Astronomy

Suggestions for a beginner-friendly telescope

Suggestions for a beginner-friendly telescope


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I'm hoping someone can point me in the right direction for a beginner-friendly telescope for my family.

My husband has mentioned wanting a telescope off and on for a few years, but he's never delved into the idea enough to give specifics. We have an autistic 7-year-old who has developed a Special Interest in astronomy, and since it's our practice to delve into his SI's with him, it seems like a good time to take the plunge.

Pertinent information…

  1. We live in a major metropolitan area -- in the suburbs about 30-45 minutes from downtown Chicago. We will be able to drive to a less light-polluted area from time to time, but realistically, we'll be seeing what we can see from the yard or second-story balcony most of the time.

  2. 7yo will likely be most interested in objects seen with some degree of detail -- planets, stars, comets, our moon, other brighter objects. We adults would like to glimpse some of the dimmer objects as well, though we know they'll be faint. 7yo will likely be impressed by glimpsing those objects, as well, since he's a bit obsessed with the vastness of the universe at the moment.

  3. We are true beginners. Think of people who have never touched a scope. But we're patient and smart, so we can learn. Which is kind of the point, I suppose.

  4. 7yo is not always patient, so an easy, quick set-up would be desirable.

  5. No children will be using the scope unsupervised, but we will be teaching 7yo how to use it while closely supervised.

  6. If giving specific recommendations, we'd like to keep the cost under $500US.


Cheap telescopes are just fine

I won't recommend a specific telescope, but I can tell you the following: I live in the middle of Copenhagen, and with my random 15 year old 4" telescope, which at that time cost $300-$400, I can see the Moon's craters and mountain ridges, Jupiter's belts and moons, Saturn's ring, Venus' phases, and some nebulae. My telescope is manual, i.e. has no motor to track the sky, but I'd guess that today for the same price, you could get a telescope that does have a motor and a small computer that can find celestial objects, which makes things much easier.

Stay home

In my experience, going outside the city doesn't really add much to the experience (for amateur telescopes). To really see dark skies, you need to be 50-100 km away from the nearest large city, I'd say. Maybe that's not far from you, but when buying a telescope, you should also take into account that larger telescopes are more difficult to transport and set up, so if it's too large, you might end up never pulling yourself together to take it out.

Stay inside

If you take your telescope outside, it takes some time before it has reached the same temperature as the air, and during this time, there can be quite a lot of turbulence, which makes the image flicker. If I quickly want to show my 7 yo something, I simply use it from inside my living room, looking through the window. Two minutes, and he's impressed (until something else catches his attention).

What you see is not spectacular

Also, you should be prepared that there's no way that you can see anything like the colorful pictures that you can find on the internet. You will be able to see that Jupiter and Mars have slightly red colors, but apart from that, most things will look black/white. The reason is that the eye needs much more light than can be collected through a telescope in order to see colors. The largest telescope that I've looked through with the eye was a 31" telescope, and even that didn't reveal much colors.

To see colors, you need to take a picture with a long exposure. Many telescopes have the possibility of attaching a camera to it, but for this you definitely need a telescope with a motor such that it moves along with the sky, or else everything will just leave long white trail across the image.

You should also be prepared that planets and the like will look quite small. You could see something like this (very approximately to scale):

Know what you see

The beauty of what you see in an amateur telescope, even if it's small and dim, lies in knowing what it is that you see. Knowing that some nebula is 1000 lightyears away, and that its ever so slightly reddish color is hydrogen being illuminated by young, massive stars makes it much more fantastic to see.

My telescope is of medium quality. What you get for an expensive one is probably more clear images, but the most important factor is the light-collecting area, i.e. a 5" will show you more than a 4". I'm sure users like Florin Andrei can tell you more here.


There are several options for you out there, and many good amateur telescopes. I'll just throw some things out that may help in your search.

Telescopes

Brands

I'd suggest going for something like a Celestron. They're well established and reliable from my experience. Aside from Celestron, this Vixen telescope has been rated as great for kids.

What to look for

Don't just go immediately for the telescope with the highest quoted magnification. Making something bigger isn't always the answer. If your image is blurry, magnifying it just gives you a big blurry picture. You'll want a telescope with a good combination of magnification (which can be changed based on your eyepiece) and aperture size (the size of the primary lens/mirror). In general, bigger = better when it comes to aperture size. Bigger means you collect more light and thus the object will be better defined. Usually, when a telescope lists itself as "XXX Telescope, 4 inch", that size is referring to the aperture diameter.

