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Some tips on astronomy

by Mark Lamendola

These tips will help you make your pursuit of astronomy more enjoyable, and the events more memorable.

  1. Counteract light pollution. This is your biggest enemy, after the IRS. Make a point of asking your municipality and others to use outdoor lighting that does not scatter light upward.
  2. Form or join a local group. This will give you resources for battling light pollution, getting group discounts, etc. You could meet once a month for two hours, and still have plenty of time for other things.
  3. Buy books on astronomy. These will give you the theory and training you need to maximize the return on the time and money you invest.
  4. Buy astronomy videos. These will do wonders for your enjoyment level.
  5. Keep records on what you view. Documenting the experience helps you with "bragging rights," as well as reinforcing the discipline every good astronomer must have.
  6. Throw a party for special astronomy events, such as comet-watching. Just keep the lights dim!
  7. Take an astronomy vacation. Getting out to a new location from which to view the heavens can be exhilarating.
  8. Find a long-distance partner you can e-mail about astronomical events. This effectively expands the panoramic range of your telescope, if you send images back and forth.
  9. Drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and take a multi-vitamin. Healthy eyes work better.
  10. Offer to provide astronomical images to local newspapers, newsletters, television stations, businesses, webmasters, etc., for a very small fee. This adds importance to your work. And it can lead to bigger things--such as getting your images published in print internationally. Visit http://www.icstars.com for an example of what two very impassioned part-time astronomers are doing.

Common astronomy myths and misunderstandings, exposed and corrected

  • Many people confuse astronomy with astrology. Astronomy is the study of stars. Astrology is a fiction based on artificial constructs called constellations. Constellations change over time and they differ to the viewer depending upon where you are on earth.
  • The telescopes of today's leading astronomers are not optical. They are radio. They often cover many square miles and consist of arrays of antennas. One of the largest is in South Africa.
  • We are not viewing the universe as it is, but as it was. That's because light, fast as it is, takes a long time to traverse the distance from a star to where we are. Even the sun's light takes eight minutes to get here.
  • Pluto is not a planet. See the Book Review of How I Killed Pluto.
  • A brown dwarf did not come between the earth and the sun in 2010. This looney idea that allegedly explains various earthquakes defies all logic. Any gravitational tug on earth will be felt not at one point, but in the entire globe. That means the far side from the alleged brown star would also be pulled. And a force strong enough to cause earthquakes would be causing all kinds of other havoc as well. There's simply no there there.
  • The earth and the moon are not pulling each other toward each other. In fact, the moon is a little farther from the earth with each passing year. At some point, the earth will lose its moon.
  • It's simply not true that no new things are being discovered without radio telescopes. Amateur astronomers discover new things all the time. The reason is that you trade "distance" for "width" when looking into space. Anyone who understands photography or radio antennas will understand why this is so.


Check out these astronomy posters!



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