There is a lot of exciting stuff going on in the stars above us that make astronomy so much fun.The truth is the universe is a constantly changing, moving, some would say “living” thing because you just never know what you are going to see on any given night of stargazing.But of the many celestial phenomenons, there is probably none as exciting as that time you see your first asteroid on the move in the heavens.To call asteroids the “rock stars” of astronomy is simultaneously a bad joke but an accurate depiction of how astronomy fans view them.Unlike suns, planets and moons, asteroids are on the move, ever changing and, if they appear in the night sky, exciting and dynamic.Like rock stars, asteroids have been given their fair share of urban myth and lore.Many have attributed the extinction of the dinosaurs to the impact of a huge asteroid on the earth please purchase to get all the facts
Asteroids There is a lot of exciting stuff going on in the stars above us that make astronomy so much fun. The truth is the universe is a constantly changing, moving, some would say “living” thing because you just never know what you are going to see on any given night of stargazing.But of the many celestial phenomenons, there is probably none as exciting as that time you see your first asteroid on the move in the heavens.To call asteroids the “rock stars” of astronomy is simultaneously a bad joke but an accurate depiction of how astronomy fans view them.Unlike suns, planets and moons, asteroids are on the move, ever changing and, if they appear in the night sky, exciting and dynamic.Like rock stars, asteroids have been given their fair share of urban myth and lore.Many have attributed the extinction of the dinosaurs to the impact of a huge asteroid on the earth.This theory has some credibility and, if it is true, it evokes some pretty startling images and foreboding fears in the current reining species on earth, the human race.The fact that asteroids are fast moving space debris only makes their movement and activity more interesting and exciting.Unlike a moon, planet or star, the odds that an asteroid could hit the earth are entirely reasonable and in fact, there are many documented cases of small asteroids making it through our atmosphere and leaving some pretty impressive craters in the earth’s surface.Popular culture has happily embraced the idea of an asteroid impact.The idea has spawned many a science fiction story adding the idea that alien life forms may ride asteroids to our world and start a “war of the worlds” situation. But by far, the most talked about concept that has captured the imagination and the fears of science fiction fans and the general public is of another asteroid hitting the earth that could wipe out life as allegedly happened to the dinosaurs. In fact, the movie “Armageddon” was based on this idea and the concept that somehow mankind could avert that catastrophe with technology.But probably the best way to calm our fears and replace science fiction with science is with understanding and knowledge. The truth is, there has been a lot of study of asteroid activity and the serious scientific community has gained significant knowledge of these amazing celestial bodies. A number of probes to asteroids have been conducted which have given us a wealth of information about their composition and how we might predict their behavior. We now know that the majority of asteroids we get to witness come from an asteroid belt that exists between Mars and Jupiter. It is from this community of asteroids that many of the notable asteroids emerged. Scientists have gained significant knowledge about the composition of asteroids and separated them into classes including class S which comes of the part of the belt that is closest to Mars, classes C, D and V which are classified by composition and a class called “Centaurs” whose flight patterns take them closer to Jupiter and Uranus. Some of the probes NASA has conducted on near flying asteroids have performed some pretty amazing studies of these eccentric celestial bodies. In 1994 the Galileo probe got within 1000 miles of the asteroid Ida and discovered that Ida actually had its own moon. Other probes have fired impactors into asteroids and even landed on an asteroid to produce some amazing scientific data for us. There is much to learn about asteroids in our love of astronomy and that knowledge only makes our enjoyment of seeing them in the cosmos even more exciting. Beyond the Naked Eye It’s hard to say when in our lives each of us become aware of this thing called “astronomy”. But it is safe to say that at some point on our lives, each and every one of us has that moment when we are suddenly stunned when we come face to face with the enormity of the universe that we see in the night sky. For many of us who are city dwellers, we don’t really notice that sky up there on a routine basis. The lights of the city do a good job of disguising the amazing display that is above all of our heads all of the time.So it might be that once a year vacation to a camping spot or a trip to a relative’s house out in the country that we find ourselves outside when the spender of the night sky suddenly decides to put on it’s spectacular show.If you have had that kind of moment when you were literally struck breathless by the spender the night sky can show to us, you can probably remember that exact moment when you could say little else but “wow” at what you saw.That “Wow” moment is what astrology is all about.For some, that wow moment becomes a passion that leads to a career studying the stars.For a lucky few, that wow moment because an all consuming obsession that leads to them traveling to the stars in the space shuttle or on one of our early space missions.But for most of us astrology may become a pastime or a regular hobby.But we carry that wow moment with us for the rest of our lives and begin looking for ways to look deeper and learn more about the spectacular universe we see in the millions of stars above us each night.To get started in learning how to observe the stars much better, there are some basic things we might need to look deeper, beyond just what we can see with the naked eye and begin to study the stars as well as enjoy them.The first thing you need isn’t equipment at all but literature.A good star map will show you the major constellations, the location of the key stars we use to navigate the sky and the planets that will appear larger than stars. And if you add to that map some well done introductory materials into the hobby of astronomy, you are well on your way.The next thing we naturally want to get is a good telescope. You may have seen a hobbyist who is well along in their study setting up those really cool looking telescopes on a hill somewhere. That excites the amateur astronomer in you because that must be the logical