As pela mentioned, there's also the possibility of getting telescopes with automatic tracking software and equipment. Keep in mind that objects in the sky are constantly on the move and this motion is magnified in a telescope. If you get your telescope pointed at an object, it may only take minutes or seconds before that object has left your field of view. Tracking equipment would be built into the telescope and will almost imperceptibly move the telescope with the motion of your object so that it can stay in your field of view for long periods of time. This is especially necessary if you intend to move into the amazing field of astrophotography.

Binoculars

Just to throw another option out there, often a good pair of binoculars is just as good as a cheaper telescope. You can still view many features on the moon, or see Jupiter's Galilean moons. If you go this route, I'd suggest getting a monopod or something to help you hold the binoculars steady. Note also this may be trickier for young children to properly view through as they may have a hard time sighting on a particular object.

Star software

It can be very useful to bring along, or have available, a computer with software that can tell you what is currently in the sky and where to look. Online examples (if you're at home with wifi) would include this planetarium or else the more robust Stellarium software.

Viewing tips

  1. Check weather and cloud coverage before viewing. A good example might be this map. Even if the sky looks clear, there may be tenuous cloud cover that can obscure viewing for most objects.
  2. Get a red flashlight. You'll want to see what you're doing in the dark, but using a normal flashlight, or your phone, will ruin your eyes. To really see fine details, your eyes need to be adjusted to the dark which takes 10-30 minutes. Using a red flashlight to illuminate will prevent your eyes from being over-exposed.

Sky and Telescope has a brief overview and a more comprehensive article on this topic. Beyond an ample aperture and a stable mount, some choices are matters of preference. Astronomy club public events are good opportunities to try a variety of equipment, with the owners' consent of course. In addition to brands mentioned in other answers, Meade and Orion make decent telescopes. A motivated beginner could get a lot of mileage out of a $200 instrument.

As for what to look at, Skymaps.com makes a monthly all-sky map which you can download and print free for personal use.


Here are some things you might find useful:

Aperture

Aperture is the most important factor that goes into a telescope purchase, NOT magnification! Doubling the diameter of the mirror (i.e. going from a 4" telescope to an 8") results in a light collecting area four times greater. Planets and the moon will appear more detailed and be more enjoyable to observe. More faint objects such as nebulae and galaxies will be visible. Brighter deep sky objects will show more detail, but no color! I upgraded from an old, dusty 4.5" to a 10" with a new high quality eyepiece and was totally blown away. I was able to see the satellite galaxies of M31, the Andromeda galaxy, rich detail in the gas clouds of M42, the Orion nebula, and 40 other Messier objects during 5 nights of observing in December.

So hopefully I have gotten my point across: aperture is your number one priority!

Mounts

A telescope that is easy to use and setup will get used more often. A classic Newtonian mount meets both criterion above. The telescope is often quite light and can be kept on its tripod in storage. One drawback with lower end Newtonian's is the inevitable cheap tripod that will come with the telescope. Cheap tripods are not very stable and often feel flimsy. You will find many options for small aperture, cheap Newtonian telescopes on Amazon, but remember, your goal is to maximize aperture! These are most often the telescopes that end up living most of their lives in a closet (I know from experience!)

Pros:

  • Lightweight, easy to move from storage to observing location
  • Can be stored on tripod for easy of use

Cons:

  • Tripod will be cheap and flimsy and lower price ranges
  • Included eyepieces will be junk
  • Low aperture/price ratio
  • No option of using 2" eyepieces (I will cover these below!)

If you want to maximize aperture while keeping costs low, the humble Dobsonian is the way to go. The optical housing can be left on the base just like a Newtonian and moved from storage to your observing location. I will go ahead and tell you that the base+telescope is heavy. Taking this up and down the stairs can be a pain, but the telescope can be removed from the base for transportation. A small stool will make observing much, much more enjoyable. I am 6'2" and have a hard time using my Dobsonian without a one. A big factor when observing is comfort: hunching over for hours will cut your observing sessions short. This is quite a small thing, but it will make quite a big difference in terms of enjoying your telescope.

Pros:

  • Best aperture/cost ratio
  • Most accept 2" wide angle eyepices
  • Easiest in terms of operating

Cons:

  • Big and bulky
  • Mount sits directly on the ground, so observing area must be relatively flat

Final verdict

It's clear from your post you are interested in amateur astronomy, so I don't think you're going to buy a telescope and let it collect dust in the garage. My recommendation below falls into your budget:

This telescope will include a junky 1.25" eyepiece in the box. The eyepiece I included is truly an order of magnitude better than the included one. Meade manufactures some of the best high quality telescope optics that are still affordable. This eyepiece has a greater field of view (it fits roughly 3 full moons from side-to-side in the field of view, whereas the included eyepiece snugly fits 2!) which simply enables you to see more of what you're looking at. The quality of the glass in the eyepiece is also far greater, so the image appears sharper and subtle details can be appreciated.

