1. Learn the sky in a general sense
And I mean general: Earth rotates once a day and orbits the Sun once each year. The first motion causes sky objects to move from east to west, and the second causes different constellations to appear in each season’s sky.
Next, learn why the sky is the celestial sphere. It has a north pole, an equator, and a south pole. Two sky coordinates exist: Right ascension is like earthly longitude, and declination mimics latitude.
Read up on Moon phases. The Moon first becomes visible as a thin crescent low in the western evening sky. Each night thereafter, it appears to grow and move eastward until Full Moon, after which its lit part shrinks to invisibility. When you again spot the thin crescent low in the west, roughly 30 days have passed. You’ll want to know the Moon’s phase because its light can prevent you from seeing faint objects.
Finally, become familiar with bright seasonal constellations
. Start with just a couple per season: Taurus the Bull and Orion the Hunter in winter; Scorpius the Scorpion and Cygnus the Swan in summer; and so on. Don’t worry about the faint ones. If you haven’t heard of them — for example, Lacerta and Serpens — there’s probably a good reason why.
2. Immerse yourself in the subject
You’ve made a good start. In each issue, Astronomy
magazine features a combination of science- and hobby-related articles. “The Sky this Month
” is an up-to-date guide to the current sky. But there’s so much more out there. Your public library and bookshops offer many observing guides. Except for where you’ll find the planets, such texts don’t go out of date.