Redirected from Amateur Astronomy
Large encounters of amateur astronomers in dark places suitable for sky viewing are called star parties[?].
Some good books for amateur astronomers to start with:
It is very important to know one's way around the sky by means of the constellations, this forms a platform from which deeper explorations of the sky are then possible. But a time will probably come when the beginner may want to extend their hobby and buy a pair of binoculars or a telescope.
With binoculars it is possible to see many deep sky objects albeit, not terribly well. Holding the binoculars can produce a shaky image. One way to improve the view is with the aid of a sturdy tripod mount to steady the view through the binoculars. Binoculars are still limited in range, however, most of the Messier catalogue should be visible and a great many NGC's as well, especially near the Milky Way.
With a telescope, the sky really comes alive, especially one that has an aperture of six inches or more. Some amateur telescopes are built by their owners from scratch. But many good quality telescopes can be bought from reputable companies. Thousands of DSO's are visible in a telescope and the determined amateur with a large (about 16 inches) telescope can push this to tens of thousands or more.
Another type of telescope to consider, especially if the amateur is observing with children, is a wide field telescope. This is typically a short tube refractor[?]. This type of telescope has an aperture of only 3 1/4 to 4 3/4 inches (80 - 120mm), but is easier to target an object, since it offers a much wider field of view. With the aid of high power lenses (i.e. eyepieces), the amateur can zoom in on planets and some of the closer DSOs. It is the best of a blend of a telescope's narrow long range light gathering ability with a binocular's wider field of view. With any telescope, though, the mount is the most important feature. A tripod that doesn't shake every time one uses it is a must. Too many amateur astronomers give up because they have a hard time targeting an object. If the mounting tripod is rock solid, the amateur can enjoy their time observing the heavens instead of fighting with the telescope.
The next step in an amateur astronomers quest for more space adventure comes with the purchase of a good camera for Astrophotography. Starting out with a good 35 mm camera with a 50 mm lens mounted on a tripod and using a cable release and 400 or faster speed film, the amateur can capture some nice pictures of the planets and some larger nebula, like the Orion Nebula. Some of the larger comets and prolific meteor showers can be photographed this way as well. As one progresses, cameras can be mounted directly on to telescopes, capturing on film many DSOs. Special films and even the technique of hypering the film has been employed by the amateur. Many publications accept these astrophotos in their magazines, ie. Astronomy Magazine.
Example of an amateur astrophoto taken of the comet Hale Bopp using a standard 35 mm camera with a 50 mm lens, using 400 ISO film. Image was taken for 10 seconds on a tripod using a shutter cable release.
See also: Observation