Everybody is in awe of a dark night sky
We live in a rather crazy and fast paced world. That is just the way it is! And it can be difficult to take some time to unwind and do something contemplative. Let alone to do it at night which might throw you off your rhythm.
Chances are very good that you have seen some of the remarkable pictures that the hubble space telescope has taken. And no doubt you were impressed and awed by the pictures. It just goes almost without saying that the universe is a mysterious and remarkable place. But there is much more than just pretty pictures. And you probably know what I am talking about. There is also a feeling that comes along with viewing those pictures - it is a feeling of awe and wonder. There is something very significant about seeing the universe.
When was the last time you sat quietly and just thought about the mystery of life and the cosmos?
You cannot help but think about the nature and mystery of life when looking up at the night sky. It is almost as if they are there specifically for that reason. There is something about astronomy that evokes a philosophical train of thought. You may have felt this before when looking up at the stars.
And in some ways it is a very humbling experience. We understand the scale of what we are seeing when we look at photographs of night sky objects yet we really can't grasp it. The picture at left here gives you a sense of what I mean. It is the Eagle nebula and it is 57 trillion miles long. Yes, 57 trillion. That picture is so remarkable that it is easy to doubt. It looks like an oil painting. But it is a real photograph taken by the Hubble telescope.
Okay so why should you get a telescope?
Well it isn't because you are going to see objects as nicely as the Hubble Telescope does. That isn't possible. But you will see some remarkable things and it will evoke that feeling in you -awe, wonder, and mystery.
Yet there is still more to it. There is a sense of adventure that comes along with using a telescope. You get yourself a star map and you hunt around for all the various objects that you can see ranging from the moon to the planets, to colorful stars, other galaxies, and nebulae.
Me and Telescopes
When I was younger I was really passionate about telescopes and astronomy. I spent a lot of nights under the dark sky. It was an amazing period of time for me. And as I grew into adulthood I had to put a lot of that aside. You know, the responsibilities of adulthood are many; paying the bills, working the job, building the career, mortage, kids, car etc. etc. etc. And all of that is a wonderful part of being alive and being human in today's world.
But I always heard the calling of the sky and over these years I managed to get a little time for some observing. But now I live a different life and I guess you could say that I am semi-retired. So, I have the time to reacquaint myself with those beautiful objects in the sky.
So, back to why a telescope for you
Well, if you don't have a telescope you still can get that feeling. Plan a few hours as late at night as is comfortable for you and gather yourself up a few things like a lawn chair, a thermos of some cocoa and maybe a star map. Make it a night when there is no moon. And just go outside and relax. Find the darkest spot you can find and just sit and look up and around. You might not know it but it will take your eyes ten or so minutes to really open up and see things that you wouldn't see if you just went outside and looked.So, relax and just let your eyes adjust.
Where will your thoughts go?
Need to build up to a telescope?
Ok, maybe you aren't yet ready to actually buy a telescope. Or maybe it is an expense that you just can't afford right now. I do have some wonderful suggestions for you. First off, get yourself some star maps. You can download them just about anywhere on the web. Then maybe you can get a book or two. Your local library will have some great ones. After that you might want to consider getting yourself a pair of binoculars. They work pretty good and parts of the sky will open up for you.
I think that you will find a certain amount of enrichment from your adventuring out into the night sky. I know that it has had a profound affect on me.
RESOURCES and MORE
If you want to take a peek at telescopes and learn a bit about the sizes and cost of them I have a guide for you: A guide to buying a telescope
Amazon.com also has a wonderful section of their site that is devoted to telescopes. It has lots of information and a buying guide: Amazon's Guide to buying a telescope
Here are a few books I recommend:
The third edition of Nightwatch continues its tradition of being the best handbook for the beginning astronomer. Terence Dickinson covers all the problems beginners face, starting with the fact that the night sky does not look the way a modern city-dweller expects. He discusses light pollution, how to choose binoculars and telescopes, how to pronounce the names of stars and constellations, telescope mounts, averted vision, and why the harvest moon looks especially bright. Most of the lovely photographs in the book were taken by amateurs, which gives the section on astrophotography a particularly inspirational gleam.
Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them
An excellent book for small telescope users...As the resurgence in small telescopes continues, this book will be of use to all users of such instruments. Since many of the objects covered in Turn Left at Orion can be seen from light-polluted skies, this book is a valuable asset even if you live in a large urban area.
"...should be packaged with every first telescope. It's as nearly perfect as such a book can be." Sky & Telescope
"...for those intent on doing some serious observing with a small telescope, Turn Left at Orion has much to recommend it."
"An excellent introduction to astronomy for beginners and a field guide for experts." -- -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"An excellent introduction to astronomy for beginners and a field guide for experts." -- Review
"Brimming with dazzling celestial photographs and timely astronomical information, the newly revised Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets is a must-have resource for any amateur stargazer." -- -- Country Living Gardener
In this revised and updated Fourth Edition of the essential guide to comparing and selecting sky-watching equipment, award-winning astronomy writer Philip Harrington takes you telescope shopping the easy way. He analyzes and explains today's astronomy market and compares brands and models point by point. Star Ware gives you the confidence you need to buy the telescope and accessories that are right for you and the knowledge to get the most out of your new purchase, with:
- Extensive, expanded reviews of leading models and accessories-including dozens of new products
- clear, step-by-step guide to every aspect of selecting telescopes, binoculars, filters, mounts, lenses, cameras, film, star charts, guides and references, and much more
- Ten new do-it-yourself projects for building your own astronomical equipment
- Easy tips on setting up, using, and caring for telescopes and other astronomical equipment
- Lists of where to find everything astronomical, including Web sites and resources; distributors, dealers, and conventions; and corporate listings for products and services