The last thing you want to do when observing light from a deep sky objects that is 10s to millions of light years away is lose it in a cheap eyepiece. While the 2" eyepiece certainly isn't necessary, I highly recommend you go ahead and get it.

Hope this helps!


How To Use A Telescope? An Easy Step By Step Guide For Beginners

Are you wondering how celestial objects look like when observed closely? A telescope is your biggest friend if you love to explore the night sky.

Are you wondering how celestial objects look like when observed closely? A telescope is your biggest friend if you love to explore the night sky. However, not many newcomers to astronomy know how to use a telescope properly. But you need not worry. We are going to provide a detailed step by step beginner friendly guide for you to set up and use your telescope without any hassle.

You will also find the following information in the article, enabling you to have an exhilarating experience while seeing the moon, starts, constellations, and other heavenly bodies.

  • Expectation versus realities regarding a telescope
  • Things to know about your telescope
  • Using your telescope to explore the sky

Telescope is an essential astronomy equipment. It is difficult for a beginner to get the best of a telescope at the beginning. That is why most telescopes end up in your house store, attic, and garage, rotting there forever. Similarly, some of you don’t find necessary information or help about what is the right way of using a telescope and making the most of it. The lack of required experience, knowledge, and expert assistance prevents you from getting the most enjoyment out of your telescope.

Experts at 10Wares have striven hard to make you fall in love with your telescope and thus, the sky by creating this guide. We have mostly shared simple tricks and tips, allowing you to become an adept stargazer in a short span of time.

As mentioned above, we have divided the guide into several sections to make it more beginner friendly in particular and user friendly in general.

So, let us move to our first section that is what to expect from a telescope.


Quick Tips and Tricks:

Plan Your Night Sky Viewing Ahead

Have sky maps available for you to be able to know exactly where to look in the night sky. Here are the Map I use easy to get from Amazon.

There are also several cell phone apps and computer programs available for this. See article on apps and programs for Beginning Astronomers

Try Astronomy with Both Eyes Open

Observing through your telescope’s eyepiece with both eyes open gives an advantage. Telescopes aren’t designed to be viewed this way, but by closing one of your eyes, the open eye becomes less effective in seeing objects.

This is why the eye doctor blocks one eye but tells you to leave the blocked eye open. It has to do with the brain and the way the eyes are wired and muscle fatigue. The brain continually compares the images it sees with each other.

Plus, by closing one eye, you are using muscles that can fatigue and distort your vision.

Allow Your Telescope to Get Use to the Temperature Outside.

It is not only your eyes that need some time to adjust in the darkness. Before viewing anything from your telescope. Make sure that it has sat there on where it is mounted for about 20 minutes or more.

This allows it to neutralize to the same temperature as the outside ambient air. This way, it will not radiate heat, or condensate which both, can negatively affect how well it can see faint objects in the sky.

Allow Time for Your Dark Vision.

Remember to allow some time for your eyes to adapt to the darkness. It will take 30 to 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, allowing you to be able to see things in the dark more clearly.

After your eyes have adjusted, stay in the dark. Avoid going back to your house to get something. Your eyes only need from 5 to 7 minutes to adapt to the light, but when you come back outside to the dark, your eyes will need another 30 to 45 minutes to readjust again.

To learn more about dark vision click here

Study and Practice the Art of Collimation

Collimation is the act of ensuring that the eyepiece is aimed at the center of the primary mirror and that the primary mirror is also aligned to the center of the eyepiece.

Consult your telescope’s manual for specific instructions on how to achieve this with your telescope. You can learn more about collimation here.

Dress for Success, While Observing

The fact you are usually out when it is at night and cooler, or even downright cold is common for an astronomer. Also, if it is nice weather out the night will cool down fast because you are being inactive and standing or sitting in one spot.

I suggest deducting 10 degrees F from the predicted low that night. Of course, if you always listened to your Mom, “you can always peel off a layer or two if you are too warm.”

Lower the Center of Gravity on Your Telescope Mount

Telescopes can tend to be a bit “top-heavy” a slight bump, or brush with an open jacket can send it toppling.

