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Beginners Class

Orange County Astronomers' Beginners Class is an informal introductory astronomy course that is free and open to the public. The course, as currently structured, consists of six sessions covering basic astronomical concepts and practical concerns. We hope that the course will help newcomers to this exciting activity find their way around the night sky and understand what they can see there. In addition to the classroom discussions, a telescope is available for "show and tell," weather and sky conditions permitting. The course also features a session where people can bring their own telescopes and get assistance from club volunteers in setting them up and learning to use them.

Where and When Held

We meet at a building in the Centennial Heritage Museum (formerly the Discovery Museum of Orange County) at 3101 West Harvard Street in Santa Ana, just West of Fairview Avenue, between Edinger and Warner. Enter the museum driveway, which is on the West side of the museum grounds. The classroom is in the carriage house, a one story building located on the corner as the driveway turns to the south. Parking is available in front of the classroom. Harvard Street is about 2 miles north of the I-405 freeway. If coming from the I-405, Harvard is the next traffic light after Warner. The classes are held (usually) on the first Friday of the month, starting at 7:30 pm and ending at approximately 9:30 pm. Please check the calendar for any changes to the schedule.

Subjects Covered in Class

The course spans six months, and it includes five lecture-type sessions and one hands-on practical session.

The areas covered by the lecture-type sessions are:

What's Up There Related Handout (47kb)

This session focuses in the description of objects that are in the sky for viewing. This includes solar system and deep sky objects. This session also covers the subjects of brightness, angular distances, and other features of astronomical objects.

Instruments. Part 1 - Related Handout (438Kb)

A discussion of binoculars and various types of telescopes. This session includes related topics such as focal distance, focal ratio, magnification, light grasp, field of view and other telescope features of interest to the amateur astronomer.

Instruments. Part 2 - Related Handout (1.3Mb)

This session covers telescope mounts, clock drives, setting circles, eyepieces, and finders. The session includes discussion of apparent field of view, eye relief, exit pupil, tracking, etc. In addition, the different type of telescopes available for purchase through the telescope manufactures will be shown and discussed. If you are interested in purchasing a telescope this is a “must” session to attend.

Finding Astronomical Objects. Related Handout (1.9Mb)

Discussion of methods used to find specific objects. Explanation of the celestial coordinate system - right ascension and declination. Description of charts or sky maps and how to use them to find objects. Star hopping. Establishing short and long term observing plans. Use of computers to aid in locating objects, both stand-alone PC's and computers built into telescopes or added on to telescopes.

Astrophotography – Related Handout (3.7Mb).

This session will close the course. An experienced astrophotographer will discuss the techniques, and equipment necessary to begin using your telescope with a camera, webcam, or video camera to record your observations through photography.

The "practical" or "hands-on" session is:

"Bring Your Own Scope"

This session takes place in the parking areas in front of the regular classroom as well as in the classroom, and is to help participants with their own equipment and to show the use of different types of telescopes. OCA members will be available to help participants set up their telescopes, answer their questions, help with problems, and to demonstrate with their own scopes. Depending on the weather, these sessions are often "mini-star parties." In case of poor weather, the session will be held in the classroom building.

Course Schedule.

There will be two full courses each year. The schedule is as follows:

COURSE 1: SEPTEMBER - FEBRUARY


Session
Month Held
Subject
1
September
What's Up There
2
October
Instruments
3
November
Finding Astronomical Objects
4
December
Bring Your Own Scope
5
February
Astrophotography

COURSE 2: MARCH - AUGUST


Session
Month Held
Subject
1
March
What's Up There
2
April
Instruments
3
May
Finding Astronomical Objects
4
June
Bring Your Own Scope
5
August
Astrophotography

The classes are held the first Friday of each month. However check OCA website for any announcements on changes. The class can be joined at any session of the course.

Beginners’ Outings

All non-member participants will be entitled to visit OCA’s observing sites at Anza and Black-Star Canyon as long as they are participants in the Beginners’ Class. The participants, upon request, will get a pass valid for the session’s month at the end of each session. This is a very valuable benefit - as usually only members and their accompanied guests are allowed to visit these sites.

How to get more course information.

For information on course schedules or course sessions please contact David Pearson.

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