…continuedHunting Asteroids From Your Backyard
I strongly suggest starting out by observing known asteroids. First of all it will give valuable practice pointing the telescope to a star field where the target looks just like a star! After three decades as an observer I found this to be more of a challenge than expected. Fortunately, today there are excellent computer programs for generating star charts down to 15th magnitude based on data in the Guide Star Catalog. Popular ones include Guide 7.0, Maris Multimedia's RedShift 4, SkyTools by CapellaSoft, SkyMap Software's SkyMap Pro 7, and The Sky by Software Bisque.
Observing known objects gives you valuable experience blinking and, especially, measuring positions. Numbered asteroids (those with the best-known orbits) rarely appear more than a few arcseconds from the location predicted by up-to-date orbital elements (available from the Minor Planet Center's computer) and serve as good targets for checking one's observing techniques. It's easy to compare measurements with predictions to verify that your astrometry is being done correctly before you actually submit anything.
After a few such tests you can turn to more significant astronomical quarry. The Minor Planet Center maintains lists of "unusual" and "critical" objects those in exotic orbits or rarely observed in recent years. Chasing them provides needed data and also builds your credibility as an observer.
The center's director, Brian Marsden, and his colleague, Gareth Williams, have spent untold hours helping amateurs who appear capable of contributing useful astrometric data. But neither of them suffers fools gladly; they can't afford to. Each month they process thousands of observations from around the world; it isn't possible for them to "handhold" every beginner.
However, if you proceed cautiously and test observing procedures, there's a good chance the first positions you submit will be accurate. The reward will be the issuance of a "station code" for your observing site, and your data will be published in the monthly Minor Planet Circulars along with those from major observatories. There's a certain amount of pride that goes with seeing observations from "817 Sudbury" appearing alongside those from "809 European Southern Observatory," "691 Steward Observatory (Spacewatch)," and "675 Palomar Mountain."