image credit: Ricnun; image source; larger image
You don't need to be a professional astronomer to take images like this one. Our closest spiral galaxy neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, is easily viewed through binoculars or a small telescope. You can learn more about the amateur astronomy community and techniques here.
Amateur astronomers contribute to astronomy in important ways. When a mysterious object hit Jupiter in July of this year, an amateur astronomer was the first to see the impact. Read the story and see images of the event at What Hit Jupiter?
You can even contribute without a telescope. Volunteers studying images of galaxies discovered a new class of galaxy called Green Peas. See the Physics at Home feature below for more information about the Galaxy Zoo website.
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You can help astronomers by taking part in Galaxy Zoo, a project to classify millions of galaxies. Learn how the site works and how to classify galaxies here. Find out more about the types of galaxies at this Sloan Digital Sky Survey page.
(This feature was updated on August 17, 2013.)