next step in the growth of your hobby. But how to buy a good telescope can be downright confusing and intimidating.Before you go to that big expense, it might be a better next step from the naked eye to invest in a good set of binoculars.There are even binoculars that are suited for star gazing that will do just as good a job at giving you that extra vision you want to see just a little better the wonders of the universe.A well designed set of binoculars also gives you much more mobility and ability to keep your “enhanced vision” at your fingertips when that amazing view just presents itself to you.None of this precludes you from moving forward with your plans to put together an awesome telescope system.Just be sure you get quality advice and training on how to configure your telescope to meet your needs.Using these guidelines, you will enjoy hours of enjoyment stargazing at the phenomenal sights in the night sky that are beyond the naked eye. Dude, You’re Getting a Telescope! You might remember the Dell computer commercials in which a youth reports this exciting news to his friends that they are about to get their new computer by telling them, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” It was a cute series but it reflects the excitement young people get about anything new, particularly if it’s a new machine.So when its time to finally get your children that very first telescope, you want to make sure it’s just the right thing. There are a number of reasons you should put some serious thought into just what this beginner telescope should look like.Perhaps this will be your children’s first experience with a real telescope.They may have a healthy and thriving love of astronomy from your family trips to the country to watch a meteor shower or just to gaze at the stars.And you may have piqued their interest showing them how to enhance the experience with binoculars or even letting them play with your telescope.But this is a big moment. You want them to “bond” with this first telescope the way you did and catch the excitement of using the power of a telescope to do things with their love of astronomy that they could never do before.The reasons for taking care with your choice are many including…A telescope is a big step into the lifelong hobby of astronomy.If they get the wrong thing, frustration could make them lose interest both in the machine and in the field of study.Kids have a short attention span.You want this beginner telescope to take them from where they are to the next level while giving them those gratifying moments discovering new things in the stars every time they use it. It has to be a hardy piece of equipment. Kids don’t always know how to treat delicate equipment.So the starter telescope should have some good “training wheels” on it.It has to be their teacher even when they don’t know they are in school.A good beginner telescope, accompanied by some stimulating documentation that is written just for kids will stimulate their excitement and use it to teach them to work hard to reach new heights in their quest for knowledge about the stars.A lot about how you go about getting this first telescope will depend on your own expertise in astronomy.If it is your passion and you have developed a pretty sophisticated knowledge about telescopes over the years, you not only are well equipped to make this choice but you will be there to guide them as they begin to use it.But if you are just encouraging them in a wonderful hobby that you yourself have not been involved with in depth, first of all, congratulations.You are giving them a wonderful gift of not only knowledge but the love of astronomy and the natural wonder of nature.But you also need some help.So here are some quick guidelines.Find the astronomy geeks.They are easy to find in hobby shops, astronomy clubs and societies at the local college.They will help you enthusiastically.Look at the telescope you are considering through their eyes.It should not be too complex.Don’t get something that will intimidate them.Don’t buy a toy.Your kids will know the difference.Make sure it can grow and be expanded as their knowledge expands.If you put some wise consideration into just the right starter telescope, your kids will be as excited they have ever been for a gift.Don’t be surprised if you hear one of them squeal, “Dude, you got a telescope!” Moon Fever Of all of the celestial bodies that capture our attention and fascination as astronomers, none has a greater influence on life on planet Earth than it’s own satellite, the moon. When you think about it, we regard the moon with such powerful significance that unlike the moons of other planets which we give names, we only refer to our one and only orbiting orb as THE moon.It is not a moon.To us, it is the one and only moon.The moon works its way into our way of thinking, our feelings about romance, our poetry and literature and even how we feel about our day in day out lives in many cases. It is not only primitive societies that ascribe mood swings, changes in social conduct and changes in weather to the moon.Even today, a full moon can have a powerful effect on these forces which we acknowledge even if we cannot explain them scientifically.The most obvious physical phenomenon that is directly affected by the gravity of the moon are the tides of the ocean.The tides are an integral part of how maritime life is regulated and the comings and goings of the fishing world in coastal communities.But not very many people know that at certain times of the year when the orbits of the earth bring the sun and moon into right alignment, there can even be tidal effect on inland bodies of water and even on the solid earth.Eons ago, when the moon’s orbit was closer to the Earth, it was the effect of the moon that caused massive changes in the topography of the land and on continental drift as well.This reflects the powerful effect the moon has had on both human history and on global geographical history as well.You may sometimes wonder where the moon came from.Was it a planet that traveled too close to Earth and was captured in our orbit? Actually, the prevailing theory of modern science is that the moon was the result of a large scale collision with the still developing Earth early in its development which caused this large “chuck” to spin off into an orbiting body. This explains the similarity in composition as has been confirmed by many of the moon exploratory space missions that were conducted by NASA.But this background also highlights another important influence the moon has had on Earth’s development that is seldom recognized and that is the stabilization of Earth’s orbital pattern.Most know that Earth is not round but more of an egg shaped orb.To be blunt, the Earth would wobble. Without the moon’s stabilizing influence, this shape would shift dramatically so the tilt