~~~~ Yakko Warner ~~~~
For many years now there have been a few companies out there that offer to name a star after you for a nominal fee. Now I've always known that they really can't do this and that they have no authority to name anything. I pretty much relegated it to the realm of a harmless novelty.
Recently though I have been made aware of just the kind of problems these so called star naming companies can cause for actual astronomers. I have had brought to my attention the fact that on more than one occaision that when an astronomer has made any official statement that these businesses have no authority to name stars, a pack of lawyers decends upon them claiming that the astronomers are interfering with thier right to conduct a business.
Now on the surface the claims are rather silly. But the horror comes from the fact that most of the time the astronomers are forced by thier sponsors (usually an educational institution) to back down and comply because they don't want to go to court over it.
This is truly a sad turn of events. It is made worse by all the people that actually believe that they do indeed have a star named after themselves or a loved one. What then do you tell these people that have been decieved?
Anyone that has a interest in astronmy can help by aiding in the education of the general public as to the true nature of what they are really getting when they send in thier money. Abso;utely nothing except a pretty certificate and sometimes a book.
I'm not going to claim that I know everything there is to know about amateur astronomy. I am a relative beginner myself, but there are a few suggestions I can make that will hopefully aid other beginners to enjoy this wonderful hobby.
My first recommendation to any beginners is to get in touch with your local astronomical society. This will provide you with a base of knowledge and experience to answer your questions. Go to club observing sessions, you will be able to see the different types of equipment used and what you like.
Don't rush out and buy an expensive scope, start small, a good pair of 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars are an excellent observing tool for astronomy. I myself use a pair of 10x50 binoculars that I purchased for just a little over $100. These have given me many hours of enjoyment.
There are also many excellent books written on the subject and I am not even going to attempt to list them all here. One that has been very helpful to me has been The Backyard Astronomer's Guide.
For those of you familiar with IRC (Internet Relay Chat), you can have many of your questions answered by my friends in #sciastro on Undernet IRC.
If you have a site about astronomy or a related field, I invite you to join the Stellar Visions webring. By joining you will have an opportunity to increase traffic flow to your site and make it easier the world at large to find you.
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