What Is Astronomy and How to Get Started

Posted on Jun 29, 2020

Astronomy is, given that we are all meteor aficionados, an important science. More specifically, it is the starting point for all extra-terrestrial explorations and observations.

Therefore, we thought it would be good to give you a crash course in astronomy and show you the ropes. We also included items that you need to acquire before you embark on the meteor observing mission.

So, we hope you are ready because it’s time to get to cosmic business.

Astronomy 101

In NASA’s dictionary for K-4 students, the term Astronomy is defined as “the study of stars, planets, and space”. For this article, we won’t complicate it further than NASA, because astronomy does refer to extra-terrestrial phenomena.

This specific field of study was always held in high regard. Ancient Greek mathematicians invented astronomy and dubbed it a branch of mathematics. Over the centuries, they were the ones responsible for the development of astronomical studies.

Here is a fun fact: Eudoxus of Cnidus and Callippus of Cyzicus were the first ones to create and explain the prototype for 3D geometrical models that describe the planetary motions. That happened in 4th century BC, which makes astronomy one of the oldest natural sciences.

The sophisticated version of astronomy that we know today significantly evolved over the centuries, and its history always intertwined with other sciences like chemistry, physics, and math. Plus, it had close ties with philosophy (yes!), astrology, and mythology.

Today, astronomers typically fall into two categories: observational and theoretical astronomers. Their fields of study are the same, but the difference lies in the aspect of their research.

Observational Astronomy focuses on the observation of space phenomena, the motion of stars, comets, and planets. Scientists in this branch primarily study galaxies and manifestations of cosmic bodies.

Theoretical Astronomy focuses on the mathematical models behind each event. Their primary concern is the development of models that can apply and describe the complex extra-terrestrial systems.

Further division of astronomy leads to several branches and subcategories. The major ones are:

  • Planetary astronomy
  • Solar astronomy
  • Stellar astronomy
  • Galactic astronomy
  • Astrometry
  • Astrophysics
  • Cosmology

How to Get Started with Astronomy

The first step towards your meteor observation expertise is research, as you already know. Astronomy, as the parent science of meteoritics, should be the starting point for every amateur astronomer.

During your research, you should use various resources to support the investigation. From astronomy textbooks – the easy-to-understand ones – to internet sites with valuable info, everything works.

Our warm recommendation is NASA, and you can find almost any info that you need with just a few clicks. However, if you are already familiar with NASA, you can check out other sources on our pages reserved for links. We listed resources that can be of help across various fields of study (and entertainment).

But, if you decide to forgo the research and just want to jump into observation, here is what you need to do.

  • Get a telescope
  • Get additional equipment into order
  • Learn the ways of the sky
  • Start the observation and enjoy!

Becoming a Professional Amateur Astronomer

Now, let’s talk about the steps that we listed above a little bit more.

Get a telescope.

You can become an expert in the sky watching with binoculars, but telescopes have more benefits. But here is the trick – they are expensive, so you should be extra careful during purchase. You don’t want to waste money on something that’s not good! Explore features and types of telescopes (and follow MeteorObs, we can help you with that) before buying. In the meantime, you can also try the naked-eye method of observation.

Get additional equipment into order.

Sky observations (typically) cannot be performed during daytime. During the night, the sky is so dark that everything that happens above is more visible. Hence, observations occur in the middle of the night – after midnight. As you know, nights can be chilly, even in summer. That is why you need to be prepared for any weather and temperature. Plus, you need notebooks for recording your findings.

Learn the ways of the sky.

We watch the skies in hopes of spotting celestial phenomena. In most cases, these events are rare, unexpected, and one-of-a-kind. However, some events are cyclical (like the Haley Comet). That means that they occur every year or every few years. If you have been following us, you know that we talked about annual meteor showersWe trace these events using calendars and predictions from previous occurrences. If you want to know what to watch, getting acquainted with this information is crucial for you.

Fire up the telescope and watch!

This is the most natural part of the process. After you cover all aspects that we mentioned, it’s time to sit back, relax, and start your observation.