Things We See In The Sky At Night
When you are brand new to astronomy and you think of all those stars out there for you to see, it can be a little daunting. But it’s much easier to get to grips with the vast array of celestial objects, so RELAX! Just like if you were to relocate to a new city or town everything may seem unfamiliar at first, but with the help of a few maps, you’ll soon be finding your way around like an expert. You will soon become comfortable with the constellations and how they all move across the night sky, easy right? But what is the best stargazing equipment for beginners?
If you don’t own any maps as yet, you could visit your local library or one of many online sites. Alternatively, there are many apps you can get on your phone or iPad. . These can give object positions in great detail. Constellation charts are used by holding the map above your head, and star charts are generally printed in line with compass settings, with north up and west to the right.
These maps and charts also include easy and straightforward ways of understanding star positions and sizes in the sky. In some examples, you will find such terms as ‘‘finger-width and “hand-span” So what exactly do these terms mean? Well, a “hand-span” is calculated from the tip of the little finger to the tip of the thumb when the arm is outstretched. This covers about 20 degrees of the sky. A “fist-width” is the closed hand’s width while at arm’s length. This covers around 10degrees of the sky, whereas a “finger-width” is around 2 degrees. This kind of guidance isn’t perfect, but it could help you when starting out.
Stargazing Equipment For Beginners – What will I need?
Now for us to tell you which telescope or binoculars are right for you would be great… but we can’t do that! You see every person uses their equipment in a different way and many times under very different conditions. But we can give you some guiding principles. Let’s begin….
Anyone out there with an interest in astronomy should get a pair of binoculars—even if they are only low-priced ones. They won’t give you as much detail as a good telescope, but for a lightweight, portable accessory they are perfect.. Just aim them in an upwards direction and begin to look at the heavens. But which ones do you pick? Probably the best spec for astronomy is within the 7 x 50 and 10 x 50 range, but even lowly 5 x 30 models can give you great images of objects in the sky. Now while it may be tempting to go for the giant pair, bear in mind that these will require some form of mount. Also, remember due to their portability, they may be dropped or even lost, so t6hink about this before you lay out all that hard-earned cash
If possible try before you buy. They need to be comfortable to use and the view should be consistent as you look through the eyepieces. Something to note is that when you look through the main lens, poorly coated optics will be indicated by white reflections, you should be seeing a green or a deep purple reflection which indicates a much higher quality optic.
But what do we look for in a telescope? Even though there are lots of different models, there are only three basic designs. The reflector uses a mirror to gather in the light, a refractor uses a lens and the catadioptric uses a combination of the two. Most people think the most important spec on any telescope is magnification, but more important than that is the light-gathering ability of that scope. In a nutshell the bigger the aperture (the diameter) the more light it can take in and thus the more power it has to resolve the object it is pointing at. The smaller cheaper telescopes you see in high street shops and various camera outlets, tend to be of poor quality in both construction and specifications, but with a bit of research, you can find one for a similar price which will give you years of trouble free use.
The refracting telescope is the one chosen by those who want high-power views of terrestrial objects, as well as of the planets and our moon, and it also has the light gathering capability for the study of many deep-sky objects too. As the eyepiece is positioned at the end of the scope, a right-angled attachment is often require called a star diagonal, so as to place the eyepiece in a more comfortable position. Although lots of people maintain that a refractor is better for seeing details of the viewed objects, they can be a little uncomfortable to use due to the star diagonal.
Now if deep space objects are your thing, then the reflecting telescope is the one to go for. Getting one with a larger aperture is generally lower in price and the A large aperture is far more affordable, and the performance when studying planetary objects is a lot more is more reliant on the optic quality and ‘seeing’ circumstances than the overall design. On this scope, the eyepiece is positioned on the side of the body and favors those stargazers who prefer to stand. And even with the smallest reflector, it will have enough spec and light gathering abilities to keep the average stargazer happy for a long time. So that’s the one to go for right? Well, bear in mind that with the large aperture also comes the large size, so their portability can become an issue. Now with the reflecting telescope, you will come across the word ‘‘collimation’’ Don’t let this put you off. It is basically the action of adjusting the primary mirror, much the same way a guitar will need tuning, from time to time.
