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It seems that amateur astronomy is enjoying a revival, based on modern telescopes and computerised control systems which are not as impossibly expensive as one might think.   And it is a field where an amateur who is prepared to put in some work can make a contribution to science as part of a network of amateur astronomists who cover particular celestial events.    
A fascinating hobby, even if you are at the mercy of UK weather when you want to see the night skies.
For some  prior viewing, see:
The BBC  site: a comprehensive website for amateur astronomers,  including tips on buying a telescope www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/myspace/
Explore the sky with Google Earth http://earth.google.com/sky/index.html 
Distance  learning courses on astronomy from 3 university research institutes    www.astronomy.ac.uk/  
Institute of Astronomy - part of the Physics and Chemistry faculty at the University of Cambridge www.ast.cam.ac.uk/ 
NEW   Julian Nokes writes: "There are courses at Citylit on astronomy, one of which I attended. As a complete tyro regarding the subject, I found it most enlightening and well worth the modest fee we over 60's are charged.  Give it a go!  Aslo, see Julian's note on Astronomy.