Dude, You’re Getting a Telescope!

Dude, You’re Getting a Telescope!

You might remember the Dell computer commercials in which a youth reports this exciting news to his friends that they are about to get their new computer by telling them, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!”  It was a cute series but it reflects the excitement young people get about anything new, particularly if it’s a new machine.

So when its time to finally get your children that very first telescope, you want to make sure it’s just the right thing.  There are a number of reasons you should put some serious thought into just what this beginner telescope should look like.  Perhaps this will be your children’s first experience with a real telescope.  They may have a healthy and thriving love of astronomy from your family trips to the country to watch a meteor shower or just to gaze at the stars.  And you may have piqued their interest showing them how to enhance the experience with binoculars or even letting them play with your telescope.

But this is a big moment.  You want them to “bond” with this first telescope the way you did and catch the excitement of using the power of a telescope to do things with their love of astronomy that they could never do before.  The reasons for taking care with your choice are many including…

* A telescope is a big step into the lifelong hobby of astronomy.  If they get the wrong thing, frustration could make them lose interest both in the machine and in the field of study.
* Kids have a short attention span.  You want this beginner telescope to take them from where they are to the next level while giving them those gratifying moments discovering new things in the stars every time they use it.
* It has to be a hardy piece of equipment.  Kids don’t always know how to treat delicate equipment.  So the starter telescope should have some good “training wheels” on it.
* It has to be their teacher even when they don’t know they are in school.  A good beginner telescope, accompanied by some stimulating documentation that is written just for kids will stimulate their excitement and use it to teach them to work hard to reach new heights in their quest for knowledge about the stars.

A lot about how you go about getting this first telescope will depend on your own expertise in astronomy.  If it is your passion and you have developed a pretty sophisticated knowledge about telescopes over the years, you not only are well equipped to make this choice but you will be there to guide them as they begin to use it.

But if you are just encouraging them in a wonderful hobby that you yourself have not been involved with in depth, first of all, congratulations.  You are giving them a wonderful gift of not only knowledge but the love of astronomy and the natural wonder of nature.  But you also need some help.  So here are some quick guidelines.

* Find the astronomy geeks.  They are easy to find in hobby shops, astronomy clubs and societies at the local college.  They will help you enthusiastically.
* Look at the telescope you are considering through their eyes.  It should not be too complex.  Don’t get something that will intimidate them.
* Don’t buy a toy.  Your kids will know the difference.
* Make sure it can grow and be expanded as their knowledge expands.

If you put some wise consideration into just the right starter telescope, your kids will be as excited they have ever been for a gift.  Don’t be surprised if you hear one of them squeal, “Dude, you got a telescope!”

How to Look Up

The beauty of astronomy is that anybody can do it.  From the tiniest baby to the most advanced astrophysicist, there is something for anyone who wants to enjoy astronomy.  In fact, it is a science that is so accessible that virtually anybody can do it virtually anywhere they are.  All they have to know how to do is to look up.

It really is amazing when you think about it that just by looking up on any given night, you could see virtually hundreds of thousands of stars, star systems, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and maybe a even an occasional space shuttle might wander by.  It is even more breathtaking when you realize that the sky you are looking up at is for all intents and purposes the exact same sky that our ancestors hundreds and thousands of years ago enjoyed when they just looked up.

There is something timeless about the cosmos.  The fact that the planets and the moon and the stars beyond them have been there for ages does something to our sense of our place in the universe.  In fact, many of the stars we “see” with our naked eye are actually light that came from that star hundreds of thousands of years ago.  That light is just now reaching the earth.  So in a very real way, looking up is like time travel.

Everybody knows how to look up.  Children first discover the amazing light show on display for free every clear night by just looking up.  You can probably remember that very first time you noticed that explosion of stars above you when you were a child.  Now it is time to foster that same love of astronomy in your own children.  You have to teach them how to look up.

While anyone can look up and fall in love with the stars at any time, the fun of astronomy is learning how to become more and more skilled and equipped in star gazing that you see and understand more and more each time you look up.  Here are some steps you can take to make the moments you can devote to your hobby of astronomy much more enjoyable.

* Get out of town.  The furtherest you can get from the lights of the city, the more you will see in the night sky.

* Know what you are looking at.  It is great fun to start learning the constellations, how to navigate the night sky and find the planets and the famous stars.  There are web sites and books galore to guide you.

* Get some history.  Learning the background to the great discoveries in astronomy will make your moments star gazing more meaningful.  It is one of the oldest sciences on earth so find out the greats of history who have looked at these stars before you.

* Get a geek.  Astronomy clubs are lively places full of knowledgeable amateurs who love to share their knowledge with you.  For the price of a coke and snacks, they will go star gazing with you and overwhelm you with trivia and great knowledge.

* Know when to look.  Not only knowing the weather will make sure your star gazing is rewarding but if you learn when the big meteor showers and other big astronomy events will happen will make the excitement of astronomy come alive for you.

And when all is said and done, get equipped.  Your quest for newer and better telescopes will be a lifelong one.  Let yourself get addicted to astronomy and the experience will enrich every aspect of life.  It will be an addiction you never want to break.

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