You can tie a weight to a wire or string that attaches to the eyepiece tray to successfully lower your center of gravity. About 5 or 10 lbs. (2 to 4 kg) is sufficient.

You can use an old milk jug filled with water (remember water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon, so about ) You can also use, rocks in a bag, anything really.

If your ground is soft, set up on some boards or flat stones to prevent from sinking into the ground.

Focus Your Telescope

Some telescopes come with a cover that has 2 holes in it. You can use this to focus your image. Once your object is found, with the 2 hole cap in place, you adjust your focus until one image appears.

Then remove the cover and enjoy your viewing. You can tweak the focus from there if needed.

Keep Your Eyepieces Under Wraps

The eyepieces that you are not using at the time can be subject to dewing, or condensation. It is best to keep them in a sealed container while not being used.

An old Scooby Doo lunch box, or even just covering them with the caps they came with. I have used old paint spray can lids to sit them in and cover them. That way you can color code your magnifications.

Set Your Scope Up On Solid Ground

But wait…concrete, roofing, and Parking lots will radiate this heat back up after the sun has set. Remember that our goal is to observe the faintest light from the night sky.

Even a little amount of radiated heat from concrete or houses can affect your ability to see these faint objects. Get a little IR handheld temperature meter like this one I use from Amazon. It will let you know if that concrete is a lot warmer than the air.

Leave Your Cell Phone Inside or Turned Off While Viewing

Unless you are using an app within it for your viewing experience. The light from your phone, aside from being a source of light pollution, can also make it hard for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Give your Mom a call before you get started for the night.

Find That Sweet Dark Spot for Your Viewing

Even the best telescopes in the world would be useless in an area with a lot of light pollution. If you live in a city, get as high as possible. Get permission to set up on your rooftop, or ask permission to use a Farmer’s pasture. Watch out for the cow pies!

Know the Best Time to View the Night Sky

The sky is clearest in the winter nights because there is no humidity in the air. During summer nights, there is haze, which blurs the view.

The moon’s phases can also drastically affect your viewing experience. For example, during a full moon, the moon will be so bright that it will be challenging to see other heavenly objects in the night sky.

This does not help when it is a full moon, but that is the night of the conjunction. In this case you have to take time to view anyway. Filters will be your best friend in these times.

Get a Red LED Astronomer’s Flashlight

This Flashlight is so you will still have light when you need it, to find your eyepiece or notebook. For example, it may be challenging to set up your telescope on its mounting while in complete darkness. The flashlight should be the color red to help maintain dark vision.

Red does not effect your eyes like blue or white light will. If a red flashlight is not available, you can still use a regular flashlight just cover it with red cellophane or red paper to help. To learn more about dark vision click here.

I had stumbled across this sites free red head band flash light, they also have a better headband, it is a rechargable unit that has a button for the red LED light and a button for the white light. Here is the Free one, here is the better one. I will say I have not ordered from these guys?

Face South for the Best Night Sky Viewing

The ideal direction to point your telescope is towards the equator (towards the south for those in the northern hemisphere and vice versa for the southern hemisphere) and over grass, or woods.

Grass and forest use the suns energy and then it does not radiate the heat back out that it absorbed during the day. If you have a large city due south, you may need to try viewing toward a different area or try a different location to set up.

Setting Up the Telescope Over the Grass

You should set up over grass for less heat distortion. However, to make sure you do not sink into the ground and change your telescopes alignment use some small stepping stones, or pieces of wood to set up on.

This way you won’t slowly sink into the ground. Good solid wood decks can offer a good place with less radiant heat at night also. Watch out for bouncing and movement though.

Remove All Caps and Covers of the Telescope

Some telescopes come with a focus or alignment caps that have smaller holes in them. It is possible to forget to remove these caps since they are designed to allow light through.

Once acclimated, make it a ritual to check that all caps and covers are removed for viewing.

Use the Same Location Like an Observatory

Try to set up your telescope at the exact same spot every time. With this, you will have the exact same field of view from your telescope on your every viewing experience. This will help you drastically in finding objects that you would want to view.

One way to accomplish this is to mark the spot on the ground where you put the legs of your telescope’s tripod. Setting up over a good solid deck you can insert some thumbtacks, magic marker, or drips of paint to save time on setup.

In the yard, you can make pads flush with your grass. Of course, the best is to pour a pier below frost line to have a year round same level.

Create More Stability by Going Over Your Telescopes Mount

Once set up, pull out each leg of your tripod just a little bit more to ensure rigid, sturdy support. Then take time to mark the location.