of the axis, that is the polar caps would shift dramatically with each seasonal rotation producing climacteric, changes much more violent and drastic than we are used to.It is possible that life as we know it could not have developed here had the moon not been there to “keep the Earth in line” and continue to stabilize the orbital position of the Earth so our climate could remain stable and mild.A third significant influence of the moon comes from that origin as coming from a collision which “ripped” the body of the moon from the developing core of the Earth.Because of this disruption in how the core of our planet developed, the metals that are usually intact in the core of the planet are actually scattered up and down the geography of the earth in diverse ways.Usually the metals of the planet are all concentrated deep in the core.But because of the collision which took the moon out to orbit, metals that have been crucial to the development of our industrial and technological cultures are readily available and easy for use to mine. This again, is something we can thank the presence of that lovely moon in the sky for. Pictures in the Sky One of the earliest activities we engaged in when we first got into astronomy is the same one we like to show our children just as soon as their excitement about the night sky begins to surface.That is the fun of finding constellations.But finding constellations and using them to navigate the sky is a discipline that goes back virtually to the dawn of man.In fact, we have cave pictures to show that the more primitive of human societies could “see pictures” in the sky and ascribe to them significance.Constellations also have been important in culture and navigation long before we had sophisticated systems of navigation.Early explorers, particularly by sea, relied exclusively on the night sky to help them find their way to their destination.In fact, when “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492” and “discovered” America, he could not have done it without astronomy and the help of navigation of the cosmos, much of which is made possible because of the important constellations.When learning to find the great constellations in the sky, we use the “find one, you found them all” system.That is because the easiest constellation to find will guide us to the rest of them.That constellation is The Big Dipper.Look to the northern sky on a clear night and widen your field of vision from just focusing on one star and it will pretty much jump out at you.In will look like a big kitchen pot or ladle, right side up in the fall, upside down in the spring.When you have the big dipper under control, you can pretty easily find the North Star.This is the star that those ancient sailors depended on the most to find their way to land.Start with the far edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper, the side that is opposite the handle.There are two stars that make up that side of the bowl.So start at the bottom of the pot and mentally draw a line to the top star of the bowl.These two stars are “pointing” to the North Star.Just keep following that line, curving a bit with the sky and the bright star that you come to is the North Star.You can impress your friends or family if you know the scientific name for this star is Polaris.The North Star can then take you to The Little Dipper.The key here is that Polaris is the tip of the handle of The Little Dipper and the bowl hangs down from the handle like it was hanging up in the kitchen.Be patient with this one as the stars that make up The Little Dipper are dimmer than The Big Dipper.But it pretty cool once you find it.These are the obvious starting places but from The Little Dipper you can find the constellation known as “The Swan” or Cygnus.Just use the same system you used to find The North Star but continue drawing that line that started in those pointer stars in the bowl of The Big Dipper.Go about half as far as you went to find Polaris and you are there.You will see a trapezoid of stars about as big as The Big Dipper.This trapezoid forms the tail of The Swan.That line that we are drawing from the pointer stars is our roadmap to another well known constellation which is Cassiopeia.If you use that line and imagine you are directly under the two pointer stars, you will se a big “W” just off to the left of the line.This is the constellation Cassiopeia, the wife of the king of Egypt, Cepheus,in Greek mythology.There are so many more wonderful constellations to find and a good star map can continue your quest.Like Cassiopeia, all of the constellations have wonderful stories and myths related to Greek culture.It is just as fun to find the star clusters themselves as it is to enjoy the rich culture related to that constellation.For all of the signs of the zodiac, for example, there is a related constellation in the sky.So whether you are serious about astrology or not, its fun to find the constellation that relates to your “sign” (or that of your children) and be able to see how the ancients related to these pictures in the sky. Space, The Final Frontier While it was just a TV show, that little speech at the beginning of the original Star Trek show really did do a good job of capturing our feelings about space.It is those feelings that drive our love of astronomy and our desire to learn more and more about it The thing that is most exciting about studying the universe is also the most frustrating and that is that no matter how expert we get, we are always just getting started.But if it’s any consolation, some of the most advanced minds in science and from history always felt that way about space.Even the greats such as Copernicus and Einstein looked up into space and felt like they were just a spec in the presence of such infinity.Of course space is not infinite. It has to be finite which means somehow there must be an end to it.But if there is, nobody on this tiny planet has figured out where it is.The only thing that has brought us to “the end of the universe” is our limited ability to see any deeper into space.But conquering the final frontier of space means more than just seeing more stars and planets and building the biggest telescope we can.There are some mind blowing concepts about how space works that we have ahead of us to conquer.The big bang and the expanding universe alone was enough to set your mind to spinning.But then we have the coming of Einstein and the theory of relativity to set the entire idea on its ear.All of a sudden space is not just three dimensions but the dimension of time becomes exportable and the twisting and maybe even travel through time seems almost possible.The frontier of space is as much a journey of the mind as it is of distance.When Steven Hawking showed us the mysteries of black holes, all of a sudden, time and space could collapse and be twisted