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Righting the ship

Beginner Equipment
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#26 Rayhan Cygnus

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Posted 11 June 2024 - 01:40 PM

Seestar is good

#27 Starman1



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Posted 11 June 2024 - 02:34 PM

I'm a big fan of the site and have been a long-time lurker. I've learned a lot of really good information here! Thank you all for sharing! I've been dabbling in astronomy for a few years now, pretty casually. But I've hit a bit of a (very low) plateau and am not sure where to go next. I'm reaching out to some more experienced members for suggestions and guidance as to the next steps of my astro journey. I live in a Bortle 8/9 location and have family obligations at home, which limits my ability to slip away to dark sites on a whim. I struggle to star hop as there are usually not more than a dozen or so guide stars available to work with. Ultimately, I would like to be able to share these experiences with my family. I usually bring some sort of observation tools (scope or binos) along on family trips, so I do like portability whenever possible. Large Dobs are not portable enough for my needs. Here is my current lineup of scopes and accessories: 1. **Celestron Travelscope 70**: My first telescope. I performed some of the mods suggested by 10minuteastronomy, and I think they helped a bunch, but ultimately I think it might be time to move on from this one. 2. **Orion ST 80 (1.25" focuser)**: Picked this up recently because it seems like one of those scopes that everyone needs to have. Likely to replace the TS 70 as a versatile all-rounder. Just need to get some more clear nights with it to confirm. 3. **Celestron C90 Mak (the new version)**: Longer focal length for some higher magnification planetary observations. 4. **Meade 277 Comet Seeker**: Was a bit of an impulse buy but couldn't pass this one up. 5. **8x42 and 7x50 binoculars**: For quick looks! **Mounting options** are definitely my weak point for now. It’s just camera tripods. **Accessories**: - Plossl Eyepieces (32, 17, 9, 6) - Red dot finders - Svbony planetary camera - *Turn Left at Orion* - *NightWatch* I am thinking about picking up a Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi mount to make finding objects easier in my light-polluted area, and for tracking purposes. Would that help with my current scopes? Or are the apertures too small that GoTo/tracking won't make much difference? On the other hand, I am wondering if I would be better off going the Seestar route for EAA? Are either of these ideas on the right track? - Greg

The first thing to note is this: you cannot play a Rachmaninoff piano concerto the first day you sit down at the piano.  But with practice and time, you may get there.

The same is true of training the eye to see faint objects at the limit of vision.  Nothing other than practice can improve your abilities.

So, using the scope often, even if for just a short time, will benefit your ability to see things.


So, first, an optical finder (a small refractor, essentially) will help you find stuff much better than a small red dot finder, so you should look into that.  It will see stars to enable you to guide the scope better.

Even a 30mm finder scope would be better than the small red dot finders.


And, of course, learn as many constellations as you can so you can know what constellations are up and help others in the family see the patterns as well.


Second, you should pay attention to the following (edited for brevity):

1) Don't even bother looking for these faint objects when the Moon is above the horizon.  Wait till after moonset or observe before moon rise.  When the Moon is up, observe the Moon.
2) Be dark adapted--that means 30-45 minutes outside away from lights before you start going for faint objects.  This is hard to do, but you will not see much if you are not dark adapted.
3) Don't bother if there are lots of clouds in the sky because the uncloudy part of the sky between clouds is still hazy.  The only exception is if the clouds are only on the horizon.
4) Start at low power until you identify the field, then increase the power until the object is visible.  You will probably find magnifications of 60x+ most useful for DSOs.  Remember, the image gets larger with magnification, but also gets dimmer.
5) Don't look for objects until it is completely dark.  The sun must be 18° below the horizon (90 minutes after sunset at 40° North).
6) Due to the atmosphere dimming objects when it gets thick, try to confine your observing of faint objects to near the N-S meridian, the imaginary line from due north to due south that passes through the zenith, where objects are highest in the sky.
Avoid looking at faint objects below about 30° off the horizon unless the object is in the deep south and never rises above 30°.  The difference in how the Orion Nebula appears when it just clears the trees and when it is high in the sky is quite profound.
7) Use averted vision.  Instead of looking directly at the object, look 15° toward the side (to the right side for right eye, left for left) and let the area of the retina most sensitive to light see it first.
If it's bright enough you can then look at it with direct vision.  Some objects will only be seen well with averted vision.
8) sit down to observe.  We are not stable when standing (your head is always moving) and you will get tired faster.
9) Make plans to move to darker skies once in a while during the New Moon so you can see what the scope is capable of in a darker sky.  Contact your nearest astronomy club to find out where they go to see darker skies.


