One of the great wonders in life is the sky. At night, when the sun has gone down and all the lights are turned off, we can stare up at this massive expanse of black with millions of tiny little dots in it, and we’re reminded just how small we are on a tiny little planet in the midst of a huge universe. So much of it is visible with just the naked eye. It’s quite enjoyable to lay on the lawn and look up at all the stars blanketing the sky, but it’s another feeling altogether to be able to experience them much closer through the lens of a telescope.
Table of Contents
Buying Your First Telescope
A good home telescope doesn’t have to be expensive. There is a wide array available out there for any budget and any experience level, whether you’re looking to spend less than $50 or over $1000. As with everything, do your research and find the telescope that’s right for you and your personal situation. Amazon has hundreds of options to choose from, ranging from small and easy to use to massively complex monstrosities. Make sure you read the reviews before you buy, both good and bad. They will typically tell your more than the description will.
Setting Up Your Telescope
Once you’ve purchased your new telescope, you will need to assemble it. Follow the instructions provided carefully. Do not rush. Make sure everything is put together exactly how it is supposed to be. A mistake in assembly could result in an inaccurate or completely unusable telescope. Once you have it together, now it’s time to test it. Don’t try your first test at night. Night objects, such as the stars and moon, are harder to focus on and move due to the earth’s rotation. Try it out during the day and pick a stable object, such as a tree. Focus on the tree and practice using your adjustments.
A Note On Power
When first starting out with telescopes, many people assume that more power means a better telescope. This isn’t true. Ignore the claims of the ‘Barlow’ lens allowing 500x magnification. While it’s true, it will also give you a blurry image. Imagine blowing up your favorite photograph. The larger you make it, the blurrier it becomes, right? This is what happens with the telescope. Take note of what size your reflector is and multiply that by 50. That is the max power you should use. For example, if you have a 6-inch reflector, the most power you should use is 300. The image will be smaller, but clearer. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to use half of the max to achieve the best image.
Test It Out
As you focus on your tree or other stable object, play around with your adjustments. See what they all do, what effect they have when you twist one way versus the other. Now is the time to really figure out the ins and outs of your particular scope. If you have one of the more popular home telescopes, read the reviews on Amazon. Often, reviews will post advice or things they learned in their reviews. Search for your telescope on a search engine. In all likelihood, someone has posted a guide out there that you can use to fine tune your own viewing. There are numerous resources you can make use of. Don’t be afraid to look for them.
Get Some Guides
While many telescopes will come with a basic star map, it would be best to get one of your own. There are numerous books out there that will give you a full overview of what to look for and what you will see when you look through your telescope. Find one that will give you a good idea of what you can see from where you are and give good instructions on how to locate each constellation.
Find The Right Spot
Finding the right place to set up your telescope is key. Sometimes your options are limited, such as to a back deck or rooftop terrace, but if you can, do a little testing and see where you get the clearest night view. You want someplace that’s dark without a lot of ambient light. If you are stuck on the deck, turn off the lights inside the house. If you can remove yourself to a dark area, that is going to be the most effective for you. Also keep in mind the height of your telescope. Some are designed to be set on railings or tables. You don’t want to be using a miniature telescope and have to lay on the ground for hours if you find that uncomfortable.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to start your journey through space. The easiest object to find is usually the moon. It’s the biggest and brightest. But it’s also one of the most interesting. With a telescope, you can see amazing detail on the moon. Did you know that the moon reflects the Earth? If you look closely, you can see a negative image of the Earth on the moon, due to the way the Sun reflects off the oceans. Other easy to see objects are the other planets in our solar system, especially Jupiter and its moons, Mars, and Saturn. Some constellations are easily recognizable, including the Big and Little Dippers and Orion’s Belt. The Milky Way is a stunning cluster of beauty that shouldn’t be missed. Pull out your guide and see what you can find.
Owning a telescope can be a rewarding experience if you take the time to set it up right and learn how to use it before trying to explore the night sky. With a little patience, a lot of interest, and a good guide book, you’ll be discovering the wonders of the universe in no time at all.