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Week of October 19, 1998
When you ask for free advice you usually get what you pay for. But sometimes it works out; I have been asked a few times how to buy a telescope, and I have been able to answer. I was also recently asked if there are any online lists of astronomy clubs that can be found. It turns out there are!

But first, a small speech. It's great that so many people are reading my pages, and I think it's wonderful when I get email telling me that you have learned something from my site. There are so many science websites out there, including astronomy ones, so I know that it's easy to get lost. Astronomy is a different flavor of science from almost every other one, though: just about anyone can do it for themself! Just go outside and look up. It's really that simple.

However, if you want to do more than just look up, it gets complicated quickly. You might want binoculars, or a telescope, and when you get them there is a bewildering number of stars in the sky. Even worse, most objects are faint and difficult to spot. What you really need is help!

Luckily, there's lots available. Amateur astronomers are a friendly, helpful lot who happily show newcomers what's what in the sky. There are frequent star parties, where experienced and novice alike bring telescopes, star maps, cookies and enthusiasm to a dark site somewhere and share the sky. Amateur astronomers are everywhere, and luckily most of them are online. I have links to quite a few from my Good Science Links, but that only scratches the surface. For a much more complete list, you want The Astronomy Mall Club list (this list covers the US; for the other countries on our blue planet try here). I looked the list over, and all of the clubs I know about are there. It looks very complete! If you want to find out what club (or clubs) is (are!) in your area, take a look there. I guarantee the club will be glad to hear from you.

At Sky and Telescope magazine's website you can search for a club, museum, observatory or planetarium near you!

Another excellent page is the Finding an Amateur Astronomy Club FAQ, which itself lists several more pages that will help you find a local group of astronomers.

Another site to help you find a club is Scott Roberts' very nice AstronomyOutreach Network, where you can search by state, zip code or even area code.

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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