The first step is simple, go outside and lookup. Watch the sunset on the western horizon and observe the sparkling diamonds of the night sky.
Even in the most light-polluted suburbs, you will be able to see some stars which form several constellations. One celestial body will be familiar, the Moon. Earth’s natural satellite is often forgotten but has many features that can be explored.
The Astronomy Hobby!
Once you have familiarized yourself with the sky you will know if your local conditions hinder you night sky observations. If you live in the city take a trip to a nearby park. But don’t get caught hanging around too late. If you travel further to the countryside, you will be amazed by the vast number of stars you can now see.
This is the time to invest in a simple stargazing handbook. Or maybe a monthly astronomical magazine subscription that will guide you around the current sky.
Start finding the prominent constellations, Ursa Major (plough), Orion, the Summer triangle constellations Cygnus, Aquila, and Lyra. Once you have found these use them as sign-posts to locate other constellations.
For example, use the two ‘pointer stars’ at the end of the bowl part of Ursa Major, follow them north to Polaris, North or Pole star. Follow the line of the pointer stars south and come to the mane of Leo the lion.
If you are using a guide it will give you information about the stars in these constellations and will open up a mind-boggling area to your astronomy hobby.
You will discover the bright orange star representing Orion’s left shoulder. It is called Betelgeuse and is no ordinary star. Betelgeuse once was a star similar to our Sun, that is now slowly dying and expanding.
It fluctuates between 500-800 times the size of our sun and lies 428 light-years away. That means when the light left this star the Great fire of London had not happened and the Earth was still considered the center of the universe.
The best piece of equipment is your eyes, always use these before trying to use binoculars and telescopes. Naked eye astronomy is often overlooked with the growing power of telescopes, but it’s always the first base. When planning a night of stargazing, remember to wrap up some drinks. Also consider some provisions and a notebook to jot down any queries, a red filtered torch, and your star guide or app. After a few months of getting to know the heavens, it could well be time to invest further.
Another good piece of equipment is a planisphere, a simple device made from two discs of card that help you find your way around the skies.
3.The astronomy binoculars
Next is a good pair of binoculars. It’s best to get a sturdy high magnitude model. Make sure it’s lightweight. With these, your observations will jump forward when you start to spot gas clouds, galaxies and star clusters and they should keep you busy for a few years.
4.Seek out other amateurs
There’s nothing like sharing your interest in astronomy with others. There are hundreds of astronomy clubs worldwide.
Call a club near you to find out when it holds meetings or all-night observing sessions called ‘star parties’.
Some events draw hundreds of amateurs from around the world, offering a wonderful opportunity to try out different telescopes, learn new skills, and make friends.
5. It’s the time for a good telescope
Eventually, you will want to look further and see the individual stars in star clusters. Now, this is the right time to add a telescope in your arsenal. When buying a telescope it is important to remember exactly what you want to see, when, and how often. It will help you to get the best telescope for you.
Often the most expensive is not the best, start simple and take it from there. The essential thing before you buy any equipment is familiarisation of the stars because without this you will find near to nothing.
Have fun, be safe and explore the heavens
This section is aimed to give you an idea of how to start an astronomy hobby. The stars are there every night. So don’t be dishearten if cloud cover ruins your night or the neighbor’s security light filters out a globular cluster.
The universe is over 13 billion years old. It’s going nowhere in the relatively near future. So set your own pace, keep trying and the important thing with all hobbies is, have fun and don’t forget to share with your friends!