Astronomy 101

The purpose of the TAAS Astronomy 101 program is to provide a monthly presentation on the basic concepts that new amateur astronomers should master to achieve their goals. Astronomy 101 assumes that those attending the presentations are also participating in or have completed the Fab 50 program.

The Fab 50 program teaches participants how to find naked-eye objects, and how to use a planisphere, and introduces binoculars and telescopes.

An Astronomy 101 presentation should assume that the audience is unfamiliar with the subject and should provide basic information about the subject and how it is applied by amateur astronomers for observing and imaging. The use of handouts and demonstration of the concepts with visual aids is highly encouraged.

TAAS enjoys a constant stream of new members which necessitates a periodic repetition of the most important concepts. An appropriate timeframe given the number of topics is about two years. In general, it is more important to introduce a subject and provide a good foundation for further study than to cover all the details. Astronomy 101 presentations should be planned to take about 40 minutes to allow 10 minutes for questions.

Some introductory papers and handouts are located at TAAS Paper Handouts

Astronomy 101 Schedule

February 24, 2024Telescope BasicsSteve Snider
March 23, 2024GNTO & Southwest Star PartiesJim Fordice
April 20, 2024Planetarium AppsJames Carr
May 25, 2024Astronomical League Observing Programs and Observing PlanningViola Sanchez
June 22, 2024Your Observing Kit - What do you need?James Carr
July 20, 2024EyepiecesJim Fordice
August 17, 2024How to Make and Record Astronomical League ObservationsViola Sanchez

GNTO and Star Parties

Speaker: Jim Fordice, GNTO Director

An Introduction to the General Nathan Twining Observatory (GNTO) and Star Parties that are held annually in the Southwest.

Jim Fordice explains how to travel to and use GNTO. GNTO is an excellent facility for observing and imaging which TAAS members can use any day of the year. It is the premier perk of a TAAS membership.

Jim also discusses why many amateur astronomers attend large annual star parties such as the Texas Star Party, the Okie-Tex Star Party, the Rocky Mountain Star Stare, and the Enchanted Skies Star Party.

Presentation Date: 2/4/2023

GNTO & Southwest Star Parties

An Introduction to the Astronomical League (AL) and its observing programs.

Speaker: Viola Sanchez, TAAS Astronomical League Coordinator (ALCOR)

Viola Sanchez explains the objectives of the AL, the benefits for Amateur Astronomers, how to join the AL, the AL observing programs, the progression to being certified as a Master Observer, and how to get started.

Presentation Date: 3/4/2023

Astro 101 Astroleague VS 2023-03-04 Final

Telescope Basics

Speaker: Steve Snider

An Introduction to the types of telescopes that are available and how to use them. Steve Snider provides a short history, a description, and the pros & cons of refractors, reflectors, and catadioptric telescopes. The presentation shows the light path for each telescope type, explains what you need to consider when selecting a telescope, and offers some advice.

Presentation Date: 10/15/2022

Telescope Basics (2022-10-15)

The Astronomy Observing Kit – What’s In It (And Why) for a Successful Night Under the Stars

Speaker: James Carr

James explains how to avoid the dreaded “dang it!” in the field!  This talk will not only give you a list of items to have with you but all the tips and advice on how to use them and go about your observation session successfully. Before you go out to observe, have a plan–a list of what you want to observe and a log– a star chart (perhaps an online star app), a small table, viewing chair, red light, appropriate clothing for the weather, a water bottle and a set of tools.

Choose your optics–telescope, binoculars, eyepieces– extra associated batteries.  Then set up and settle in for an evening of enjoyment and wonder!

Presentation Date: 4/8/2023

Observation Kits (2023-04-08)


Speaker: Jim Fordice

An introduction to eyepiece characteristics, eyepiece types, Barlow lenses, chromatic aberration, and the magnifications you need for observing. The presentation covers the wide range of eyepieces that are available and offers some suggestions on how you should determine what to purchase.

