This year is the Internation Year of Astronomy to celebrate 400 years of astromincal observation and study. This is a great oppotunity for anyone who has even a mild interest in the stars and our place in the universe to get involved in some astronomy. I know that I will be spending the better part of this year staring up at the sky and hopefully, sharing it with everyone who is willing 🙂
I think what puts most people off astronomy is the idea that you have to get up at 1am and drive out to remote locations to get a good view of the stars. Whilst that’s true if you want the best view it doesn’t mean you can’t do some pretty good observing from the comfort of your backyard. In fact there are some great things to see and you don’t even need a telescope, although I’d reccomend picking up a pair of binoculars if you’d like to get a better look at some things.
So, what are some interesting sights to see? Personally I’d reccomend starting off with the Moon, since it’s big, bright and with a pair of binoculars you can seem some incredible detail. The other favourites are Mars, Jupiter and Venus, since they’re all fairly bright and can be seen with the naked eye.
One of my all time favourites will be the International Space Station, which you can plot sighting times using NASA’s Skywatch program. Just select your city and it will give you times that you can view the station.
If you’re hungry for more, the best website I’ve found for sightings of many different astronomical objects is Heaven’s Above. They’ve even got a great guide for deciphering all the terms that use so even if you’ve never done this kind of thing before, you’ll be able to find what you want in the sky.
I spent a weekend down at the coast when the moon was full just a couple weeks ago. I got some fantastic pictures whilst I was lazing on the beach long into the night. I’ll be sure to share them all with you here.