Amateur astronomy

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Amateur astronomy, also called backyard astronomy and stargazing, is a hobby whose participants enjoy watching the night sky (and the day sky too, for sunspots, eclipses, etc.), and the plethora of objects found in it, mainly with portable telescopes and binoculars. Even though scientific research is not their main goal, many amateur astronomers make a contribution to astronomy by monitoring variable stars, tracking asteroids and discovering transient objects, such as comets.

Contents

Overview

The typical amateur astronomer is one who does not depend on the field of astronomy as a primary source of income or support, and does not have a professional degree or advanced academic training in the subject. Many amateurs are beginners, while others have a high degree of experience in astronomy and often assist and work alongside professional astronomers.

Amateur astronomy is usually associated with viewing the night sky when most celestial objects and events are visible, but sometimes amateur astronomers also operate during the day for events such as sunspots and solar eclipses. Amateur astronomers often look at the sky using nothing more than their eyes, but common tools for amateur astronomy include portable telescopes and binoculars.

People have studied the sky throughout history in an amateur framework, without any formal method of funding. It is only within about the past century, however, that amateur astronomy has become an activity clearly distinguished from professional astronomy, and other related activities.

Amateur astronomy objectives

Collectively, amateur astronomers observe a variety of celestial objects and phenomena. Common targets of amateur astronomers include the Moon, planets, stars, comets, meteor showers, and a variety of deep sky objects such as star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae. Many amateurs like to specialise in observing particular objects, types of objects, or types of events which interest them. One branch of amateur astronomy, amateur astrophotography, involves the taking of photos of the night sky. Astrophotography has become more popular for amateurs in recent times, as relatively sophisticated equipment, such as high quality CCD cameras, has become more affordable.

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