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Concise Beginners Guide with Links for Telescope Astronomy
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Concise Beginners Guide with Links for Telescope Astronomy
by Paul Binder August 2018
Greeting to all who are interested in the universe! The following guide is for people such as me who have an interest in viewing the night sky, purchased a telescope and now are lost. I am only in my first months of observing, so my perspective and understanding are more attune to starters. It appears overwhelming at first. Fear not! I have listed great articles, video’s, apps and my own advice to help you. This guide is designed to give you links without rehashing every detail. This article assumes you have no gear except a telescope with finder scope and at least one eyepiece. Written in layman terms with more colloquialisms than scientific terms. This guide assumes the objects listed will be visible at the date intended to view. Also assumed telescope is free from all defects.
At first don’t worry about placing every star or constellation in the sky. I can’t even see half of them in light polluted NYC suburbs. This will all come later. Start simple and build a solid base. The joy you get will keep you learning over time. Show a child a star in a telescope they will say “It looks like a dot”. Show them Saturn and the reactions are “Wow I can see the rings!” Let’s start at “wow” not at a library pouring over star charts. It’s like dating. First is the appreciation of the physical view. Later in your relationship you develop the greater understanding and detail of that person or in our case the universe.
Firstly, you must align your sight or finder scope. This is accomplished in the day time. You should find an object that is far away and doesn’t move. A telephone pole, a far way chimney on a house or a water tower will all work. Begin by getting the object centered in the telescopes eyepiece. Now look through the finder scope. You will not be aligned in cross hair or red dot. Most adjustments are made with thumbs screws. One usually works the up/down the other left/right. I have a basic video below from Orion telescope company.
Basic alignment video
Now your scope is ready for you to view the objects populating the galaxy or beyond. I first became interested viewing the moon. This is a good place to start. It’s a very large and bright object and visible most of the time. Try out your finder scope should be a simple exercise. Almost unnecessary but every bit of practice helps. Many basic moon maps are available. Listed below is a good article as a resource with maps. Try to spot some of the named craters or seas. When you realize what you can see and never noticed before you will be surprised. Who would of thought that big old hunk of cheese in the sky had so much to offer? Note during fuller moon a moon filter helps flush out more detail as the moon will appear very bright.
This article reviews basic feature and small talk on viewing the moon.
Now let’s move on to the planets. People are always surprised that some of those stars they see at night are planets! You need to know your directions first. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The planets follow a similar path and it is called the ecliptic. North and South can also be estimated by the path of the Sun. In the northern hemisphere the Sun travels along the ecliptic in the south skies. North is opposite that. Easy! (Below I haves a link for direction and time planets are visible. The sky is 360 degrees. North is 0 and South is 180. If planet referenced at 90E that is directly east in the sky. Also, Altitude is in degrees. 90 is directly overhead, 45 is halfway up.)
Start with Jupiter. Jupiter is the brightest object outside of the moon and Venus in the night sky. Venus tracts close to the sun and doesn’t show detail easily. When viewing Jupiter, you can see the Galilean moons clearly. Think about it you are seeing objects almost 400 million miles from Earth!
How well your finder scope is aimed will now be tested. The planets are moving so you will see them move across your field of view. Every eyepiece has an apparent field of view. The number for instance could be 50 degrees. When you look at through the scope at 10x magnification you are seeing only 5 degrees. 50 divided by10. So, as you magnify the area you are viewing decreases. At 50x magnification you see only 1 degree. 50 divided by 50. The larger the magnification the more details you may be able to see but the harder to originally spot if your finder is off. I recommended starting at lower magnification. If scope is off, you will have the best chance to see the planet because you will be seeing more degrees of sky.
Saturn or Mars can switch as to the brighter easier to view depending on the date you are viewing them. They also appear in southern skies along the ecliptic. Use the reference links for finding the best times to view them. Saturn is a real awesome sight to behold.
When and where are the planets visible?
By now I hope you have seen a few wonderful objects and are interested in seeing more. Don’t worry there is a lot more to see. From this point on you can move on to learning constellations, double stars and the Messier objects. Now your real study begins. I have listed the next best steps to take on your journey. Clear skies!
Some misc. suggestions
Observation Journal. This could be any type of notebook or sketch pad. Writing down or drawing what you see, and experience is a great way to relive and catalog your adventure. Really helps enhance the experience.
Join a local club. Do an internet search for astronomy events in your area. People are usually more than happy to help you. If nothing in your area try the Cloudy Nights forum. Fantastic people there.
Red light flashlight or headlamp. Helps to see and not ruin your eyes adjustment to the dark. Available online.
Chair for comfort. Card table for gear. Bug spray. Dress for local weather.
Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan. M. Davis
Night Sky Start video
Telescope guide/basics video
Next step. Excellent article for binocular/telescopes newbies
A guide to basic astronomy and more
*Best guide for phone must have *
Sky Safari App available free for Android or Apple
Stellarium free program like Sky Safari but for computer
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