Many people assume that you need to buy a telescope to get into astronomy, which means you’ve got to be rich to afford one. Well you don’t actually need anything other than your eyes to go stargazing live!
A telescope may be essential for close-up views of the Moon and planets, but you can find plenty to look at in the sky without any form of optical aid. You can even take part in observing projects such as monitoring meteors or bright variable stars.
What is more, it can be very helpful to get to know your way around the sky and learn how it changes before stepping up a gear and mastering a piece of optical equipment.
When you take up stargazing, you will find it invaluable if you take time to learn the different star patterns, or constellations. Start with the easy ones that you might already have had pointed out to you as a child, such as the Great Bear, or Orion. Then use those as signposts to help locate other constellations nearby. The more you learn, the more quickly you will fill in the gaps between them that complete the celestial jigsaw.
The human brain is good at making out patterns and it will not be long before the stars no longer appear as random points of light scattered across the sky but as instantly recognisable shapes that will become like old friends throughout your life.
You will note, just as ancient man did, how they return to greet you at particular times of the year. Such familiarity was vital for our ancestors in helping them know when to plant crops, for example. For today’s astronomer, it is a welcome connection with the natural rhythm of the calendar.
Learning the constellations is also a solid grounding for stargazing that you will greatly appreciate when finally you do get the telescope of your dreams and are deciding were in the sky to point it.
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