Amateur astronomy is a fascinating hobby and can be an introduction to several practical and useful technologies. Instruments used in ground-based astronomy range from the unaided eye, to common video cameras, to large computer-controlled telescopes using adaptive optics. The hard part is finding dark skies that are conveniently located. Although we can't provide dark skies, we can help introduce you to this awe inspiring activity!
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to see and use many telescopes and talk to other amateur astronomers, is to go to a "star party"! See the Calendar of Star Parties at Sky and Telescope. Monthly subscription to popular magazines such as Astronomy Magazine and Sky and Telescope will keep you informed of upcoming celestial events. A pocket sized "field guide" or a star atlas is also an indispensible tool. If you know of an unused telescope stashed away in someones attic, ask to borrow it! Binoculars are also a good starting instrument.
Astronomy Groups and Organizations
Although there are several professional observatories scattered throughout the world, complimented by a host of satellites dedicated to space science, several gaps exist in the area of observing astronomical objects that populate the cosmos.
Several groups or organizations exist where almost anyone can participate, actually making a contribution to science. Some require instrumentation that is now becoming widely available at lower prices. Events such as occultations, meteor showers, and even bright comets like Hale-Bopp, can be recorded on ordinary video cameras or film.
The list of organizations below can be of great benefit to both the the individual and the organization as a whole. Each link describes the organization somewhat and has a pointer to its respective page.
Find an Organization at Astronomy.Com
The Amateur Sky Survey -- A really interesting project!
An Amateur Astronomer's Success Story! -- Gianluca Masi
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