Definition: Defining the Meaning of Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science which is the study of celestial objects (such as stars, galaxies, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and nebulae), the physics, chemistry, and evolution of such objects, and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma ray bursts, and cosmic microwave background radiation. A related but distinct subject, cosmology, is concerned with studying the universe as a whole. Planetary science is the study of the assemblage of planets, moons, dwarf planets, comets, asteroids, and other bodies orbiting the Sun, as well as extra-solar planets.
Astronomers are many times pictured as people who are wizened Scholars who stare through monstrous telescopes on isolated hills, but the truth is that there are vast numbers of amateur astronomers in the world who enjoy astronomy as a hobby. Many of these amateur astronomers are persons with disabilities; you can enjoy astronomy as a hobby too!
Astronomy doesn't need to involve sophisticated, expensive equipment or any equipment at all. In fact - some basic information and activities can help you to enjoy astronomy as a hobby from your own backyard or nearby.
Astronomy as a hobby is something that can grow with you as your interest grows. People of any skill level or age can participate, and gain a better understanding of the universe of which we are a part. Astronomy doesn't necessarily require you to be a professional, or special training in order to understand objects and phenomena outside of Earth's atmosphere.
Astronomy is a Good Hobby for Almost Everyone
Astronomy involves observing and patience. Because these are two things that many persons with disabilities are very capable of doing, Astronomy is an excellent hobby for us. For those of who have the ability to go outside, look up, and observe the clear skies at night patiently, Astronomy can be a most fulfilling and rewarding hobby to pursue. Astronomy as a hobby is something that can be shared with a friend, and gives you a greater sense of the universe.
Things You Can See From Your Own Backyard
Some of the many things that you can see from your own backyard include the changing phases of the moon, and various star positions. You can observe the various constellations in the sky during different seasons of the year, and things like the Big and Little Dippers. Algol is a variable star that is visible to the naked eye and is predictable. You can also see Messier objects with the naked eye. The North Star shines brightly, and several of the planets are visible in the night sky; such as Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.
You can make an, 'Astrolabe,' which is fairly easy, using two protractors (which are available at local stores) a compass, and straws. You can track items in the sky using it to give you the angles and compass headings for different days and times of objects. The moon and planets change position over a month, and an Astrolabe is a fun and useful thing to use in your Astrology hobby, and fun to share with friends. You can download a Star Chart from: www.skymaps.com
Observing the moon, stars and planets at night is something that is better done away from city lights. Bright lights from street lamps, buildings, houses and other sources inhibit the light from objects in space, making them more difficult to see. If you can, go someplace away from bright city lights in order to observe celestial objects.
Do I Need Fancy Equipment
The simple answer is that if you are just starting Astronomy as a hobby - "No!" You won't need any equipment at all. The only thing you may want to get is a pair of binoculars if you want to. One of the best ways to increase your knowledge of Astronomy is through information found on the Internet or at the public library; both of which are free. The information you find can tell you which heavenly bodies to look for and how to find them, as well as explaining what they are.
Astronomy is a hobby that can grow with you, and if you want to there is some equipment that you can get to delve further into the universe. Two of the pieces of equipment that you may want as your hobby grows are either binoculars or a telescope. A pair of binoculars is something you can usually find for less than one-hundred dollars, are pretty easy to use, and are smaller and lighter than a telescope. They don't really require any training to use, don't need to be assembled, and can be used by almost anyone. Binoculars have a wide field of view. This makes it easy for beginners to find objects in the sky.
As your Astronomy hobby grows, a telescope can help you to see objects in the universe with greater clarity, and in larger variety. Telescopes cost a bit more and are more complicated. They also require some assembly and knowledge of how to use them properly. People who have experience using binoculars often develop an interest in acquiring a telescope as their interest in Astronomy grows. A telescope can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the kind you want to get and what you can afford.
For people who become seriously involved in Astronomy as a hobby, there are some other pieces of equipment that can enhance their stargazing. Accessories such as eye pieces which allow you to choose the level of magnification and the field of view for an object, or finders that assist in finding objects to view from a telescope, or special mounts that hold a telescope up in order to free the person's hands, are available. There are accessories including color filters, light pollution filters, and solar filters available. Astronomy as a hobby is a wonderful one because it can accommodate people at all levels of participation from beginners who require no equipment, to those who want to become more involved.
Some amateur Astronomers like to take pictures of the objects they observe in the night sky through their telescopes. Pictures can be taken through a telescope using either a traditional camera, or a digital camera with pleasing results. For people who want more detailed images, there is a camera called a, 'Charge-Coupled Device,' (CCD) camera that has silicon chips which are light-sensitive; able to detect faint objects that regular camera's can't capture. CCD cameras also require special software in order to both view and manipulate the photos they take.
Ways to Have Fun with Astronomy
There are some fun ways to get involved in your Astronomy hobby that are inexpensive and enjoyable to pursue. They include:
- Joining an Amateur Astronomy Club: By joining an Amateur Astronomy club you get to exchange resources, information, receive tips, and meet others interested in Astronomy.
- Going to Star Parties: Star Parties are gatherings of Astronomers who are from a range of different skill levels and experience. Going to these parties can help you to learn more, meet great people, and share your interests.
- Reading: There are books, magazines, and information on the Internet available containing a wealth of information for beginning Astronomers. Tips, star charts, and much more on Astronomy can be found through these resources.
Curiosity, practice and patience are the keys to starting a hobby in Astronomy. With some skill and patience Astronomy as a hobby is incredibly fun, and is a great way to increase your knowledge of the universe!
Quick Facts: Astrophysics
Astronomy and astrophysics have developed significant interdisciplinary links with other major scientific fields. Archaeoastronomy is the study of ancient or traditional astronomies in their cultural context, utilizing archaeological and anthropological evidence. Astrobiology is the study of the advent and evolution of biological systems in the universe, with particular emphasis on the possibility of non-terrestrial life. Astrostatistics is the application of statistics to astrophysics to the analysis of vast amount of observational astrophysical data.