No matter where you are in America – the United States of America – you’re within shouting distance of an amateur. Maybe it’s a garage tinkerer, a homebrew geneticist, DIY archaeologist, or “self-taught sky-buffs” fabricating home telescopes that rival the technical ability of major institutions. These characters and their creations are explored in This American Life contributing editor Jack Hitt’s newly published book, Bunch of Amateurs, which hits stands today.

America’s self-invented tinkerers are back at it in their metaphorical garages—fiddling with everything from solar-powered cars to space elevators. In Bunch of Amateurs, Jack Hitt visits a number of different garages and has written a fascinating book that looks at America’s current batch of amateurs and their pursuits. From a tattooed young woman in the Bay Area trying to splice a fish’s glow-in-the-dark gene into common yogurt (all done in her kitchen using salad spinners) to a space fanatic on the brink of developing the next generation of telescopes from his mobile home, Hitt not only tells the stories of people in the grip of a passion but argues that America’s history is bound up in a cycle of amateur surges.

In celebration of the amateur spirit, we’re giving away a bunch of prizes (including an Orion 90mm refractor telescope) starting today and in the coming weeks – more information after the jump.

For our first prize we’re giving away an Orion AstroView 90mm refractor telescope. Also included is an adjustable tripod and multiple eyepieces for various star-gazing applications. Celestial objects in the night sky will appear bright as day with this awesome entry-level telescope. You can find more information on this device on the manufacturer’s website.

To enter to win: all you have to do is leave a comment below! Comments left before May 17th @ 11:59PM PST will be considered to win this prize. Be sure to leave a valid email so we can contact you if you win. Feel free to tell a story about your own amateur pursuits, although this is not necessary – just leave a comment! For complete rules please click here.

We’ll be offering two more prizes, on Tuesday May 29th & Tuesday June 12th, accompanied by interviews with the author Jack Hitt – be sure to check back then for another chance to win!

These prizes are provided by The Crown Publishing Group, publishers of Bunch of Amateurs.