Snug up your fasteners. Check all of your bolts and nuts on your telescope mount. Make sure they are nice and snug but don’t over tighten, just enough tautness, so that you have control to create a position of the tripod and nothing can move on its own as you track.

Get “Jiggy” With It, Slight Vibration Helps

The eye is much better at detecting the movement of objects rather than that of a static object.

This is because of how we evolved. Seeing the movement of that Saber Tooth Tiger as it approached helped keep us alive.

So, if you are having difficulty in seeing a faint distant object, try to jiggle your telescope ever so slightly to take advantage of this human genetic trait of our eye.

I use two fingers and slightly tap them.

Take Notes of Your Observations

This compels you, not only just look at random things in the night sky, but also to identify them and write down what they actually are.

Astronomy is not a hobby just to see celestial bodies it is also about discovery.

When Wanting to View the Sun

DO NOT EVER LOOK AT THE SUN! I recommend always projecting the sun onto a surface using your telescope. Or, to use a Aperture Solar Filter, for viewing the Sun. For Sun viewing tips and tricks click How to View a Solar Eclipse Safely article.

When the Moon is Too Bright

The moon can also be a source of light pollution when observing with your telescope. So, using a moon filter can be extremely useful in filtering out the glare from the moon at the night sky.

This allows you to get a brighter image of the faintest objects in the night sky. Learn everything you need to know about filters in this article About Which filters to use where.

Filters Come in All Colors, But One Can Help Everywhere

A blue filter will help viewing over most all of your viewing. Check out what I think about Blue 82 filters on this article

Also, you can lay your filter on top of your eyepiece for quick viewing, or insert it into the adapter like your diagonal before the eyepiece mounts. This will allow you to change eyepieces and magnification without fooling around with the filter.

Improve Your Visual Awareness Using Your Telescope

While focusing on your center of view, try to see what is around your object (your view center) without moving your eye. This trains your eyes to be more aware.

Also, check each eye. One eye may be better at seeing far away, however your telescope is actually an image that is a couple inches away from your eye. So, check each eye.

Stay Updated to Astronomical Events

Trying your best to be updated on astronomy events like a solar eclipse, meteors or comets passing by, will allow you new cool stuff to try and see.

One way to do this is by following famous astronomers on Twitter. You can also like pages on Facebook that are dedicated to astronomy. Even Pinterest has neat ideas and things to help you improve on your new hobby.

I try my best to give the best cool thing to see each month via the email list. Feel free to sign up, or just do a google search and determine your favorite place.

Find a Local Amateur Astronomer’s Club Near You

A hobby can best be enjoyed with other people. Aside from the fun, a local astronomy club can help you with tips and tricks on how to use your telescope.

Also, by sharing gadgets to experience new things prior to purchasing. They may even have a more advanced telescope that you can get to use some as well.

Find the Space Station.

Try to look for the International Space Station. There are a lot of resources out there that can let you track exactly where the ISS is in orbit. When it does pass in your area, try to look at it with your telescope. Trying to find and track it across the sky is awesome.

Since it is much closer than the moon and other heavenly bodies, you will be able to see it in much more detail. For example, the solar panels on the ISS can easily be seen in detail, or at least the shape of them. In other words not just a bright dot.

Go to the Higher Power, Don’t Start There When Viewing

Sometimes when trying to find faint objects, it is usually easier to increase your magnification. What this does is make your field of view more narrow and actual empty space will become darker bringing out the faint object.

This is for when you are close to finding it, and you are just using your slow motion controls.

Need More?

I hope you find this information to be helpful as I have wished it to be. It is designed to help bring viewing enjoyment instead of viewing discouragement. Check out these articles that might interest you on


Gskyer AZ70400

It can be frustrating for newbies without any prior knowledge to use telescopes. User-friendly telescopes such as Gskyer AZ70400 gives newbies a chance to enjoy everything the night sky has to offer without breaking a sweat. This telescope is simple and convenient to use. The body, accessories, and tripod are lightweight and easily fit in the provided travel bag for easy portability.


Beginner Telescope Eyepiece Choices

Most beginner telescope packages come with a single eyepiece. Thinking that most beginners would want something more in the way of power than the lowest possible power (which yields the largest true field of view), the manufacturers provide an eyepiece that, charitably, is a “jack of all trades and master of none” – too high a power to have the largest field, and too low a power for high-power views of the Moon and planets and not quite high enough a magnification to make a decent medium-power eyepiece.

