The most basic definition of astronomy is that it is the science of observing the moons, planets, stars, galaxies and all the other celestial objects which are part of the larger universe around us. Basically if you’re observing any other body outside of the Earth’s atmosphere through a telescope then you’re an astronomer of one kind or another. Astronomy is also one of the oldest sciences on our planet because even in our most primitive state human beings still looked up at the stars and wondered what they were, who put them there and why they move as they do.
How Did Astronomy Get Started?
History of AstronomyThe whole science of astronomy stretches thousands of years all the way back to the earliest scientific peoples like the Maya, Egyptians, Celtic druids and, of course, the Babylonians. They placed so much importance on the stars, planets and comets that they built entire series of buildings to commemorate different solar events. You’ve probably seen these buildings before but never realized they had astronomical significance – the Giza Pyramids, Stone Henge, Newgrange and a number of Maya ziggurats (pyramids) for example.
The fascination with the heavens didn’t end with our ancient ancestors though and throughout history astronomers have often been at the cutting-edge of scientific thinking, with names like Galileo, Copernicus, Sir Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, Edwin Hubble, Carl Sagan and Patrick Moore all living on long after they’d passed on from this world. Hopefully they’ve gone back to being the star dust that we all came from in the first place. In short astronomy has helped us to understand how our planet “works” and where we fit into the cosmos, and in a weird way this has created even more questions which need answering…making the science of astronomy an interest with seemingly infinite possibilities.
Why Get Involved?
What Is AstronomyToo many people look at astronomers as being some kind of super geek sub-culture but fact is stranger than fiction in this case. In our experience we’ve found that astronomers come from all walks of life, and the one thing they all have in common is a desire to know more about not only our own solar system and galaxy, but what makes the universe tick and what part we have to play in all of that. What people don’t realize is how addictive being an amateur astronomer is, you’re always wondering if you’ll discover the next “unknown” comet or asteroid floating through our solar system.
Astronomy is also a massively educational hobby but it doesn’t feel like one – the same people who would have been bored solid by a physics class in high school will sit for hours chatting about the gravitational pull of different celestial objects as just one example. Like it or not astronomy is a science but when you truly enjoy a subject then you absorb all the information which comes you way without even thinking about it.
What Do You Need?
If you’re working with a really limited budget then you can get started with either a set of powerful binoculars and a tripod, or for around the same amount of money you can buy yourself either a very competent refracting telescope, or an entry level reflecting or catadioptric model instead. We know that most people assume that you need to spend several thousand dollars to own the type of telescope which will allow you to clearly see the rings of Saturn and shadows on the craters of our own Moon but that’s simply not the case.
You can spend thousands on a telescope if you want to but the reality is that if you have a budget of between $300 and $500 you’ll be able to get a reasonably high-quality Orion, Celestron or Meade telescope which is perfect for the astronomy newbie. This same telescope will provide you, your friends and/or your family with views of the nearby stars and planets which will literally take their breath away.
Can Anyone Learn?
Although astronomy is a science you don’t need any kind of formal education or understanding of maths or physics to be involved. In fact if you’re worried about being able to even find the right star to look at you can simply buy one of the computerized telescopes on the market and let it do all the hard work for you.
If you want to get involved in a hobby which is fascinating, addictive and educational all at the same time then astronomy might just be perfect for you!