and changed in those intergalactic pressure cookers. If not for the wonders of radio astronomy, these ideas would remain just ideas but slowly science is catching up with theory.But the brilliance of mathematicians and genius minds like Hawking and Einstein continue to stretch our concepts of space.Now we have the string theory that could revolutionize everything we know about space, time and how the universe relates to itself.We can’t just say, no, we have discovered enough.It’s the final frontier.The Starship Enterprise would not stop exploring so neither can we.Because there is a hurdle still ahead that has a name but no real answer to it yet.It’s called the Unified Field Theory and those that know tell us that when the Einsteins and Hawkings of our day crack that theory, every other theory will fall into place.These exciting concepts seem some tools to put the enormity of space in context.That may also be the value of science fiction.Not only are science fiction writers often the visionaries of what comes to be in the future but they give us the idea that space is knowable, that despite how big it is and how small we are, we can conquer this frontier like we have conquered others before us.For mankind, that is often enough.If we can get the vision that we can conquer something, even if it is something so massive, so impossibly huge, it seems that we are capable of anything.And the love of astronomy, maybe unlike any other force on earth, has brought together mankind toward that common goal of conquering the universe.The quest to establish an international space station and to cooperate on spreading our reach off of this planet seems to find commonality between nations that otherwise cannot get along on the surface of the earth.That alone may be a reason that we must continue to support astronomy locally and the space program nationally.It is something that seems to bring peace rather than war and make us a better people.But more than that it is as though this is what we were created to do.To reach out to the stars may be our destiny.If so then our love of astronomy is more than a hobby, it’s a calling. The Basics of Buying a Telescope There is a moment in the life of any aspiring astronomer that it is time to buy that first telescope. It’s exciting to think about setting up your own viewing station whether that is on the deck of your home or having a powerful but mobile telescope set up to take to the remove countryside to really get a good shot at some breath taking star gazing. The last thing we would want to do is to take away any of the “fun” of your hobby of astronomy because the joy of what we do as star gazers is a big part of the appeal.But unlike many other hobbies, ours is a passion of science, of learning and of discovery. And don’t kid yourself, even a hobbyist with a limited telescopic set up can see some amazing things in the stars.So let’s be sure you invest in a solid piece of equipment that you can continue to grow with as your knowledge and ability as an astronomer grows. But how do we do that? Meet the Geeks.Now we use the term “telescope geeks” lovingly because any of us who are devoted to our love of astronomy eventually become telescope geeks.And these are the type of people who will know exactly how to evaluate your needs in terms of where you are right now and where you want to go as your hobby grows with you.So if you have not yet associated with a local astronomy club, now is the time to do it.Start rubbing elbows with people who live and breathe telescopes.Their input is a hundred times more reliable than what a sales brochure or that salesman might have to say because the “telescope geeks” have been where you are, made the mistakes and are eager to help you avoid those same mistakes.Size Matters In the world of telescopes, the sales people see, to try to baffle us with all the bells and whistles of their hottest selling model.One of the big check points that is often pushed is the amplification level of the telescope lens.While that is a factor that is worth noting, when it comes to a telescope lens, the old phrase “size matters” is a good guideline.Just remember that your telescope lens works best when it takes in the most light it can from the object you are viewing. So the wider the diameter of the lens, the better a view you are going to get.So don’t fall for the amplification level only.Carefully evaluate the lens size so you have the right fit for what you want to do.It Has to Stand on Its Own Feet.If you are going to set up a permanent telescope station, then you can bolt the unit down so it is well supported.But many of us have to take our telescopes out into the country for optimum use. So the stand has to be strong and flexible so we can set up the telescope on uneven turf but still feel secure that this important and expensive piece of equipment is going to stand on its own without fear of it falling during our observation time.We already mentioned strong and flexible as evaluation guides for the telescope stand but add in ease of use as well.You have to be able to set your telescope up and break it down quickly and easily when you are on a remote viewing.You may even find yourself setting up or taking down your telescope in the dark or by lantern or flashlight if you are taking advantage of the great star displays in the late night sky that make this hobby so exciting.These are the basics of what to look for in your new telescope.Finally, make sure the telescope can be enhanced and expanded without having to throw the first unit away and buy something completely new.You want your telescope to grow as your knowledge and skills grow.If your first telescope meets all of these requirements, you are off on the right foot on a long and enjoyable career as an amateur astronomer. The Night Sky No matter how far along you are in your sophistication as an amateur astronomer, there is always one fundamental moment that we all go back to.That is that very first moment that we went out where you could really see the cosmos well and you took in the night sky. For city dwellers, this is a revelation as profound as if we discovered aliens living among us.Most of us have no idea the vast panorama of lights that dot a clear night sky when there are no city lights to interfere with the view.Sure we all love the enhanced experience of studying the sky using binoculars and various sizes and powers of telescopes.But I bet you can remember as a child that very first time you saw the fully displayed clear night sky with all the amazing constellations, meters and comets moving about and an exposure of dots of light far to numerous to ever count.The best way to recapture the wonder of that moment is to go out in the country with a child of your own or one who has never had this experience and be there at that moment when they gaze up and say that