the material, try a little stargazing, and ask me as many questions as you like. If you find the program is not for you, let me know and you’ll get a full and fast refund. No questions asked.