Increasing your knowledge of astronomy

Astronomy is a lot of fun - even professional astronomers generally feel that way as long as the skies are clear! Be sure to enjoy those dark, clear nights in the southwest. If you are interested in learning more about astronomy, there are many good sources to help you get started. For the less technically minded, the magazine Astronomy is a good choice; Sky & Telescope caters to more advanced amateurs. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada produces The Observer's Handbook every year; it contains a wealth of information about the night sky. Scientific American, Science News, and New Scientist all publish articles about astronomy. For the more scientifically literate, the journal Nature contains original research papers on some of the most recent and exciting discoveries. You also can get a lot of information from internet web pages (see page 104).

After returning home there is no need to buy a telescope, because the best way to start exploring the sky usually is with a pair of binoculars. They are easy to use, and will collect more light than Galileo's original telescope. Faint extended objects, like other galaxies, won't appear as anything more than smudges, so do not be disappointed when they don't look anything like the beautiful color photos seen in books. Even large telescopes need CCDs to reveal any details.

The reason that you cannot view faint objects in detail is that your eyes send images to your brain too rapidly. While you can adjust the shutter speed on a camera, or the read-out time for a CCD in order to collect more light, you cannot alter your basic physiology to slow down the transmission of signals to your brain.

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