Presentation Date: 5/6/2023

Eyepieces (2023-05-06)

How to Make and Record Astronomical League Observations

Speaker: Viola Sanchez, TAAS Astronomical League Coordinator (ALCOR)

This presentation focuses on showing examples of submittals to the Astronomical League for various completed observing programs. Examples of simple lists, object descriptions, sketches, diagrams, and imaging are shown. The use of Sky Safari 6 Pro is demonstrated for determining latitude and longitude, cardinal directions, position angles, distances, object types, and other information. Other useful websites are also discussed.

Presentation Date: 6/3/2023

AL Observing Program Submittals (2023-06-03)

Observing Sites, Climate, and Weather

Speaker: Alan Scott

This talk covers climate and weather forecasting for astronomers. Climate is the average weather for an observing site at some date. Should I observe in Fort Davis Texas early next September? Weather forecasts are trickier. They cover such forecasts as the clouds, wind, transparency, seeing, humidity, and smoke. These predictions come from different models which frequently disagree. Should I observe at GNTO tonight? 

Presentation Date: 7/1/2023

Observing Sites, Climate, and Weather (2023-07-01)

How to Find Deep Sky Objects

Speaker: Sara Wofford

In this presentation Sara Wofford covers celestial coordinates (celestial sphere), star charts, planetarium programs, star hopping, and how the finding process and the view may differ with various telescopes.

Presentation Date: 8/5/2023

Finding Deep Sky Objects (2023-08-05)


Speaker: John Laning

John provides a brief history of when constellations were created and showed a few charts from books of Orion, Sagittarius, Cygnus, Cassiopeia, and Pegasus along with their images. He includes a few tables with information plus a few computer and tablet example star charts.

Presentation Date: 9/2/2023

Constellations (2023-09-02)

Observing Techniques

Speaker: Jame Carr

Look at the Andromeda Galaxy, isn’t it amazing!!! Do you mean that little fuzzy thing? Is that it?

We’ve all been there, so what do you do to see more of what you came for? James covers why this happens and your best means of enjoying many astronomical objects’ finer (and fainter) details. You will discover observing techniques, the role of the rods and cones of our eyes, and filters for improving your visual astronomy experience.

Presentation Date: 9/30/2023

Observing Techniques (2023-09-30)

Basic Cosmology

Speaker: Derek Wallentinsen

‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’
Who said that? A pretty well-known fellow by the name of Carl Sagan. This favorite quote connects our humble organic selves to the vast cosmos.

Derek Wallentinsen explains our evolving understanding of the Universe and the bright lives of stars populating dark skies. Along the way, he covers everything from the Big Bang to Chaco and beyond, the dynamic duo of Hertzsprung and Russell, the elemental recipe for that apple pie and expanding visions through the latest discoveries from James Webb Space Telescope and others!

Presentation Date: 10/28/2023

Basic Cosmology (2023-10-28)

Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA)

Speaker: Jim Fordice

Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA) is defined as the process of attaching a digital camera to a telescope instead of an eyepiece and then directly viewing on a screen of some kind. EAA is a great way to get started in astronomical imaging. Jim discusses ready-to-go and build-your-own systems and the pro and cons of each. He also talks about the AstroHopper open-source application and the PiFinder system that you can use to turn your manual telescope into a “push to” system.

Presentation Date: 11/25/2023

EAA (2023-11-25)

Imaging Basics – How to Get Started

Speaker: Jim Fordice

Jim Fordice covers what astronomical imaging is, what the basic steps are, and a recommendation on how to get started. Jim discusses what you need to obtain images, what software astrophotographers use, image calibration, and amateur hosting facilities. Warning: Astronomical imaging is difficult, expensive, time consuming and very rewarding! If you want to start imaging look at this presentation!

Presentation Date: 12/30/2023

Imaging Basics (2023-12-30)