Hobby based observation of the heavens is harder or more difficult than most people think. A lot of things need to be just perfect to make the most of a night of visual observation.
- a clear clean sky subject to the least amount of *light pollution possible
- the weather must be cooperating - forget about visual observation when it's raining
- a full moon can increase light pollution too - unless you are observing the moon!
- generally speaking, you need "a night sky" (it's hard to visually observe during the daylight hours)
Being an astronomer isn't just about observing the heavens by using a telescope. Amateurs and professionals alike enjoy many different methods of observing the skies. As I stated earlier, FM Radio astronomy has been gaining popularity lately due to its ease and uniqueness. It's unique, due to the fact that it's not a visual observation technique, but an audible observation. For the techno-geek, it's called listening to Forward Scatter. The technique that I explain isn't for listening to the heavens, the moon, or the pulse of 'nearby' binary star. It's a technique for listening to falling meteors. That's right! You can 'listen' to falling meteors! "Why would I want to listen to meteors?", you ask? Well, mainly because it's geeky and it can be done day or night, rain or shine. Well, actually let me correct my self. You could probably listen for falling meteors during a small steady rain-shower, but it would be hard during a thunder-shower. Lightning would cause interference that would make it difficult to distinguish meteors from lightning. Andy passing-by airplanes can cause interference as well, but these are just a few of things that make this hobby so exciting. Lighting, airplanes and meteors all have their own specific audible signature mark. So for a seasoned FM Radio Astronomer, it's fairly easy to distinguish between 'interference' and an actual falling meteor.
And you don't have to necessarily listen to falling meteors. NASA recently called upon amateur and professional FM Radio Astronomers alike to volunteer. They wanted signature data from different FM Radio Astronomers to record the re-entry of a de-orbiting satellite. They used this data from different observers to triangulate and document the re-entry process. Other amateur observers have web-sites that you can join, and submit your findings of fallen meteors in order to give more accurate predictions in the future for meteor per/hour peaks. They make available free software that you can use with your computer to ease the process; and make it more interesting as I like!
The following pages will explain the basics and what you need to setup your lab. If this is something that interests you, visit my website at http://phoxes.comhttp://phoxes.com to learn more. You will also find free software and tools to find the necessary stations to tune into throughout the USA.