very powerful word that is the only one that can summarize the feelings they are having viewing that magnificent sky.That word is – “Wow”.Probably the most phenomenal fact about what that child is looking at that is also the thing that is most difficult for them to grasp is the sheer enormity of what is above them and what it represents.The very fact that almost certainly, virtually every dot up there in the sky is another star or celestial body that is vastly larger that Earth itself, not by twice or ten times but by factors of hundreds and thousands, can be a mind blowing idea to kids.Children have enough trouble imagining the size of earth itself, much less something on such a grand scope as outer space.But when it comes to astronomy, we do better when we fall into deeper and deeper levels of awe at what we see up there in the night sky.Some amazing facts about what the children are looking at can add to the goose bumps they are already having as they gaze eyes skyward.Facts like… Our sun is part of a huge galaxy called the Milky Way that consists of one hundred billion stars just like it or larger.Show them that one hundred billion is 100,000,000,000 and you will se some jaws drop for sure. The milky was is just one of tens of billions of galaxies each of which has billions of stars in them as well.In fact, the Milky Way is one of the small galaxies.If you wanted to drive across the Milky Way, it would take you 100,000 years.But you can’t get there driving the speed limit.You have to drive five trillion, eight hundred million miles per year to get all the way across that fast.Scientists calculate that the Milky Way is 14 billion years old.These little fun facts should get a pretty spirited discussion going about the origins of the universe and about the possibility of space travel or if there are life on other planets.You can challenge the kids to calculate that if every star in the Milky Way supported nine planets and if only one of them was habitable like earth is, what are the odds that life would exist on one of them? I think you will see some genuine excitement when they try to run those numbers.Such discussion can be fun, exciting, and full of questions.Don’t be too hasty to shut down their imaginations as this is the birth of a lifelong love of astronomy that they are experiencing. And if you were there that first moment when they saw that night sky, you will re- experience your own great moment when you was a child.And it might set off a whole new excitement about astronomy in you all over again. What if They Let YOU Run the Hubble? It is probably the dream of any amateur astronomer to be able to be the boss of one of the great multi million dollar telescopes even if it was just for one hour or for a few shots.Sure, we can have a lot of fun with our binoculars.And as we improve our personal equipment set, we get better and better at pinpointing what we want to see in the sky. But there is only so far we can go within the constraints of a family budget in building the perfect telescopic operation.Probably the next level then is to work together with others in your astronomy club.By pooling our resources, we can make more progress both in acquiring much more sophisticated equipment and in synchronizing our telescopic operations.All of this is good and its fun to tweak it and play with it always finding improvements.But when we are sitting back and dreaming, it’s those big institutional size telescopes that really grab our interest.Maybe you have had a chance to visit one at Kitt Peak, Arizona, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Palomar Mountain, California or Mt. Locke, Texas to name just a few and as you walked around jaw dropped to your shoes, you thought, maybe if I could just run it for an hour, how awesome would that be? The good news is that while these huge observatories are not going to let you come in and turn the gears of the mightiest telescopes yourself, many of them will perform specific observations for you and allow you to “see through their eyes” via the internet for that short observation. This is a powerful option for an amateur astronomer and one you want to prepare for carefully. Here is what you do…Begin compiling a list of the great telescopes of the world, their locations and how to contact them.Google will help you with finding lists of these observatories to contact by pointing you to specific directory sites like http://astro.nineplanets.org/bigeyes.html You can start by submitting your request to a specific observatory.Now here is where you have to do your homework.If you have a specific celestial event you wish to observe, there will be particular telescopes around the globe that will be in the best position to get those shots for you.So study up and find just the right telescope and when the perfect moment for that observation would occur.Get out ahead of this homework as you need to submit your request in plenty of time for it to go through approval and for them to get back to you and to interact with you to nail down what you are going to have them look at.There are two ways you can direct the operators of the telescopes.You can give them specific coordinates to focus on and a specific time frame to perform the observation.The other way is to give them a star, a planet or a particular star system to observe and let them figure out the coordinates. That might be easier because you know what you want to see.Now you sit back and wait for the email that the observation is done.You will not be able to watch them do the observation dynamically.That would be nice but it just isn’t possible yet.These are telescopes, not web cams.But they will post the pictures from your observation on a particular web location and email the results to you for study.It’s pretty cool, free and customized to what you requested.And you can brag to your friends as you make color copies of your shots that you had Kitt Peak do these up for you personally. And you would not be lying. Astronomy Binoculars – A Great Alternative It seems from the moment you begin to take your love of astronomy seriously, the thing that is on your mind is what kind of telescope will you get.And there is no question, investing in a good telescope can really enhance your enjoyment of your new passion in astronomy.But don’t be too hasty to keep up with the big wigs in the astronomy clubs that have advanced telescopes.There is another alternative that can give you most of the advantages of a telescope and some extra flexibility and reduced cost to boot.That alternative is a good pair of astronomy binoculars.Mostly we think of binoculars as the thing you use to see the football game when you have to sit in the cheap seats.But if you do some homework and had a good grasp on what your stargazing objectives are, the advantages of astronomy binoculars over an entry level