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You’ve probably observed the constellations and some planets, enjoyed a bright moon and even witnessed a shooting star on occasion. If you

An absolutely crystal clear and striking picture taken from outer space of a ringed planet

Rings

keep up with the information from some space websites, you can even find schedules  to catch a glimpse of communication satellites or the International Space Station. Many great wonders in the night sky are available to your eyes if you decide to take on astronomy as a pastime.

You don’t need access to a local planetarium, although that can provide you with a great show, and you don’t even need a telescope when starting out. A pair of binoculars provides you access to the dazzling lights in the universe. Binoculars gather more light than the human eye does and things invisible to the naked eye come out in the night sky.

The many stars that make up the Milky Way or the craters that jump out at you from the moon will amaze you. A pair of binoculars brings you closer to the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, which is about 2.5 million light years away! Sometimes we get alerts about comets, meteors or nighttime light shows we can see. Binoculars give you a front-row seat as many people found out during the appearance of Haley’s comet in the 1980s and the brilliant Hale-Bopp comet in the 1990s.

Beginning stargazers have loads of information through astronomy books, magazines and Internet sites just by searching the word “astronomy.” One way to get to know the night sky is through a planisphere. You might remember these charts from the time you were a kid. The rotating star finders help you learn what’s currently visible by moving latitudes and times of the year to identify the stars and constellations right down to the day and hour. You can buy a

Picture of a planisphere or star map

Star Map – A Planisphere

planisphere or books on star charts, but also download a planisphere online.

As you get to know more about the night sky, you can start to learn about telescopes and equipment to use to enhance your hobby. You might be a backyard amateur astronomer, but who knows what lies ahead? Amateurs have made some of the most remarkable discoveries in the sky, including the recent Hale-Bopp comet.

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