Astronomy as a hobby: keep it as simple as you want it to be

Many people think that being an amateur astronomer requires a big telescope and a lot of indepth knowledge about stars, planets and the universe in general. As usual, this is not required for a hobby. To have fun you acquire the knowledge you want to acquire; leave the boring parts to those interested in it. And so astronomy is a perfect hobby: it can be done by watching the night sky with the naked eye, by reading books, or browsing Internet; or by using astronomy software on your computer – from traveling the virtual universe to manipulating pictures taken with your digital camera or your webcam simply taped to your scope.

If you want to observe, but a scope is too expensive for you, you could also consider buying binoculars. Remember one thing however: the observing fun is equal to the quality of your optics. Don’t fall for cheap telescopes or optics with "high magnification". Remember that the main purpose of an astronomical instrument is to gather as much light as possible. Simply magnifying an object without light gain will render it invisible.

But money’s not always readily available. If you’re visiting the local store and see binoculars, remember that the more light you can catch the better. If you see a 12×30 and a 7×50, go for the latter, as the diameter of the main lens is 2 centimeter bigger that that of the the former. If you did pay attention in math class remember that a 50mm lens has a surface of about 2000 square millimeters which can catch photons, and a 30mm lens has a surface of about 700 square millimeter – that’s about a third, and that while the diameter of the 30mm is about two-third of the 50mm. If price and quality is the same, bigger diameter is better.

Looking for some advice buying and choosing binoculars? Here are some links:

Stargazing with binoculars

Using binoculars

Choosing binoculars for astronomy

Binoculars for Astronomy

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