Astronomy is the study of physical objects outside Earth. Very few people get the privilege to visit space, but everyone with good eyes can see at least some of the miracles of the universe from the Earth's surface.
There are many reasons to combine travelling with a look upwards.
In modern cities, light pollution means that the starry sky is hardly visible. The far-off countryside provides an astounding view of the stars. Mountains and deserts are also better places to look at the stars than other, firstly because they usually lack the light pollution of modern civilization and secondly because air and all that's in it (primarily water) obstructs the clear view of the stars. If you are at 4,000 meters altitude, you already have a lot of the air below you. And a cloudy day is unlikelier in the Sahara than in say Oslo, making high lying desert areas ideal for observation of the sky, resulting in many observatories being in such places. A further thing to take into consideration when visiting professional observatories is that large lenses or mirrors are very sensitive to temperature and thus they are usually not heated.
Also, astronomy is among the few sciences where amateur scientists regularly make discoveries on their own, given that nobody can watch all the sky all the time and just having a good enough piece of equipment and looking at the right place by chance, you may discover your "own" comet, asteroid or other object.
Astrology is the superstitious belief that astronomic events interact with human life on Earth. Though dismissed by modern science, astronomy and astrology used to be the same thing in ancient times, and provides a historical background to today's knowledge. While western astrology is loosely based on Graeco-Roman mythology, there are other traditions of astrology in places such as China.
- Solar eclipses might be the most spectacular phenomenon visible from Earth's surface. Seemingly by coincidence, the Moon is barely large enough to cover the Sun.
- Lunar eclipses are more common than solar eclipses, and visible from any point on Earth that can see the moon.
- Northern Lights are only locally visible.
- Meteors are seasonally visible.
- Comets can be observed ocassionally by amateur astronomers without any specialized eqipment.
Pre-modern observatories are usually obsolete today, and remain as museums, or sites of education.
Most modern research telescopes are enormous facilities in remote areas with favorable atmospheric conditions.
- European Space Agency's Columbus Control Centre, Münchener Straße 20,82234 Weßling (20km (12 mi) outside of Munich in Oberpfaffenhofen), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. every day from 15:00-16:00 (registration required, groups limited to 30 persons) until the "Blue Dot" space mission is in space, afterwards depending on space missions. is used to control the Columbus research laboratory of the International Space Station, as well as a ground control centre for the Galileo satellite navigation system. It is located at a large research facility of the German Aerospace Centre. (DLR). German registration form free.
- Stjerneborg observatory, Hven Island, Sweden - observatory Tycho Brahe's.
- University Observatory Vienna ( Universitäts Sternwarte), Türkenschanzstraße 17, Währing, Wien, Austria. The Institute of Astronomy is part of the University of Vienna, located inside a fabulous historic building. The building and the Sternwartepark were closed for visitors up until recently. The park contains many rare trees. It has a mini observatory on the roof. Guided tours are available.
- The Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, South Edinburgh, United Kingdom, ☎ , fax: +44 131 668-8264. Public Evenings every Friday 19:00-20:45 - must be booked in advance. Take a tour of the dome, housing one of Europe's largest telescopes. Learn about the history of the observatory and some of the cutting edge work they are carrying out today. If the weather is clear you can observe the stars in winter or the sun (through a special telescope) in summer. On some Fridays there is a special theme - check website for details. £4.00 adults, £3.00 children.
- Mt Graham International Observatory, 1651 W Discovery Park Blvd, Safford, AZ (Discovery Park Campus), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. May-Oct, depending on weather. Operated by the University of Arizona and situated in the Pinaleño Mountains west of Safford, this observatory offers periodic tours for the public. Reservations required, preferably two or more weeks in advance. Tours depart from the Discovery Park Campus in Safford. $40/person, includes lunch.
- Kitt Peak National Observatory, Tohono O'Odham Reservation, AZ (90 minutes southwest of Tucson), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 9AM-3:45PM daily. Operates several astronomical telescopes plus a large solar telescope. Several guided tours are available, as well as a nightly observation program (reservations required). $9.75 for all three tours (adults).
- Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, 670 Mt Hopkins Rd, Amado, AZ (one hour due south of Tucson off I-19), ☎ . M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM. Call ahead for tour information.
- European Southern Observatory
- New Technology Telescope, La Silla, Chile
- Very Large Telescope, Paranal, Chile
- Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, Llano de Chajnantor, Chile