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Since first looking upon the moon and stars, humankind has aspired to learn about those mysterious sources of light. This gave rise to the science of astronomy.

Although the vastness of the universe is best appreciated with the naked eye, examining individual objects and phenomena requires a number of more sophisticated tools. Most recognizable of all astronomical tools is the telescope, invented by Galileo Galilei in 1609. Over time this device has grown in both size (more than 30 feet across) and capabilities, providing the opportunity to learn a great deal about how our universe has developed. Further enhancing our observing power since 1990 is the well-known Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Free of the atmospheric interference which plagues ground-based telescopes, the HST has revealed spectacular phenomenon deep in outer space.

Binoculars make a good starting point for your own astronomical observations. With at least 10 power binoculars using 50mm objective lenses (commonly referred to as 10 x 50) you will be able to discern the Galilean moons about Jupiter as small points of light. Quality is important, so be sure to compare the viewing clarity of several different binoculars before making your purchase. Furthermore, you will experience greater success with observing Jupiter's largest moons and other faint objects if you mount the binoculars on a sturdy tripod using a tripod adapter.

When you are ready to examine the sky in greater detail, you will want a good astronomical telescope. These range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. For the most enjoyable experience, you should plan to buy the best telescope that you can afford. Before purchase, check with knowledgeable individuals (camera store personnel, university astronomy professors) for their recommendations about the telescope features that will suit your observing plans.

Alternatively, you might consider building your own telescope. You need to be mechanically inclined and have a good deal of patience because quality construction cannot be rushed. The experience can help you to learn about optics and to better appreciate the effort required for large-scale telescope construction. Because this is not necessarily a cheap option and success is not guaranteed, we think that you will still want a factory-built model to ensure some good observing.

Astronomy is the most accessible science because nearly anyone can participate simply by being interested in the sky above us all. That means that you will find a lot of people who share your interest and plenty of opportunities to learn on the Internet. Another excellent way to increase your knowledge and expand your opportunities for discovery is by joining an area astronomy club. If you live in or near northeast Kansas, NEKAAL is ready to welcome you into our family!

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