A friend of mine whose son has been asking him questions about the sky, stars, planets, etc. admitted to me he was a bit confused as to how to answer many of those questions.
I told him, just as I’ve told my readers interested in stargazing many times before, to ransack the local library.
For kids, visit the children’s section of the local library where you will find hundreds of books designed and written specifically for youngsters.
In addition to the library, there are many fields of endeavor when it comes to the science of astronomy, but there is one particular organization I feel offers one of the most varied observing programs to the amateur. That organization is the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers.
In many of my columns I’ve written about books and magazines that are available to help readers get a start on casual stargazing; but as I wrote several weeks ago, thanks to Kalmbach Publishing there is now a new publication titled “Astronomy For Kids” which, in my opinion, is the best guide for beginning stargazers I’ve ever seen.
There are a couple of ways to order “Astronomy For Kids”: Call Kalmbach Publishers at 1-800-533-6644 to speak to one of their representatives or you can also go on the Internet to Astronomy.com.
When the site comes up, look at the top right of the intro page and you’ll see a search block. Type in “Astronomy For Kids” and when it comes up click on the product shown and just follow the guide.
At most of the star parties as well as science fairs I get involved in, I am often asked how I got started in amateur astronomy and what initial steps one can take to begin the hobby.
ALPO is an international group of “students” of the sun and moon, the major planets, minor planets, meteors, asteroids and comets, and they can be a tremendous source of help in the amateur side of astronomy or just casual stargazing.
I am particularly interested in the ALPO Youth Program Section, which is devoted especially to the education of young astronomers in the fields of lunar and planetary observing.
According to ALPO’s website (alpo-astronomy.org), the sun, the moon, planets, comets, asteroids, meteors and other solar system phenomena are observed, scrutinized and regularly written about not as static, unchanging bodies, but changing, evolving worlds where new things can be learned.
Because you will begin learning the basic fundamentals of observing, I feel that anyone interested in astronomy as a hobby or even as a future profession can gain a tremendous amount of information from being a member of ALPO (there is a membership fee).
Some of the fundamentals that are extremely important include performing simple calculations and demonstrating an understanding of observing techniques. Once these have been digested, you move on to the novice level for further training where you can specialize in one or more areas of study if you so desire.
On another subject, as we move further into November, observers with a clear view of the western horizon can watch as our sister planet Venus takes over as the evening “star.”
Another member of our solar system, the giant planet Jupiter enters the picture along with Venus and for the next several days, you can watch as both of these bodies appear to be on a collision course.
I’ll have more about this upcoming conjunction in a later column.