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!
Copyright 1998 - 1999 Northeast Kansas Amateur Astronomers' League