So with all that in mind, the catadioptric is the best of both worlds and the one to go for, right? Well, the simple answer is yes, but these can be very expensive and without preventative measures can be prone to dew up.
But what about the mounts?
Ok, let’s move onto the subject of mounts. As with the telescopes, there are also three basic designs. These are the altazimuth, the equatorial, and the Dobsonian. The altazimuth can move from left to right and also moves up and down and needs manual correction to track objects in the sky. These can be quite reasonably priced and are fairly easy to use. They are really best suited to smaller refractor telescopes. The equatorial mount is moved in right ascension and declination, this being the correct movement and angle on the sky. When aligned to the pole, the equatorial only requires a minor turn of a ‘slow motion’ control to track an object and automatic tracking devices can be fitted to it. These come in a range of sizes and weights and are suitable for any type of scope. The final design of the mount is the Dobsonian. Very much like the altazimuth, it can move from side to side and up and down, but doesn’t require a tripod because it acts very much like a simple rocker box. It is therefore an ideal addition to the small aperture Dobsonian giving you the option of a tabletop set up.
So, how to choose?
To decide which telescope and mount meet your needs you must ask yourself what type of stargazing you enjoy and want to do. This along with your budget will help you decide. You really don’t need a large Dobsonian telescope if you need to take a trip to a dark sky site to use it. And you’ll become extremely frustrated and your hobby may be short-lived if you have dark skies right outside your back door, but you’ve gone and bought a small refractor.
Here’s what I do with mine:
When traveling I use my small refractor telescope. It’s lightweight as is the mount, which makes things really simple when setting it up. Now while this is great for when I’m traveling it sometimes falls short, with some of the objects I want to see.
This is when I turn to my small reflector. It gives me fantastic images of the moon and the stars. It is lightweight and portable and also provides great lunar, solar, and double star views. It can also be ready to use in a few moments.
My mid-size catadioptric telescope is more tiresome to set up and use, but it does give exceptional images of the moon’s surface and the planets. If astrophotography is your aim you won’t go far wrong with one of these. But the expense and extra work involved with a catadioptric scope does put some people off.
The Go-To Telescope
Where possible you should learn to manually point a telescope at some distant object armed with nothing more than a star map and your own eyes. Because even with these systems, you will require basic knowledge to get the most out of them. Because it doesn’t matter how many objects a database contains, only your own experience will allow you to view those objects with your telescope and with your sky conditions!
But don’t get too disappointed. There is also a splendor in these systems. For those with limited time to view, a GoTo telescope, when you learn how to use it, can be a godsend. Many of these systems can lock onto objects by using their coordinates, so it’s not all bad, right?
Now for some Eyepieces
The golden rule with eyepieces, is that you only get what you pay for. Now if you were to put a really expensive top-quality eyepiece onto a cheap and nasty telescope, you’ll still have a cheap and nasty telescope. But put the same eyepiece onto a good telescope and you will have an awesome telescope. The one bit of advice with eyepieces is to start with the mid-range optics and limit the different sizes you buy. For wide-field viewing and locating objects, a 32mm eyepiece is fine. A 17mm or a 25mm is adequate for most viewing scenarios. But the 5mm, 10mm and the 12mm eyepieces are at the top of the tree. But on a telescope that lacks a motor drive, they may give you far too much magnification. As you get deeper and deeper into this wonderful hobby you’ll find you acquire more and more and only experience and trial and error will dictate which ones are right for you.
Is that it? No, you’ll need accessories.
Now a lot of these things I’m about to mention are not essential, but they can enhance your experience and that’s what you want right? Things like a barlow lens, a basic set of colored filters, a moon filter, a polarizing filter, will all come in handy at some point, but if you don’t have them you can still see some amazing things in the night sky.
But some things which I would consider to be vital are a comprehensive Moon map, a simple to follow sky chart, a wristwatch, paper, and a pen, and a torch. They are the most essential things you will ever use. Keep notes and refer to them again and again. Do sketches and keep a record of what you do, what you saw, and how you did it. But most of all enjoy! This is an amazing hobby, but one word of warning be very careful or it could take over your life.