telescope can be pretty convincing.As a rule, they are cheaper.So you can get a lot of good stargazing at much less of an investment.You can always spend more money later but for now, this may be just the solution for you.There are not so many accessories.To own and operate a telescope takes a lot of orientation to how to set up and use the device.Beyond that, tuning it for optimum view and diagnosing it when you have problems can sometimes make the telescope more of the passion than stargazing itself.It is much easier to use.If you have not bought a telescope yet, you may have seen telescope owners going through a laborious set up and break down discipline for each use.This is time they are not looking at the stars. The binocular users are happily stargazing as this goes on.Binoculars are lightweight and portable.Unless you have the luxury to set up and operate an observatory from your deck, you are probably going to travel to perform your viewings.Binoculars go with you much easier and they are more lightweight to carry to the country and use while you are there than a cumbersome telescope set up kit So give the binocular option some consideration. To make the most effective choice, however, here are a few facts about astronomy binoculars that will help you evaluate which ones are best for you…Binoculars have two lens sets, one at the end of the eyepiece and a set right next to your eyes.The ones closest to the eye are called the ocular lenses which magnify the image (make it bigger). The ones closest to the sky are called the objective lenses and the size of these lenses will determine how much sky you can see at once.So anytime you are evaluating binoculars, there are two numbers associated with the set.So if the binoculars have a rating of 15-40, that means that the ocular lenses magnify 15 times and the later number is a relative number to how much of the sky you can see.The higher the second number, the more you can see.The explanation is simple.The bigger the lens, the more light it lets in. But be aware that the bigger the second number, the larger, heavier and more cumbersome the binoculars will be.You will have to balance these two numbers with both your budget and what you want the binoculars to do for you.If you decide to go with a lower power binoculars, you could become frustrated with what you can see and you may have to take your eyes away from the view to get your orientation and consult the star map more often because your range of vision is so limited.There will also be a temptation to buy a set of binoculars that have zoom functions and other features that will allow you to use it for other purposes such as hunting, whale watching or seeing the football game from the cheap seats.While this is good economy, those functions will get in the way when you are using the binoculars for astronomy.So if you are considering this purchase as your alternative to buying a telescope, our advice is buy binoculars made just for astronomy and don’t take them to the ball game. Bonding with the Universe. As parents, we often worry about what our children are getting excited about.We hope we can guide them to “bond” with healthy things like a love of learning, of family and of healthy social activities.But we also worry they will bond with the wrong people like internet stalkers or the wrong crowd at school.Wouldn’t it be great if we could harness that tremendous energy and desire to latch onto something and bond with it and help our children “bond” with the universe through a love of astronomy? Kids love to get excited about what you are excited about.So there lots of ways you can “spring” the fun of astronomy on them that will jump start them on a long and happy exploration of the hobby of astronomy.Here are a few to get your imagination going.Work it into an evening in the backyard.If you know the night sky will be particularly exciting the night of a big family barbecue, plan to have some blankets out there.Then as everybody else is playing Frisbee, just lay out a blanket, lay flat on your back and start staring up into the sky with a binoculars.Like the old prank of staring at a far away spot to get people’s interest, your kids will see what you are doing and what to know what is going on. As you let them take a peek, their curiosity will take off like a wild fire and they are hooked.A surprise visit to the country.Sometimes it is hard to see the vast display of stars from within the city.So if you announce that you are going to show them a surprise one night and have them pile into the car, their curiosity will be going wild as you leave the city.When you find that quiet park, field or lake side spot, all you have to do is point up and say “just look” and the magnificence of the night sky will do the rest. A special Christmas gift.You can buy your children an affordable and durable beginner’s telescope along with some easy star maps written just for kids.Imagine when they open this exciting gift and want to know how to use it.Don’t be surprised if you are setting up the new telescope in the snow to show them the great things they will see in the cosmos with the gift that Santa wanted them to have.The gift of astronomy.Unleash the power of a meteor shower on them.You can keep your eye on the events that are predicted for the sky watchers in your area.When the next big meteor shower is about to explode over your area, watch the weather for a clear night and get your kids excited about what they are about to see.As the lights begin to go off over head and you create fun and interesting narration to this dramatic display, the children will be addicts for life for the great experiences that can be had as students of astronomy.Plan a surprise event in with something you are already doing.For example, on vacation, you can plan your route on a cross country trip to bring you within visiting distance of one of the great multimillion dollar telescopes in this country.By contacting them ahead of time, you can be sure they are conducting a tour that coincides with your visit.Just imagine if they can look up at a telescope that is bigger than their house and maybe look through the eyepiece as some amazing cosmic sight, it will be the hit of the vacation.Astronomy is a great activity to introduce on a family camping trip.As the family sits around the fire after a fun night of camping, all you have to do is just look up and go “Wow, look at that!” When those little heads look up, they will look back down changed children, children in love with the stars.Astronomy is a healthy passion for your kids and one they can grow with their entire lives.And there is probably no better gift you can give them than the love of the stars, of science and of nature that is all wrapped up together when your kids bond with the universe through astronomy. How to Look Up The beauty of astronomy