I'm a total novice and haven't a clue where to start.
For example, I can find say, the North Star or The Plough. Where from these two should I look to find planets? Or is that a really stupid question??
Basically if is bright and does not flicker/twinkle more than likely it's a planet, also when viewed through a telescope will appear bigger and consistent colour where as stars will be more pin-points of light. You will only see planets on the same path that the sun travels during the day.Other things to see
Pleiades: (seven sisters) is an absolute delight, with the eyes looks like a fizzy patch in the sky, but through binoculars or scope is a must see.
Orion's belt: viewed towards the south mid-low in the sky, in the winter Sirius is visible very bright below Orion's belt, with a telescope should see M42Equipment
A "Planisphere" is a must to have, and a red light to view it. It takes about half an hour for the eyes to fully adjust to the dark, so a bright light is counter productive, red is lower spectrum. The best equipment is your eyes, called naked-eye observation.
Let it cool down outside for a while, on big scopes temperature difference will effect the image.
Try not to breath on the lens as it will fog up.
On the telescope use the low power lenses first, on some scopes the high power with barlow-lens will just give a blurly image.Shelter
Nothing worse than a cold breeze but also if the tripod is not heavy the scope can wobble so somewhere that breaks the wind but doesn't obstruct viewing.Books"Stars at a Glance"
(a simple guide to the heavens)-George Philip ISBN 0-540-01109-6 A really good starter book to the night sky.????
I have a book somewhere that gives a simple step to step guide of picking out constellations from the plough, might be a collins pocket-book."Astronomy"
(A self teaching guide) -Dinah L. Moche from 'the Astronomy Ireland shop' (aka astronomy.ie) is excellent, I think the introduction course run is based on this book.”Astronomy”
(Step to step guide to the night sky) –Storm Dunlop ISBN 0-600-30557-0 I use it all the time, but can be a lot of reading.