As kids in science class, you studied the stars and the planets. There were always plenty of pictures in the book that’d help you visualize space better. To help you visualize even better, some of you were probably taken to a planetarium.
The older you got and as your interest in astronomy started growing, you probably paid a visit to an observatory. You may have even invested in your own telescope at some point! I advise you look at the best telescopes under $200 to find the best model for you!
Whether you were that nerd, or you’re just curious about space -like the most of us-, I’m sure you’d like to know how to use a telescope properly. This is what this guide is for, read along to know how simple it is. Even if you’re a beginner!
Get to Know Your Telescope First!
You need to remember something, what you’ll see from the telescope isn’t what NASA shows on their website. The reasons are the type of telescope and the fact they actually go out of the earth to capture some of these breathtaking images.
Although it seems that the parts of the telescope are pretty simple. They actually take a little bit of getting used to and knowing what each of them is for. Setting them up alone may require a bit of patience on your end to get the best view.
There are parts of the telescope that are standard in any type of telescope.
This is one of the most important parts of the telescope. The lens is the part that controls and collects light movement.
It consists of:
- Convex lens
- Concave lens
- Concave mirror
- Focusing distance
- Field of view
This is the small telescope found on top of the telescope tube. It’s used to locate and direct the telescope for a clear view of the object you’re looking at.
The eyepiece is part of the ocular lens and it helps in enhancing the lens’ clear view. It also locks the ocular lens in place, keeping it from breaking and falling down.
Telescope/ Optical Tube
This is where the main mirror is located. You’ll find that most of the telescopes have a diameter of about 8 inches and a tube cover.
This part enhances the setting of the focal length. It’s controlled by a small knob that’s usually found underneath the visual back.
This part is what controls the direction of your telescope. Depending on the type of mount you get, the direction in which it can move differs.
The mount has a regulating knob to indicate the latitude position. This knob also lets the telescope remain in balance.
The mount enhances the telescope’s efficiency, that’s why it’s one of the most expensive parts of the telescope.
Any telescope must come with an at least 3-stand tripod. The tripod is what holds the telescope in its place on any surface.
It also helps in supporting the telescope in any position, whether it’s slanted, straight, or even inverted.
The tripod helps in the ease of movement ad rotation of the telescope.
Time to Set up Your Telescope
Setting up your telescope may take some time in the beginning until you get used to the process.
- Align Your Telescope and Finderscope
- Insert an eyepiece into the tube of the telescope.
- Align your telescope to an object that’s land-based (ex. A chimney) at least 600 meters away. If it’s too blurry, choose a further object.
- Center your telescope to the chosen object
- Lock your telescope in place.
- Align your finder piece to the same object you aligned with your telescope.
- Look through your eyepiece again to make sure both the telescope and finderscope are pointing and centered on the same object.
I suggest that you do this during the daytime, as it’ll be much easier to see land-based objects. If you couldn’t and have to align it at night, I suggest using a bright enough object that can be seen easily with your telescope.
Beware, you shouldn’t align with trees as they can easily move from a bit of wind.
Make sure you place the tripod on the location you plan to observe the skies from.
- Extend the tripod to the required height. I suggest using a spirit level, and make sure the bolts are tightened.
- Install mount head and point it towards true north.
- Create a right angle template out of a firm cardboard.
- Set the polar axis to the right angle of the triangle.
- Place triangle and spirit level against the side of the mount’s polar axis. If they all align, you’re all set up!
- Telescope Collimation
This is the process where you need to make sure that your mirrors are aligned. Without proper mirror alignment, your image may be distorted.
Since this doesn’t happen too often, this video will explain in detail what needs to be done.
Exploring the Night Sky. Now it’s time for the fun part, exploring the night sky. Most of the beginner astronomers start with the moon. Since it’s the easiest to spot in the sky.
To know what your other options are, you’ll need to check online and see what’s in the sky for that day. I also suggest subscribing to different astronomy magazines, they’ll give you guidance on how to spot different planets. Other common planets to look for are Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn since they’re among the easiest to find.
You should have a star map at hand to help you with finding different objects in space. By finding the north start and Orion’s belt, it should be pretty simple to find anything up there.
Getting into astronomy can be very enlightening as you’ll get to see what it’s like up there. Surely, it won’t be as we see on tv, but it’ll be an unforgettable experience. The telescope you get will determine how clear you’ll be able to view some things. It’s better to place your telescope outside unless you have a room in your house that has a clear sky view from the window. Keep in mind that it could get pretty cold as you’re exploring the skies. Dress accordingly and maybe bring a tent or sleeping bag if you’re far away from the comfort of your home.