One of the best ways to get a quick sense of what different telescopes are like and how to use them is to attend a star party hosted by your local amateur astronomers. These links will help you find them.
Finding a Local Amateur Astronomy Club Near You
- The Night Sky Network Club Finder
- Sky & Telescope Magazine Club Finder
- Astronomy Magazine Club Finder
- Astronomical League Club Directory
National Astronomy Organizations You Can Join
- Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Founded in 1889, the Society is the largest national organization devoted to astronomy education and outreach. They have programs and materials for families, teachers, amateur astronomers, museum guides, and even professional astronomers.
- The Planetary Society
Founded by the late Carl Sagan and others, this group works to encourage planetary exploration and the search for life elsewhere.
- Astronomical League
You can join The League—the umbrella organization of American astronomy clubs—as a member at large or as part of a local club.
- Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Unites professional and amateur astronomers around Canada; has 26 centers with local activities.
- American Association of Variable Star Observers
A group for serious amateur astronomers who want to make a contribution to the science of astronomy, particularly in the area of observing stars whose light is not steady, but varies. Includes a group working on gamma-ray bursts.
- American Astronomical Society
Composed of America's professional astronomers, some of whom are serious amateur astronomers.
- International Dark-Sky Association
Dedicated to combating light pollution, the encroachment of stray light that wastes energy and washes out the glories of the night sky.