James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Friday, October 2, 2009

Everyday Astronomy

To some people, the only time that they enjoy astronomy is when they are actually using their telescope, so I thought I would offer up some tips on things to do on any evening and still enjoy their hobby.

1. Visit the library - A trip to the library can be a revealing experience in this hobby. There are several sections that one can enjoy and still gain insights into the hobby, from the pure science collection of books on astronomy, to the areas of space exploration, UFO's, videos, on through the science encyclopedias, to the periodicals section, most every library has a diverse selection of materials to keep one's mind occupied in an ongoing way. No matter how much you learn, there is always more out there. You may also inquire about inter library loans if your library doesn't have a certain book you are looking for. My favorite libraries to visit are the ones of higher learning found in Colleges and Universities.

2. Cull the Internet - More material than you can imagine on the internet at any given time to read. Make sure you use your favorites menu, organize your collections of websites by category, eg...astrophotography, blogs, telescopes, astronomy forums, etc. I use the internet for everything from exchanging with others to collection printable materials for hard reference.

3. Build an Observing Handbook - You can use the internet and some plastic sleeving and find all kinds of usable and freely redistributable materials that you can print out to create the ultimate reference collection for use at the eyepiece or the kitchen table alike.

4. Decorate a Room - Have a favorite hobby center where you keep your telescope, a spare bedroom, a man cave? Find printable astro images that you can capture on a flash drive, visit a photo lab, have them enlarged and printed, frame them and decorate a wall. You don't have to photograph your own images to enjoy them, and many amateurs will allow you to print copies of their images for your own personal use. They make a great conversation piece for guests, and help put your hobby into perspective for others as well as yourself.

5. Join a Club - Make a point of being involved. Volunteer to clean the grounds, maintain the observatory, organize their materials, do handyman work, go out for coffee with other members. The more energy one puts into the organization brings others to join in, and soon it becomes a pleasure rather than a chore. And you also get that sense of accomplishment.

These are just a few ideas, but this is enough to get anyone started on finding ways to enjoy a lifetime of amateur astronomy. Down the road I will add others to this collection because, honestly, I never run out of things to do with this hobby or ideas to do more. I just run out of time to do them all.

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