Getting Started with Amateur Astronomy
The sky and all she holds, has been a symbol of fascination for every culture for as long as man has beheld her. The sky and stars have been maps to ancient cultures and sailors the world over. The sun and moon have been gods and demons. The Egyptians, the Indians and the Greeks held the night sky in great esteem. Modern day Eskimos, that live in Greenland, still view the sun as a god.
Today's technology has given us a much greater understanding of the mysteries of the heavens. Astrophysics is a big word that may scare away many who would enjoy and be captivated by astronomy. There are a myriad of ways that an amateur astronomer can get started.
First, research. Understanding what you are seeing is very important in developing a real love for astronomy. The sky holds untold treasures. You will only recognize them through research. One of the least expensive ways to get connected to the stars is to purchase a subscription to an astronomy publication. They usually run around 12.99 for a 12 month subscription. The Internet is free, but the information may not be as updated as current publications. The other great thing about magazines is that they provide you with a current sky map each month. These are invaluable to an amateur astrologer. Visiting your local library will also provide you with outstanding reading material.
Next, if you have any observatories or planetariums in your area, visit them. They are also relatively inexpensive, and they are a treasure trove of information. Almost all of them will have high powered telescopes that will provide you with outstanding views of space. The tour guides, at planetariums, are just full of great information. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Purchase a good set of binoculars. Nothing works better when searching for comets than binoculars. I would also suggest these before purchasing a telescope because of cost. I would suggest a 7 x 50. These will serve your astrological purpose best. And, if you decide that astrophysics is not for you (perish the thought) then you can use them for other activities.
After determining that astronomy will keep your interest, then purchase a good, quality telescope. Never purchase one from local department stores. There lenses are plastic and they aren't worth your money. Find a reputable telescope or equipment dealer and purchase there. You won't regret it.
If you are interested in soft-ware programs, I would suggest visiting www.space.com. They have programs that you can download for as little as $60.00. They are good tools to supplement your hobby.
I would like to include some high end activities for the amateur who wants unique and varied experiences. I would also add, monetarily, these are hard on the pocketbook and aren't for everyone.
* An eclipse cruise: These are only relevant when an eclipse will be visible. Check the Internet and see what you find. They are expensive and exclusive. I can only imagine they are extraordinary, as well. I would love to be under the smog free sky, on the ocean. Just me and my telescope, capturing a full eclipse. Amazing!
* While not as expensive as the cruise, a telescope motel is still relatively high end. Most telescope motels are in New Mexico and California. Outside the States, Canada has motels designed for watching the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I would imagine these are breathtaking, as well.
In our ever expanding knowledge, the sky has truly become the limit. There is new information about what's out there everyday. I hope that you enjoy your time under the stars as much as I do.