Star parties - great for beginners

Posted by Dick McNally
on Thursday, February 15, 2007

The lack of a telescope is no problem for astronomy beginners. When you attend a star party, just about everyone there is willing to let you look through his or her scope.

Last night, here at the Winter Star Party in Big Pine Key, Florida, my wife Mary Lee and I were treated to sights of Saturn and its moons, the Whirlpool Galaxy, M81, M82, the Orion Nebula, and other sights, thanks to generous telescope owners.

One astronomer took the time to readjust his scope to let us see three different sky treats. What better way to get started in this hobby than to have someone with the equipment and willingness to guide you through the night sky?

There aren't too many other fields of interest where this sort of thing exists: Not in bowling ("Pardon me — may I use your ball to knock off that 7-10 split?), not in skydiving ("If you'll let my borrow your parachute, I'll try to re-pack it real carefully."), not in golf ("I forgot my clubs, so maybe we could just share your set for this round."). No, it just wouldn't happen, especially if you're a beginner.

But star parties like this one in the Florida Keys are ideal for novices yearning to learn about the night sky. You'll meet people with a passion for astronomy and a desire to pass on their knowledge.

Having a telescope is optional.

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