BBC Sky at Night Magazine Virtual Events

 Telescopes Masterclass

In association with the British Astronomical Association (BAA)

Join host and BBC Sky at Night Magazine Editor Chris Bramley for a three-part series of online masterclasses on telescopes.

The three sessions will cover telescopes and mounts for beginners, telescope setups to consider as you progress to a more intermediate level of observing, and establishing a permanent home for your equipment with a garden pier or observatory.

All registrants will be able to download a Masterclass Handout and will be sent a link to view the Masterclass recordings shortly after each individual Masterclass has ended. You will be able to watch this recording for a maximum amount of 10 times.

You can book each online Masterclass individually for £15 per class or SAVE 20% when you register to all three as a series booking for just £36.

Scroll down for a more in-depth look at each of the three masterclasses

Masterclass 1

Demystifying astronomy equipment:

A beginner’s guide to telescopes and mounts

Girl looking at the stars through a telescope.

Thursday 24 March, 7pm GMT

If you’re new to astronomy, binoculars are the best way to explore the night sky, but there will come a time when you want to buy a telescope.

In this webinar, experienced visual observer and astrophotographer Mary McIntyre cuts through the jargon to give a clear understanding of the most common telescopes and mounts, and the terminology that describes them. You will come away able to make a better informed decision about what telescope will suit you best. 


• What telescope views of the night sky deliver that binoculars don’t

• Key considerations to get the best answer to the question, ‘What sort of scope should I buy?’

• Terms you need to know when looking for that first telescope

• Go-To and manual mounts, and why the mount is just as important as the telescope tube

• Essential accessories to use with your telescope setup

• First pictures of the night sky; the kind of images you can expect to take with a beginner’s telescope

About the speaker

Mary McIntyre astronomy

Mary McIntyre is passionate about astronomy outreach and has shared her knowledge of the night sky and how to observe it with talks to schools, Scout groups and astronomy societies since 2015.

Observing from her garden observatory in rural Oxfordshire, Mary also runs workshops on astronomy sketching and is a regular writer for BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Masterclass 2

Your next telescope setup:

Delving deeper into stargazing and astronomy

Talk 2 Your next telescope setup: Delving deeper into stargazing and astronomy

Thursday 27 April, 7pm BST

You’ve got a beginner’s telescope and are hooked on the views, but what next? In this talk, experienced astronomer and science writer Will Gater will look at the different options for amateurs as they progress from beginner to intermediate.

He’ll look at how to approach making a decision about equipment at this stage, covering mounts, telescopes and accessories that can take your observing to the next level, as well as portable setups and kit for astrophotography.


• Key questions intermediate observers should ask, including deep-sky vs planetary observing

• Ways to upgrade your existing telescope setup for your favourite targets

• Specialist astro cameras and the targets they’re best suited for

• How taking better astro images is about more than just the camera

• Optimising your setup for portability and travel

• Observing projects to consider, from sketching to tracking variable stars

About the speaker

Will Gater astronomer

Will Gater is an astronomer, author and presenter with a lifelong love of observing the night sky.

He has written many popular books on astronomy and stargazing, and has toured the UK with his live astronomy theatre show.

Masterclass 3

Increase your observing productivity with a home observatory

Steve Richards home observatory

Thursday 26 May, 7pm BST

Astronomers are very much at the mercy of the weather. How often have you spent time setting up for an observing or imaging session under clear skies, only to discover that clouds have crept in while you were aligning your mount?

A permanent observatory or fixed pier in your garden can speed up the process of preparing for observing. In this talk, experienced observer and imager Steve Richards will present some ideas to ease the frustration and make your observing and imaging more productive.


• Types of permanent garden setup, from piers to garden observatories

• Considerations for planning, including location, automation and planning approval

• Domed observatories and roll-off roofs: suppliers or self-build

• The equipment that a permanent setup can house

• Garden observatories and security

• How to accommodate a permanent setup with other garden uses

About the speaker

Steve Richards astronomer

Steve Richards is an experienced observer and imager, BBC Sky at Night Magazine’s resident Scope Doctor equipment consultant and the author of two books on deep-sky imaging.

His garden has been home to the Chanctonbury Observatory since 2005.

About the sponsor

british astronomical association logo

The British Astronomical Association has been a driving force in amateur astronomy for over 125 years and is today recognised as one of the world’s leading amateur groups.

Among the BAA’s first presidents was Walter Maunder, discoverer of the seventeenth century scarcity in sunspots now known as the Maunder Minimum, which he achieved by analysing historical observations.

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