Third, here is a list of objects you can view and how to help make them easier to see:

  • open star clusters.  one of the best types for light polluted skies, you can make them easier to see by increasing magnification.  Once you find the spot where one is, increase the magnification until fainter stars become visible.  Where I live, the bright star cluster Messier 11 has only a few visible stars until my 4" passes 100x, and by 150x, it looks like the rich star cluster it is.  The reason is that the stars don't dim as you increase magnification, but the background sky in the eyepiece does.  Figure on a magnification of around the same as the telescope size in mm, and higher.  You won't need sch high powers in a dark sky, but then you don't have a dark sky.
  • Double stars.  Many have beautiful colors and can still be seen in a bright sky.  Increasing magnification helps here with the fainter ones.
  • Carbon stars.  Some of these have the color of stoplights.  They're amazing to see and usually obvious.  It helps to have a star atlas to pinpoint the star.  Once it's in the field, you'll be able to tell which one it is.
  • Variable stars.  These are fascinating.  Delta Cephei, for instance, has a period of variability of only 5.4 days and varies by a full magnitude.  Watch it every night for a week and you'll see how it dims and brightens.  There are many more good ones, but Delta Cephei is a good one for binoculars.
  • Globular star clusters.  The magnification factor helps here, too, but many of them are bright enough to be seen in binoculars or the finder scope, so they are interesting in a telescope.  And they are usually seen in a city.
  • Planetary nebulae.  This are often small and bright, though there are a lot of dim ones.  They look like stars, often, at low power, so you want to bump up the magnification.  The Ring Nebula is easy to find, but it is not as bright to the eye as some others.  Hunting them down requires a star atlas, just like carbon stars, but there are a lot of them visible in small scopes.  Don't use the lowest power, but it's not necessary to use the highest powers either.
  • Galaxies.  There are only a handful you'll be able to find, and you will primarily see the cores, but M31, M81, M82, M65, M66 are a few really bright ones you might be able to see.  Most require much darker skies, though.
  • Emission nebulae.  The classic one everybody views is the Orion Nebula, but there are others you can view, like the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Trifid Nebula (M20), the Swan Nebula (M17).  What will be needed here is a nebula filter on the eyepiece.  Nebula filters are often quite expensive, but an Orion Ultrablock is affordable and it is an excellent filter.  As is the DGM NPB.
  • Dark Nebulae.  These will be dark sky, low power, objects, so save them for trips to a dark sky.
  • Reflection Nebulae,  Same note as dark nebulae.  Example Messier 78.
  • Telescopic Comets.  Same note as Dark and reflection nebulae.
  • Planets.  Visible from the backyard.  No reason to dark adapt or to travel.
  • Moon.  Visible from the backyard.  No reason to dark adapt or travel.

So what can you take away from the above?

Observe often.  Go for objects that might be more visible in bright skies (like open star clusters, no two of which are alike).  Dark adapt as much as you can to see fainter.


And perhaps look into getting a better mount, or perhaps a computerized telescope like the Celestron 4SE.  One advantage of the computerized scope is that they track the turing of the Earth, so you can take turns with others at the eyepiece and know the object is in the field when someone else sits down to look.

  • Dave Mitsky, rowdy388, DeepSky Di and 1 other like this

#28 Madeofducktape


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Posted 11 June 2024 - 07:41 PM

Thank you so much for the detailed response @starman1 ! Lots of great information in there!
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#29 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 11 June 2024 - 10:24 PM

BTW, if you haven't seen it previously, you may want to have a look at my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287, Madeofducktape.  There are sections on various books, observing guides, the Moon, the planets, star-hopping, stellar atlases, planispheres, planetarium programs, astronomy apps, deep-sky objects, lists of worthwhile celestial objects to observe, binocular astronomy, urban astronomy, and other related topics.

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#30 Madeofducktape


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Posted 12 June 2024 - 06:09 AM

@Dave ,that is a great list, thanks for sharing. Ill have some reading for many cloudy nights!
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#31 rowdy388


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Posted 12 June 2024 - 01:28 PM

Thank you so much for the detailed response @starman1 ! Lots of great information in there!

I'm often amazed by the effort many of our standout members spend to give complete, detailed answers. I'm usually too

lazy and definitely not knowledgeable/ experienced enough to do that. I confine myself to color commentary.

#32 Madeofducktape


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Posted 18 June 2024 - 12:03 PM

Quick round of rapid fire updates.
I joined Astro League as a member-at-large. Working on lunar 1, and the special observing program for T Coronae Borealis.

Getting used to the workflow with seestar and visual. I enjoy being able to visually observe while the seestar is working hard at DSO's. Looking forward to later in summer when planets are up again. I think winter would be good too,i can setup before dinner, and get a few more hours of imaging in.

A sincere thanks to all for the advice!
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