Read about astronomy. Merely looking up in the sky will not teach you all you need to know, so visit your local library and browse through the astronomy section. There is a variety of books which are geared toward beginners as well as the more advanced. Find one that is an introduction to astronomy, and learn about the physics of the cosmos. Surf the Internet under ‘Astronomy’ and be assured you will receive a vast array of information as well as pictures.
Purchase a star atlas or a star map which will enable you to determine what you are looking at while gazing at the sky. Your library will probably have one, but since maps will be an important part of your astronomical study, it is best to buy your own. If you are unable to afford one, then download free star maps from the Internet.
Obtain a telescope. There are several types of telescopes, with different features, uses and prices. However, you need not purchase the most expensive one in order to enjoy astronomy. The most important thing to consider is the telescope’s aperture, or the size of the light-gathering part of the telescope. The larger the aperture, the brighter your image will be. The next most important characteristic is the focal length of the ‘scope, which will determine how much of the sky you can see in the image. Magnification is much less important than quality of optics. A good way to choose a telescope is to attend star parties (see below) and ask a few of the members for permission to try theirs so you get an idea of which models you prefer. Join an astronomy club. Amateur astronomy is very popular in most cities and small towns. Search the Internet to find a club in your vicinity or get information by calling a local planetarium. Clubs give you the opportunity to learn from others who have more experience, and to meet and make new friends with other beginners who have the same interest in astronomy. Attend a star party. Star parties are outdoor meetings where amateur astronomers meet and look at the sky together. Many are already members of an astronomy club. This can be quite interesting, especially since each person might find a new area, star or planet that you might have overlooked.
Subscribe to an astronomy podcast, such as What’s Up in Astronomy, StarDate, or SkyWatch. They are free and you can search for them in iTunes and many other podcast directories. Join the Astronomical League or similar organization. Membership in these large astronomy organizations will give you the opportunity to network with other astronomers and to participate in observing programs. The Astronomical League has observing programs for every age, skill, and equipment level, and by participating in a program and submitting your observation log, you can earn certificates of completion (and a wealth of new knowledge). Enjoy your new hobby. Amateur astronomy can be a lifelong pursuit, and there’s always something new to look at. What’s more, amateur astronomers actually make significant contributions to the study of astronomy, and amateurs have discovered stars, comets, and other phenomena before professionals. In astronomy, you don’t have to be a professional to make a difference.