Are you interested in stargazing and astronomy? Click here to learn how to use a telescope and see the stars more clearly than ever before.
Astronomers find it impossible to place an exact number on the stars humans can see with their naked eye. Estimates range from 2,500 to 10,000 or higher. Besides the stars, five planets can also be seen with the naked eye.
Looking at these objects with the naked eye will only show you the faintest outlines or twinkling. If you want to see them in greater detail, you need to use a telescope.
Many beginners aren’t sure how to use a telescope properly. If this sounds like you, continue reading to learn everything you need to know so you can see the stars up close.
Setting up Your Telescope
The first time you set up your telescope, you want to do it indoors with lots of lighting. Before beginning, read the instruction manual once. Gather any tools you might need.
At first, setting up your telescope can seem complicated. As you put it together, take the time to understand each feature and part. Eventually, it will become second nature to put your telescope together.
Learn About the Constellations
If you haven’t already, invest in a few books about the constellations. Or you can watch some videos online. Become familiar with some of what’s up there in the night sky.
Why learn constellation basics first? It will help you recognize stars and planets found with your telescope. It also makes for a better viewing experience.
Understand the Different Parts of Your Telescope
Several distinct parts make your telescope work. Understanding what each piece does will help you use your telescope to its fullest capabilities.
The eyepiece is what magnifies your view so you can see stars and planets in better detail. These come in different magnifications or powers. It’s essential to understand more power doesn’t always equal better viewing.
The mount helps you keep the telescope steady when using it. It also enables you to track celestial objects as they move across the sky. On any given night, the locations of different objects will be different to at least a small degree.
There are two primary types of mounts your telescope might use.
An altitude-azimuth mount is also known as an alt-az mount. It rotates vertically and horizontally to help you find stars and planets.
An equatorial mount serves the same purpose as an alt-az. The way it moves, however, is in an arcing direction. This arcing movement makes it easier to track objects as they move across the night sky.
A finderscope is usually mounted on top of your eyepiece. It’s optically like a set of binoculars. With a finderscope, you’re offered a broad view of the sky and a closer view of the object you want to see.
Barlow Lens (Optional)
Some telescope kits come with a Barlow lens, and some don’t. This particular part is designed to magnify the power of your eyepiece. But, it doesn’t work on its own.
Choose the Right Place for Star Gazing
When it finally comes time to use your telescope, you want to choose the right place and conditions. The right place will be as dark as possible. Otherwise, the artificial light will interrupt your viewing.
A place with the broadest view of the night sky is also optimal. Avoid tall buildings or trees that might block your view.
A clear, cloudless night offers the best conditions for stargazing. You can research online what the conditions for the night are if you aren’t sure.
Using Your Telescope
When you arrive at your chosen place, start by finding the most level piece of ground. You want the land to be as flat as possible, so your telescope has something stable to sit on. This will prevent shaking that disrupts your view of the sky through your lens.
Start by leveling your tripod. Align your telescope and tweak the finderscope as necessary. Always start with the lowest magnification lens if your kit comes with more than one.
You can find something to look at in one of two ways. When you first start using your telescope, it might be most comfortable to find something in the sky. Once you’ve focused in on the object, you can figure out what it is by cross-referencing it in the books.
The second method is to look up something you want to see and then try finding it in the sky. Some beginners find this method difficult, especially when still trying to figure out how the telescope works. As time goes on, you’ll find out more about identifying objects in the sky.
What to Bring for Better Star Gazing
To truly enjoy your stargazing experience, you want to be as prepared as possible. Many people who live in populated areas drive outside city limits to use their telescopes. You don’t want to forget anything!
But what should you bring? The following tips can help you best be prepared for a quiet night admiring the stars.
- Double-check you’ve brought all the necessary pieces to your telescope, including optional parts you hope to use
- Bring a chair or blanket to lay on the ground for the most comfortable viewing experience
- Invest in a red light to look at any documents you might have since these lights don’t disrupt nighttime eyesight
- Bring a star chart, planisphere, or celestial finder application for your phone
- If using a phone app, remember to turn your brightness down to appropriate nighttime viewing before heading out
- Bring warm clothing appropriate to the current weather at night (even in summer, as nights are colder)
- If you plan to drive outside of populated areas, bring a friend with you for safety
Bringing these items with you will create the most comfortable stargazing experience. When you’re comfortable, you can relax and stay longer. The longer you wait, the more likely it is you will find new celestial objects to view.
Do You Have More Questions About How to Use a Telescope?
A telescope can help you view celestial objects in greater detail than allowed by the naked eye. Using telescopes may seem complicated at first, but gets more comfortable as you continue practicing.
Do you have more questions about how to use a telescope? Check out our other blog posts. You’ll find a wealth of information on related topics.
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