J. B. S. Haldane is quoted as saying, "Science is not a democracy." As with most memorable aphorisms, that's not entirely correct. It's more that the "right to vote" is highly restricted to qualified individuals. Still, there's no question that some sciences are more democratic, in the sense of being open to new citizens, than others. For example, a lay person is going to have a hell of a time acquiring voting rights in quantum mechanics or general relativity.
Astronomy, on the other hand, is the Canada of sciences; it's relatively easy to get into, the residents are sociable, and they are honestly happy to have new people who can contribute to the quality of discourse.
A couple of months back on this site, Christopher Lane wrote a nice article about doing your own astrophotography. There's a lot more you can do, both photographically and scientifically. In about six years you're going to be working with a very cool camera. Here are some specs.
Of course everyone wants to know about pixel count first, so prepare yourself for...
3200 megapixels. And they're nice robust 10 µ pixels.
Color, black and white, false color, infrared? All available: the camera photographs in six different colors across the spectrum from 320 to 1050 nm. Dynamic range? Huge. Low light capability? About 100 million times better than your eyes. 16 bit? Need you really ask?!
It does lack some important "professional" features. There's no "system." In fact, the camera comes in only one configuration with a non-interchangeable lens that isn't even a zoom. Worse, it is a 10,000mm, ƒ/1.2 lens with a 10° field of view, so all you folks who think a medium wide angle is the ideal single lens are just flat out of luck.
The folks who've been complaining about the size of their raw files are not going to be happy. Storage requirements for this camera are going to run 30 TB a day and processing the images coming in will take 100 teraflops.
This is not a hoax column, humor notwithstanding. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is for real and it will be your camera. That's because all the photographs are going to be made publicly available online. You'll get the same access to state-of-the-art astrophotographs as the most famous astronomer.
I can hear some of you naysayers grumbling that it isn't really your camera, because you can't point it wherever you want. Well, you won't have to. The LSST photographs the entire sky every three days. Think of it as the ultimate in motor drives: you just keep firing away and then pick out the photographs you like in Lightroom.
Is this cool, or what? Reflecting telescopes have come a hell of a long way in the 1,000 years since Ibn al-Haytham thought them up.