is that anybody can do it.From the tiniest baby to the most advanced astrophysicist, there is something for anyone who wants to enjoy astronomy. In fact, it is a science that is so accessible that virtually anybody can do it virtually anywhere they are.All they have to know how to do is to look up.It really is amazing when you think about it that just by looking up on any given night, you could see virtually hundreds of thousands of stars, star systems, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and maybe a even an occasional space shuttle might wander by.It is even more breathtaking when you realize that the sky you are looking up at is for all intents and purposes the exact same sky that our ancestors hundreds and thousands of years ago enjoyed when they just looked up.There is something timeless about the cosmos.The fact that the planets and the moon and the stars beyond them have been there for ages does something to our sense of our place in the universe.In fact, many of the stars we “see” with our naked eye are actually light that came from that star hundreds of thousands of years ago.That light is just now reaching the earth.So in a very real way, looking up is like time travel.Everybody knows how to look up.Children first discover the amazing light show on display for free every clear night by just looking up.You can probably remember that very first time you noticed that explosion of stars above you when you were a child.Now it is time to foster that same love of astronomy in your own children.You have to teach them how to look up. While anyone can look up and fall in love with the stars at any time, the fun of astronomy is learning how to become more and more skilled and equipped in star gazing that you see and understand more and more each time you look up.Here are some steps you can take to make the moments you can devote to your hobby of astronomy much more enjoyable.Get out of town.The furtherest you can get from the lights of the city, the more you will see in the night sky.Know what you are looking at.It is great fun to start learning the constellations, how to navigate the night sky and find the planets and the famous stars.There are web sites and books galore to guide you.Get some history. Learning the background to the great discoveries in astronomy will make your moments star gazing more meaningful.It is one of the oldest sciences on earth so find out the greats of history who have looked at these stars before you.Get a geek.Astronomy clubs are lively places full of knowledgeable amateurs who love to share their knowledge with you. For the price of a coke and snacks, they will go star gazing with you and overwhelm you with trivia and great knowledge.Know when to look.Not only knowing the weather will make sure your star gazing is rewarding but if you learn when the big meteor showers and other big astronomy events will happen will make the excitement of astronomy come alive for you.And when all is said and done, get equipped.Your quest for newer and better telescopes will be a lifelong one.Let yourself get addicted to astronomy and the experience will enrich every aspect of life.It will be an addiction you never want to break. Moon Gazing For many of us, our very first experience of learning about the celestial bodies begins when we saw our first full moon in the sky.It is truly a magnificent view even to the naked eye.If the night is clear, you can see amazing detail of the lunar surface just star gazing on in your back yard.Naturally, as you grow in your love of astronomy, you will find many celestial bodies fascinating.But the moon may always be our first love because is the one far away space object that has the unique distinction of flying close to the earth and upon which man has walked.Your study of the moon, like anything else, can go from the simple to the very complex.To gaze at the moon with the naked eye, making yourself familiar with the lunar map will help you pick out the seas, craters and other geographic phenomenon that others have already mapped to make your study more enjoyable. Moon maps can be had from any astronomy shop or online and they are well worth the investment.The best time to view the moon, obviously, is at night when there are few clouds and the weather is accommodating for a long and lasting study.The first quarter yields the greatest detail of study.And don’t be fooled but the blotting out of part of the moon when it is not in full moon stage.The phenomenon known as “earthshine” gives you the ability to see the darkened part of the moon with some detail as well, even if the moon is only at quarter or half display.To kick it up a notch, a good pair of binoculars can do wonders for the detail you will see on the lunar surface.For best results, get a good wide field in the binocular settings so you can take in the lunar landscape in all its beauty.And because it is almost impossible to hold the binoculars still for the length of time you will want to gaze at this magnificent body in space, you may want to add to your equipment arsenal a good tripod that you can affix the binoculars to so you can study the moon in comfort and with a stable viewing platform.Of course, to take your moon worship to the ultimate, stepping your equipment up to a good starter telescope will give you the most stunning detail of the lunar surface.With each of these upgrades your knowledge and the depth and scope of what you will be able to see will improve geometrically.For many amateur astronomers, we sometimes cannot get enough of what we can see on this our closest space object.To take it to a natural next level, you may want to take advantage of partnerships with other astronomers or by visiting one of the truly great telescopes that have been set up by professionals who have invested in better techniques for eliminating atmospheric interference to see the moon even better.The internet can give you access to the Hubble and many of the huge telescopes that are pointed at the moon all the time.Further, many astronomy clubs are working on ways to combine multiple telescopes, carefully synchronized with computers for the best view of the lunar landscape.Becoming part of the society of devoted amateur astronomers will give you access to these organized efforts to reach new levels in our ability to study the Earth’s moon.And it will give you peers and friends who share your passion for astronomy and who can share their experience and areas of expertise as you seek to find where you might look next in the huge night sky, at the moon and beyond it in your quest for knowledge about the seemingly endless universe above us. Radio Astronomy For most of us, the idea of astronomy is something we directly connect to “stargazing”, telescopes and seeing magnificent displays in the heavens.And to be sure, that is the exciting area of astronomy