Read these 9 Using a Telescope Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Telescopes tips and hundreds of other topics.
A telescope is a delicate piece of equipment, subject to wear and tear from usage and jostling from movement and travel. To keep your precious piece of astronomical equipment in top shape, remember these five things to care for your telescope:
1. Keep your fingers and any body parts away from the lenses and mirrors. Your body will leave oils, which can damage the optical coatings over time.
2. Avoid any jarring movements when transporting your telescope. Protect it from any chance of shock by accidental dropping or sudden movements at all times.
3. Care for your telescope by keeping it in a cool, dry place. Use silica gel packets, available from camera stores to help keep the moisture level down.
4. Keep your lens clean and dust free by keeping the lens cap on the telescope when it is not in use.
5. Use only lens cleaning solution and a lens cloth to clean your telescope lens. Never use a handkerchief or household tissues. Another option is to use a puff of air from a pressurized can to remove dust from your telescope lens.
If you're new to using a telescope, start your night sky observations with the moon or a bright planet. Looking at the moon is ideal for a couple of reasons. First, it's easy to find and as a beginner, you'll have little trouble locating it in the night sky. Second, the moon is a brilliant and beautiful object to behold through the lens of a telescope. Third, there are so many facets and areas of a moon to explore, you can keep going back to discover new terrain. If you find the moon is actually too bright to behold, here is a hint – use a neutral density filter to lessen the light intensity.
It may be difficult to find faint objects in the night sky. If you're looking through your eyepiece, and haven't located what you're trying to find, try these simple techniques:
1. Use a technique called averted vision to help you spot faint objects. When looking through your eyepiece, look to the side of where you think the object is rather than directly at. This technique of averted vision works well because the rods in your eyes are more sensitive to seeing in low light and lie concentrated throughout your field of vision, while cones, responsive to bright colors, and lie concentrated in the center of your field of vision.
2. Try tapping your telescope. Though this may sound odd at first, tapping your telescope with a light motion will help you to find faint objects. Your eyes will more readily see a faint object with slight movements than one not moving at all. When seen through your peripheral vision, which is sensitive to slight movements, you'll have a better chance at finding what you're looking for.
So you've just bought your telescope, read the directions, and you have all the parts and tripod set up. Now what? To ensure you get the most out of your stargazing experience read this beginner's guide for picking a location for telescope use.
• When moving your telescope from one location to another, always transport it with the utmost care to keep it in optimal shape.
• Pick a spot to view the night sky as far away from the glare of city lights as possible.
• Avoid choosing a location for telescope use with large obstructions like mountains, trees, and other landscape.
• If your telescope has been stored in an area where the internal temperature is different from the surrounding area, give it up to 45 minutes to equalize with the current temperature.
• Before you use your telescope, make sure the tripod has a stable hold on the ground and won't be subject to any falls or sinking.
The key to looking at the sun is following some guidelines to make sure your solar observation experience is not only safe, but enjoyable.
1. The first and most obvious rule to looking at the sun is to never look at it directly with the naked eye or any optical device without a solar filter.
2. Cover your finderscope to avoid any accidental opportunities to look through it during solar observation.
3. Firmly attach your solar filter to your telescope, taking care to make sure it has no gaps and will not come loose.
4. As added insurance for the stability of your solar filter, you can tape the flange of the filter to the edge of your telescope.
5. Start off looking at the sun by looking at sunspots. You'll be guaranteed a worthwhile experience every time – the atmospheric conditions of the sun can have varying effects on the sunspots.
Collimation is the process of aligning the optics in your telescope in order to create an optimal image in the focal plane. It is common for optics to get thrown out of alignment when a telescope suffers from rough handling or movement during transport. Follow these pointers for aligning the optics in your telescope:
• The adjustment screws on your primary and secondary telescope mirrors may need tweaking. To help identify which screw is which, try placing colored stickers by each screw.
• Don't make more than a quarter turn of each screw at one time. Only adjust two screws at a time and not all three. The key to optimal collimation is using incremental movements.
• Try writing your adjustments down on paper to help you remember what you've done.
• If you find collimation difficult, you can purchase a product on the market such as a laser guide or collimation eyepiece.
Note: If you own a refractor telescope, the manufacturer needs to make adjustments if the optics in your telescope are out of alignment. If you own a Maksutov-Cassegrain, due to the integrity of the telescope design, you should not require any collimation.
It may be tempting, if you're just starting to get into astronomy, to find the eyepiece with the most amount of magnification and attach it to your telescope. However, the aperture size of your telescope will set a limit to the amount of detail you can see on an object. Once you reach this limit, increasing the magnification won't help you see anything more.
For instance, if you have a 100 mm telescope, you would be able to see a little over 1 second of arc in detail or 1/3600 of a degree. A normal human eye can see 1 minute of arc of detail, or 1/60 of a degree. Theoretically, then, you would only need a magnification of 60 times to see the detail in a 100 mm telescope. However, since not everyone has perfect vision, magnifying 180 to 240 times would be sufficient to show the detail in a 100 mm telescope.
The best way to think of the maximum high-power limit you'll need, is to take the aperture size in mm and multiply by two (100 mm x 2 = 200 times) or take the aperture size in inches and multiply by 50.
Before you even use your telescope, you'll have to make sure your eyes adjust properly so you can see through the eyepiece. Adapting your eyes for the telescope can be easier by following these guidelines:
1. In the dark, your eyes release the chemical rhodopsin, also known as visual purple, which helps your eyes see better at night. Bright ultraviolet lights stop the release of visual purple. Because it can take up to half an hour for your eyes to adjust, avoid all fluorescent lights, computer screens, and camping lights, just prior to using your telescope.
2. A red light has the least amount of effect on your eyesight prior to telescope use. Use a red LED light or similar accessory to make adapting your eyes effortless. Tungsten lighting also has a lesser effect and can be used as well.
3. If you must use the computer to plan your stargazing itinerary, switch the screen to a night vision mode to display everything in red, or reduce your screen brightness.
Have you ever looked through the finderscope of your telescope as you've located the North Star and centered the image only to find it is off center when you look in the eyepiece? The solution to the problem lies in aligning your finderscope. Take these steps to proceed:
1. To align your finderscope, first find an outdoor area where you have a clear view for a minimum of one mile and set up your telescope.
2. Choose an easily identifiable fixed object in the distance such as a singular tree or building and make sure you center it in your telescope eyepiece.
3. Check first with a low power eyepiece, then with a high power eyepiece to ensure you have your object dead center in view.
4. If your object remains in center, lock your telescope adjustments in place and then check the eyepiece once again to see if you have the object centered.
5. The next step for you will be to adjust your finderscope. Most telescopes have three or six adjusting screws and corresponding locking nuts on the finderscope. Gently loosen the screws while locking the nuts in order to move your finderscope.
6. Make the adjustments necessary to center the object in your finderscope so that it is identical to the view you see in your telescope eyepiece and tighten the screws.
7. Finally, make a last check to ensure you have your view in center when you look in your eyepiece. If everything is aligned, you can tighten the locking nuts.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|