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Aug 19

7 Top Tips For Using A Telescope

Astronomy is a hobby where it’s pretty much impossible to start off as an expert, unless you’re some kind of brainiac child prodigy of course. One of the best aspects of astronomy is that you’re never really finished learning, and that there’s always something new to discover either from the skies or just from your astronomer buddies.

With that in mind we just wanted to share a handful of tips with you today about how to make the most of your telescope time.

7 Top Tips For Using A Telescope

#1 Manage Your Expectations

We don’t want to start our list of tips with anything negative but this is one of those topics that just needs to be covered whether we like it or not. Those pictures you see in astronomy magazines and on the cartons of telescopes themselves were taken in the most ideal conditions possible – like zero light pollution and with a variety of high-powered eyepieces. If you’re expecting to look into a $300 telescope and see Jupiter like it’s hanging over your back yard then you will find yourself disappointed.

#2 Avoid Light Pollution

It doesn’t matter what size aperture your telescope has or how expensive your eyepieces are you need to avoid light pollution as if you were avoiding a horde of hungry zombies. There’s nothing to mess up your viewing more than the aerial and light pollution that hangs over most cities each night. Realistically this means traveling outside of your town or city to really enjoy the best possible views, and this also allows you to avoid the nighttime heat haze found in areas with lots of concrete and other paving.

#3 Avoid Windows!

You should also avoid trying to use your telescope through an open window in your home because the temperature difference between the inside of your home and the street outside will interfere with the quality of image you’re seeing. Plus there’s also the fact that your window is now acting as a lens and this is going to totally mess up your image quality simply because your window was never designed to be part of a telescope “array” in the first place.

#4 Let Your Eyes Adapt

Have you ever noticed that if you’re standing in a dark room for a few minutes that your eyes adjust to the point where you’re no longer “blind” but can actually make out details? That’s your natural, built-in night vision system in operation right there and when you’re using a telescope at night it’s important to let your eyes adjust to the darker environment outside. Why do this? Well because your eyes will then be better “tuned” for looking at deep-sky objects through your eyepiece.

#5 Stability Matters

The more stable the surface your telescope is placed on the more enjoyable your viewing experience is going to be. Unless your telescope is on a stable surface that’s not prone to wobbling or shifting then you’re going to find yourself constantly adjusting your scope to get that particular planet, star or other object back into view. Remember that it only takes a very small vibration to shift your telescope off axis – which is all the more reason for using your telescope away from wooden floors, carpets and rugs i.e. using it in a flat open space covered with grass.

#6 Be Patient

Using a telescope requires a certain amount of skill and it’s going to take you a little while to get used to it. Even if you have the most advanced optics you’ll still find that amateur astronomy is 50% technique and 50% equipment, so you need to allow time for your technique to improve and you’ll get much better results. There’s plenty of stuff in our own solar system worth checking out before you start looking at star clusters several million light years from Earth!

#7 Manage Your Magnification

Probably the biggest mistake most amateurs make is that they set their telescope up, align it with the finder scope and then push the magnification all the way to its limit. What you wind up with is a large, dark fuzzy image that doesn’t look anything like the craters on our moon. In fact it just looks like something left the dust cap on the telescope, so you check just in case. You’ll get far more enjoyable and crisp views by throttling back on your magnification from the start, and then as you gain experience you’ll have a much better understanding of what eyepieces and magnification settings will work best for any particular celestial object.

 In A Nutshell

To really enjoy amateur astronomy it’s important that you treat it more like a marathon and less like a sprint race – you’ll also avoid about 99% of the headaches that most amateur astronomers wind up dealing with at one time or another too.

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