that accounts for it’s huge popularity.So to the uninitiated, the idea of “radio astronomy” seems strange.There are two reasons for that.First is that humans are far more visual than audio oriented.And the second is that radio astronomy doesn’t really involve “listening” to the cosmos except to the extent that scientists who use this sophisticated form of “stargazing” do not rely on visual study to conduct their work.To appreciate what is really exciting about radio astronomy, first we have to shift how we view astronomy.That is because to professional astronomers, studying the universe is more about frequencies than it is about visual documentation of phenomenon.This takes us back to Physics 101.Light, obviously, is the physical phenomenon that empowers our ability to use our visual confirmation system, e.g. our eyes to appreciate something, in this case the stars.So when we look up at the heavens, we can see the light emitting from a star or reflecting from a planet or moon.In many cases, if we see a far away star, we are actually seeing it hundreds or thousands of years ago because that is how long it takes for that light to cross the universe and be visible in our sky.That alone is a pretty mind blowing idea Now light itself is a pretty strange substance.But to our astronomy scientists, light is just another energy that exists in a certain frequency. Now, we tend to think of frequencies when we talk about sound waves.In scientific terms light, energy and sound are just a few forms of the same thing, frequencies of energy that are emulating from a source.Now we get to why radio astronomy is so necessary. The range of frequency that light occupies in the big spectrum of frequencies is really pretty small.To put that more bluntly, we can only “see” a tiny part of the universe that is actually there.Now when you look up in the night sky and it is so overwhelming, when you then that we are seeing just a tiny amount of what is actually going on up there, again, our minds can get pretty overwhelmed.Radio astronomy uses sophisticated sensor equipment to study ALL of the frequencies of energy coming to us from the cosmos.In that way, these scientists can “see” everything that is going on out there and so get a precise idea of how the stars look, behave now and will behave in the future.For some of us who have heard about radio astronomy, we think of it in terms of “listening” for signs of life in the universe.And yes, SETI, or “the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence” is a part of radio astronomy, albeit a tiny part.But of much greater importance is how radio astronomy has empowered serious astronomers (that is those who get paid to do it) to study stars many light years away, to study black holes which we could never see with our telescopes and to gather research and data about the whole of the universe that otherwise would be impossible to know and understand.This is important work that is constantly ongoing in the world of astronomy.It is worth keeping up with and learning more about as we have barely scratched the surface in our brief discussion today.But understanding how important radio astronomy is will only deepen and make more meaningful your love and grasp of this big field of knowledge known as astronomy. Telescopes 101 Buying the right telescope to take your love of astronomy to the next level is a big next step in the development of your passion for the stars.In many ways, it is a big step from someone who is just fooling around with astronomy to a serious student of the science. But you and I both know that there is still another big step after buying a telescope before you really know how to use it.So it is critically important that you get just the right telescope for where you are and what your star gazing preferences are.To start with, let’s discuss the three major kinds of telescopes and then lay down some “Telescope 101” concepts to increase your chances that you will buy the right thing.The three primary types of telescopes that the amateur astronomer might buy are the Refractor, the Reflector and the Schmidt Cassegrain telescope.The first two are named for the kind of lens that is used.It is pretty easy to see that the lens is the heart of the telescope so the kind that you will use will determine the success of your use of that telescope. The refractor lens is the simplest because it uses a convex lens to focus the light on the eyepiece.So the lens bends outwards for this purpose.The refractor telescope’s strength is in viewing planets.The reflector’s strength is in seeing more distant objects and the lens is concave or bends in.It uses mirrors to focus the image that you eventually see.The final type, the Schmidt Cassegrain telescope is the most complex and accomplishes the goals of both but it uses an involved system of mirrors to capture the image you want to see.So to select just the right kind of telescope, your objectives in using the telescope are important.To really understand the strengths and weaknesses not only of the lenses and telescope design but also in how the telescope performs in various star gazing situations, it is best to do some homework up front and get exposure to the different kinds.So before you make your first purchase… Above all, establish a relationship with a reputable telescope shop that employs people who know their stuff. If you buy your telescope at a Wal- Mart or department store, the odds you will get the right thing are remote.Pick the brains of the experts.If you are not already active in an astronomy society or club, the sales people at the telescope store will be able to guide you to the active societies in your area.Once you have connections with people who have bought telescopes, you can get advice about what works and what to avoid that is more valid than anything you will get from a web article or a salesperson at Wal-Mart. Try before you buy.This is another advantage of going on some field trips with the astronomy club.You can set aside some quality hours with people who know telescopes and have their rigs set up to examine their equipment,learn the key technical aspects, and try them out before you sink money in your own set up.There are other considerations to factor into your final purchase decision.How mobile must your telescope be? The tripod or other accessory decisions will change significantly with a telescope that will live on your deck versus one that you plan to take to many remote locations.Along those lines, how difficult is the set up and break down? How complex is the telescope and will you have trouble with maintenance? Network to get the answers to these and other questions. If you do your homework like this, you will find just the right telescope for this next big step in the evolution of your passion for astronomy.
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