So, the first thing a beginner telescope buyer looks for is a “set” of eyepieces for the scope. And, indeed, there are many such sets, though they typically contain some eyepieces with focal lengths so short they’re generally not usable, plus some color filters not useful for anything.

A typical 1X / 2X / 3X selection appropriate for a common telescope such as an 8-inch Dobsonian.

Well, I’ll save the beginner a little bit of shopping by talking about a Magnification Protocol I’ll call “1X / 2X / 3X.: Let me explain what that means:

First, everyone needs a low-power eyepiece with a large field of view for the biggest objects in the sky – star clusters, asterisms (stars arranged in patterns), large nebulae, the Milky Way, etc. Call that the 1X magnification, where X has a certain value.

On top of that, since most objects in the night sky are NOT that large, a medium-power eyepiece is nice to show most objects well in context with the area of the sky in which they sit and at a high enough magnification to see details in the objects. The background sky gets darker as the magnification increases, so the image is often more aesthetically pleasing, especially in an urban or suburban setting, where the sky isn’t particularly dark to begin with. This is the 2X magnification.

And last, for the smallest of objects, like the planets (which will be the tiniest things you look at in a telescope), or for high-power views of the Moon, close double stars and small planetary nebulae, a high-power eyepiece is essential. This is the 3X magnification.

But Seeing conditions (the turbulence in the sky) don’t often allow REALLY high powers to be used because as you increase the magnification, you also magnify the turbulence seen in the eyepiece. At some point, the image just becomes blurrier as you raise the power. Where that magnification point is will vary from night to night, so it’s desirable to have your high-power eyepiece be a low-enough power to still produce a decently sharp image, even when the seeing is mediocre. A high-power eyepiece should be usable almost 100 percent of the time.

Which is where I came up with 1X / 2X / 3X, where X= a particular power geared for the particular size of scope. We can just call them Low-Medium-High power, but aware that even higher powers are possible (4X, etc.), when the atmosphere is quiet and not scintillating.

Now, larger scopes are capable of higher magnifications. The reasons for this relate to how light diffracts as it passes through the scope. Bigger apertures resolve smaller details at the same power and can handle higher magnifications before they get into the “high power blur” territory.

So, whereas a 4-inch telescope might use an X=35 power, a 16-inch scope can handle an X=80 magnification even easier.

I do have some suggestions for the value of X in backyard instruments:

– 12-inch/12.5-inch scope X=70 power

Above that size, the owners of scopes usually have accumulated enough eyepieces to yield whatever powers they want. 12-inch seems to be about as big as it gets for a first scope.

How do you figure out what focal lengths of eyepieces yield these powers? Easy. Divide the focal length of the telescope by the magnification you want, and it will yield the focal length of the eyepiece that produces that power (you can approximate +/- a millimeter or so).

What if the seeing conditions are so good, there is no scintillation visible in the high-power eyepiece? Well, then you can go higher – to 4X, 5X and maybe more.

Without having to invest a lot of money in eyepieces you may not use that often for a beginner telescope, the purchase of a decent 2X Barlow lens will be all you need for those nights. That 2-power Barlow will yield “4X” with the “2X” eyepiece, and “6X” with the “3X” eyepiece. That’s yet another reason not to make the magnifications too high for your basic eyepieces – you’d never use the Barlow lens at all.

OK, now you have the three general-use eyepieces for your scope. Where do you go from here? Well, see the eyepiece discussions on sites like CloudyNights and other forums, and see what people think. It’s rational to get a “lowest possible power/widest possible field of view” eyepiece for the really enormous objects, and it’s rational to have a “highest power” eyepiece that yields 25 times per inch of aperture (assuming you still have a Barlow lens to yield the highest possible 50X/inch that’s usable one night a year … maybe).

And you’ll notice my protocol does not talk about apparent field of view or eyepiece types, or eye relief. Those are topics for other discussions.

So, in summary, a beginner telescope basic set of eyepieces may be a 1X / 2X, / 3X set, but you might want to eventually fill in with a 1.5X, 2.5X, or higher, if you find yourself always wanting another magnification in between the basic magnifications.

Donald Pensack has been an amateur astronomer since 1963 and an avid collector of eyepieces … until recently (recovering ocularholic). He has worked in the astronomy industry since 2005 – for the last six years with his own business, EyepiecesEtc.com. Don currently observes the sky with a 4-inch apo refractor and a 12.5-inch Dobsonian, mostly from a high-altitude site a hundred miles away from Los Angeles.

