The science of astronomy can seem complicated and even incomprehensible to many. The exploration of space seems limited to those trained as astronauts and mission specialists. But while these generalizations are true, anyone can participate in amateur astronomy, and come to understand more about the stars, the planets, and the exploration of space.
Local planetariums are one of the greatest resources for learning more about these subjects. Most major cities in the United States support a planetarium of some kind, and of course, they can be found around the world. Planetariums often offer classes for a small fee, and are one of the more popular places for school field trips.
Another resource is observatories. While public access is limited, most observatories do offer day tours and restricted nighttime observations. Observatories are fewer in number than planetariums and their locations are relatively remote. One of the better-known observatories is the Lowell Observatory in northern Arizona, just outside of Flagstaff. A visit to such a place could be part of a family vacation.
Of course, there are numerous websites that provide information about astronomy and space. This is particularly helpful for educators. Many of these sites offer lesson plans that can be adapted to the classroom. One such site is located at http://www.space.about.com/ that offers plans for various grade levels.
One of the best educational resources for the study of space and amateur astronomy is interacting with others who share this interest. Star gazing clubs and amateur astronomy clubs are a great way to learn about these subjects, as well as get hands-on experience in actual application of the science. There are some clubs that will, for a small fee, bring their equipment to a school or social gathering and provide a demonstration as well as allow observations. The best way to take advantage of being a member of such a group is to have a telescope. It need not be a large or expensive telescope. There are many types available that are useful for the amateur sky watcher.
Of course, a telescope is the best resource for studying the stars. Visiting websites and planetariums, and building models of the Solar system in school, are all great ways to learn about astronomy and space. But the sensation of actually seeing the planet Mars, to see the rings glowing, is sure to capture a child’s interest, and plant the seed of curiosity. It is curiosity that has driven humans to gaze at the sky, at the stars, and wonder what space is like. It is curiosity that creates such sciences as astronomy and compels humans to leave this planet and fly to the stars. It is humanity itself, and its quest for more knowledge, that proves to be the best educational resource for any science.