Astronomical Observations are outdoor activities, one would simply like to go out of house, and look at the sky to enjoy the night sky full of stars. It is an ancient science and has evolved with lots of learning about universe and solar system.
Level 1: Unaided Eye (Naked Eye)
Every amateur astronomer should first start his hobby with naked eye observations.
Learn about the stars and their position, the constellations, directions, identification of Alt/Atz, RA/Dec, and rise time / set time of different stars and celestial bodies.
Learn to use the star charts, virtual observatory software, astronomy magazines. These tools and techniques come handy when you go for the next level of observations.
While some people think they cannot learn anything with Naked eye observation, and desperately want to buy a telescope to start their astronomy hobby. – Well if you are not aware of what’s where in the night sky, the best of the telescope will not be able to show you anything.
Naked eye observation is recommended for at least 3 to 6 months before one goes for the next level.
Recommendation: This method is strongly recommended for all Amateur astronomers, this gives a strong foundation to Astronomy.
Age Group: All, in fact there is no age limit on this.
Level 2: Binoculars.
While you get good knowledge about the night sky by naked eye observations, before you think of telescope, you will have to experience the power of binoculars.
Beyond doubt Binoculars can treated as "first telescope". They show you a wide field of view, making it easy to find your way around. Binoculars show a view that's right-side up and straight in front of you, making it easy to see where you're pointing. Binoculars are also relatively cheap, widely available, and a breeze to carry and store.
Your first investment to 7X50 or 10X50 binoculars will eventually turnout to be life time worth. You would require skills of Naked eye observation and Binocular observation to go for next level.
Recommendation: This method is highly recommended for all Amateur astronomers after their initial 3 months of naked eye observation.
Age group: 8 years and above. There is no upper limit.
Level 3: Telescopes
By the time you come to level 3, you would have eventually spent about one year observing the night sky, and in the mean while you would have seen most of the Messier objects visible through Binocular. With your Astronomy club buddy, you would have also peeped into the telescope and had a good understanding of how different objects look.
You will also learn the use of telescope and binoculars, various types and their working. After gaining all this knowledge which usually requires over 2 years, decide on your first telescope.
You'll know the different kinds of telescopes (reflectors, refractors), what you can expect of them and what you'll do with the one you pick. (Planetary or deep sky observations, astrophotography) and any advanced activities.
Don’t go the commercial ads on telescopes; most of them will feature fantastic eye catching colour photos from Hubble space telescope (which is 2 meters in diameter). Many people get carried away with those photos and “Assume” the celestial objects will look so colourful and clear. But eventually get disappointed when they buy them.
While you plan to buy your first telescope you should look at two essential things. 1. The first is a solid, steady, smoothly working mount. 2. High-quality, "diffraction-limited" optics.
The size, model and mount type will depend on your interest and how you would like to use the telescope. Remember each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. It’s better to know what suites best for your requirement.
You may start with a small but high-quality scope; it will be good for your travelling.
However you will have to eventually buy a large and expensive scope when you are committed to Astronomy as a serious hobby.
Recommendation: Recommended for Amateur Astronomer who what to continue Astronomy as serious hobby. You may find it good to join an Astronomical society and use the telescope from the society.
Age: 15 years and above
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