And to make it easier for you to get the most extensive telescope and amateur astronomy related news, articles and reviews that are only available in the magazine pages of Astronomy Technology Today, we are offering a 1 year subscription for only $6! Or, for an even better deal, we are offering 2 years for only $9. Click here to get these deals which only will be available for a very limited time. You can also check out a free sample issue here.


For young children and those who just want to see various solar system objects, a small refractor of three to four inches or less in diameter is perfect.

A tabletop Dobsonian of similar size can work equally as well. If you choose a reflector, collimate it regularly for the best results. Collimation is the alignment of the internal mirrors.

The views seen through the eyepiece of a reflector like Dobsonians will appear upside down and may be confusing for some beginners, but this is just a byproduct of how reflectors work and is perfectly normal.


Telescope Observing Tips 1-6

Observe Away from Buildings

Observe away from buildings, pavement or large objects that absorb heat by day and release it at night. When these objects release heat at night, they create air currents (heat mirages) which degrade image quality in your telescope. This is why observing from a terrace or top of a building is not a good idea. The best locations are open, grass covered areas.

Window Telescope Observing

For a similar reason, observing through an open window is also a bad idea, especially if there is a pronounced difference between the air temperature in your house and the outdoor temperature. Since air always flows from a region of warmer temperature to a region of cooler temperature, you instantly create a nasty air current when you open the window. This seriously degrades the image.

Close Window for Observing

If you must observe through a window during cold weather, leave the window closed, but be aware that the window glass is now acting as a lens in your optical system and your optical system is only as good as its weakest link, which is now your window. Since the window is acting as a lens, you will also discover that best image quality will be obtained by aiming the scope directly through the window, rather than at an angle. Pointing the scope up or down, rather than straight through the window, will produce serious optical distortion.

Observing from a Deck

For the above reasons and more, observing from a deck is also a bad idea. Not only does such a site put you too close to a building, it also provides a less than stable observing platform. Every step you or someone takes will instantly produce a vibration in the eyepiece of your telescope and the higher the magnification, the worse the problem. If you have no other option, fine, but a telescope needs to be on the ground for best results.

Adjust Your Eyes

Allow your eyes to become dark-adapted before trying to observe faint deep-sky objects. This takes time - typically 30 minutes under truly dark conditions. Unfortunately, it only takes seconds to ruin your dark-adapted eyes by looking into a bright light. Since red light is easier on dark-adapted eyes, astronomers therefore use red light to work around a telescope or read star maps. You can either buy a flashlight with a red lens or make your own by coating the lens with several layers of red nail polish.

Observe with Averted Vision

Use what astronomers call "averted vision". Simply put, this means looking out of the corner of your eye (where your eye is more light sensitive), rather than the center of your eye. In other words, don't stare directly at a faint object when trying to see it - glance at it from the side of your eye. It can mean the difference between seeing a difficult object and not seeing it.


10 Must-Haves for a Night of Stargazing

Whether you&aposre alone or with a group of friends, stargazing is a creative way to destress and stay connected to the great outdoors. "Stargazing (also called amateur astronomy or backyard astronomy) gets you outside and in touch with the natural world," says astronomer Dr. Richard Tresch Fienberg of the American Astronomical Society. "It&aposs ideal for quiet contemplation thinking about the trillions of galaxies, stars, and planets out there-and the huge distances between them, and the possibility that the universe is teeming with life-helps put our earthly foibles into perspective."

While the most basic stargazing can be done without any aides-by simply gazing at the sky-astronomer Chuck Claver, Systems Scientist at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory says certain tools and equipment can definitely elevate the experience. "With optical assistance from binoculars or a telescope, the sky gazer has more to explore," he explains. "With the appropriate assistance, the sky gazer can see the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and dust storms on Mars."

These are the top ten best stargazing accessories, according to astronomers.


Telescope FAQ:

How do you maintain a telescope?

To maintain a telescope, you need a soft touch. Your main enemy will be dust on the delicate glass. Never use your fingers to wipe lenses or parts. Instead, use a squeezable blower to blow away loose materials and then wipe the area with isopropyl alcohol diluted with distilled water on a cotton ball. Be as gentle as possible, using only the faintest amount of pressure. A dusty lens or mirror is better than a scratched one.

What is the most powerful telescope for home use?

The most powerful telescope for home use may not be that powerful at all. The term “powerful” can be misleading. Remember, magnification power isn’t as important as aperture and focal length. Put another way, it’s not how powerful a telescope is, but how much light it can see. The Hubble telescope has an apatrue of over 7-feet. You can find reasonably priced Dobsonian telescopes for your backyard with an aperture of 16-inches.

How do you travel with a telescope?

To travel with a telescope, treat it like a baby bird. Be very careful. The telescope is a tube of glass and jostling it can misalign mirrors and lenses. Before heading out, store the scope properly with lens cap covers and padding. You can bring your telescope on a plane, but you’re taking a big risk by transporting it with checked baggage. If possible, and within the airline’s size limits, travel with the telescope as carry-on luggage. And always make sure you have everything you need — eyepieces, batteries, tripod brackets — because if you get out to an isolated area, a telescope without the proper parts is really just a useless tube of glass.


A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Binoculars and Telescopes for Astronomy

Nearly every wants to get a new telescope or pair of binoculars... or both. Binoculars will show tens of thousands of stars and many dozens of bright “deep-sky” objects like star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. And even a simple backyard telescope reveals thousands of fascinating objects… enough for a lifetime of pleasant observation and thoughtful contemplation.

Choosing binoculars or a telescope, however, is a big challenge for beginner amateur astronomers. There are hundreds of models available with all sorts of bewildering specifications and features. Many beginners end up choosing instruments that are too big, too complicated, or of too poor quality to be useful. And many end up becoming frustrated with stargazing and give up.

That’s not going to happen to you.

That’s because this free course will show you the basics of choosing a beginner’s telescope and a good pair of binoculars for visual observation of the night sky. With this know-how, you’ll be able to choose the right stargazing tools for your budget and personal situation, tools that will let you see thousands of beautiful and memorable celestial objects that few people ever get to see. And you get, in the last lesson, five recommendations for the best telescopes for beginning amateur astronomers.

Lesson 1 – The True Purpose of a Telescope
Some beginners think magnification is the key specification of a telescope (or binoculars). Many junk telescopes – the kind sold in department stores, sporting-good stores, and in camera stores that should know better – are marketed on the basis of ridiculously high magnification. But this first lesson of choosing a telescope explains the much simpler purpose of a telescope: to collect light.

Lesson 2 – How to Choose Astronomy Binoculars
Every stargazer, beginner or expert, needs at least one good pair of binoculars. In this lesson you learn the key specifications of binoculars and what to look for when you choose a pair of binoculars for astronomy.

Lesson 3 – What to Know Before You Buy a Telescope
The worst (first) thing a new stargazer can do is run off and buy a telescope without knowing the first thing about astronomy. In the previous lesson, you learned that binoculars should come before a telescope. But there’s more to know and understand. Here are ten things to know before you starting planning your first telescope purchase.

Lesson 4 – The Five Numbers that Explain a Telescope
In their simplest terms, from the most basic beginner scope to the Hubble Space Telescope, all telescope share a few common features. This lesson explains them and how they can be summarized in five numbers.

Lesson 5 – Refractor Telescopes
They were the first type of telescope invented. But they’re still amazingly popular among visual observers and astrophotographers. They are refracting telescopes, the ones with a lens up top and an eyepiece down below. Here’s how they work and whether they are the right ‘first telescope’ for you.

Lesson 6 – Newtonian Reflectors and Dobsonians
Based on a design by Isaac Newton in the 17th century, Newtonian reflectors and they budget-friendly cousin, the Dobsonian, offer the biggest light-collecting bang for your buck. Here’s how they work and their pros and cons for visual astronomy.

Lesson 7 – Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes
Newtonian reflectors, covered in the last lesson, have one big drawback: they are big. But a hybrid telescope design – the Schmidt-Cassegrain – uses lenses and mirrors to compress the long length of a Newtonian tube into a much smaller optical tube that works as a ‘jack of all trades scope’.

Lesson 8 – Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescopes
Similar to Schmidt-Cassegrains, ‘Maks’ uses lenses and mirrors to pack a long focal length into a small package. These scopes are ideal for lunar and planetary observers looking to get crisp, high-magnification views and images.

Lesson 9 – Telescope Mounts
Every telescope sits on a mount that helps point it around the sky and keep it steady. Here’s a primer on the two types of telescope mount, alt-azimuth and equatorial, as well as the relatively new ‘go-to’ technology that makes life easier for all stargazers.

Lesson 10 – Recommended Telescopes for Beginning Stargazers (LINK TO COME)
Based on the previous lessons in this course, let’s look at five recommended telescopes that work well for beginning observers of all budgets and situations.



Comments:

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  2. Elisheba

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  3. Bebhinn

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  4. Foursan

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  5. Jephtah

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