Observing the stars is one of the most exciting processes, which becomes even more interesting with special accessories. The telescope is a very important tool for any astronomy enthusiast who wants to explore space and the universe, whether they are professionals or beginners. This device and its accessories are quite expensive. So in order to not be disappointed in the purchase and get the most out of it, you need to know how to use it properly. In this article, you will get simple step-by-step instructions on how to use a telescope for stargazing.
In order to start observing the stars, you have to adjust the telescope for stargazing. In general, it takes me about 15 minutes to set up the telescope, but if you are a beginner, it may take you a little longer. Still, by the end of this article, you will definitely learn how to use a telescope for stargazing.
Set up your telescope properly
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have all the necessary accessories and nothing is missing. Among the important parts are the tripod legs, on which the telescope is mounted. There should also be the optical cube, the head of the mount, the finder scope, motion controls, and other optional accessories that you have purchased separately. Of course, depending on the telescope, these components will be different.
You should have no problems with the setting of the tripod and the mount. You just need to connect them with the screws included. Then all that remains is to attach the optical tube to the top of the mount. You don’t have to do this tightly at this stage, as you will still adjust it when attaching the accessory tray.
Align your telescope
This stage directly depends on what type of telescope you have. If you use a refractor, you do not need to think about collimation. However, if you use a reflector telescope, it may need some alignment.
Foremost, you need to make sure that your primary mirror is in line with the secondary mirror. To check it out, look at the eyepiece. If you did everything right, you should be able to see the reflection of the primary mirror from the secondary. The next step is to place the laser collimator into the draw tube. If you look at an optical tube, the laser should be reflected on the other end. If you did everything properly, the laser will be centered, which means that the secondary mirror is aligned correctly. Then you can start tightening up the knobs at the bottom end of your telescope. Before doing that, make sure the laser is aimed at the exact target on your laser collimator.
The eyepiece is one of the crucial things in stargazing equipment beginners struggle to choose. There are many different types of eyepieces. However, in order to really enjoy stargazing with a telescope, you will need at least three basic ones. Therefore, it is worth choosing 3 eyepieces with small, medium, and large power magnification, that would be suitable for different tasks and would work in different conditions.
However, if you are not ready to buy 3 types at once, you can use an eyepiece with a zoom, but it will not be as sharp and clear as separate options. Although, no matter how many eyepieces you have, you should always start with the one that has lower magnification. Because then it will be easier for you to find a target for stargazing. After that, you can gradually move to eyepieces with higher magnification.
Focusing a telescope may sound like a rather complicated process, but in reality, it is quite easy to do. Without a clear image, it will be difficult to see all the details of a planet or any other celestial object. To do this, you just need to rotate a small knob on the telescope. Observe the image and perform this action until the image becomes clear and sharp. Usually, most eyepieces focus within ¼ inches of each other, so it may take only a few rotations to adjust the focus. Also, do not rush. Too fast movements can blur your vision, and it will be harder to concentrate. From my own experience, I advise you to prepare your eyes for darkness in advance. Try to avoid bright white light for a few hours before stargazing, especially from electronic devices like phones. This will help your eyesight prepare and make it easier for you to focus.
Adjust your magnification
Once the basic settings have been made and you already have a good view of the celestial object to observe, all you have to do is adjust your magnification. Then you will be able to contemplate the selected planet or star in even better detail. You may even want to take an astronomical picture of the object. The standard configuration will not allow you to use a telescope to its full potential. That is why you need to buy additional accessories for them.
As it was mentioned earlier, magnification adjustment can be done with different eyepieces. However, the best way is to use a Barlow lens before the eyepiece. The Barlow lens is a lens that has the ability to scatter light rays. In the telescope, this lens increases the focal length, which actually increases the image itself. Barlow lenses can usually double or sometimes even triple the magnification of a telescope.
The place choice matters
Of course, a lot depends on the quality and power of your optical instrument. However, there are many other factors that affect the observation of stars, including the choice of time and place. I was so disappointed when, at the beginning of my journey, I did not pay attention to the right choice of location and even my expensive telescope did not help me to enjoy the stargazing.
You need to pay attention to light pollution in the sky and check its level in your area in advance. Light pollution is light that is reflected from gas stations, parking lots, various complexes, shopping malls, or streetlights and is scattered in the night sky. It interferes with observing the stars, especially if you want to observe faint stars or meteorites. It is better to choose a location outside the city, where night lighting is not as pronounced as in large cities.
FAQ on Other Peculiarities of Star Watching
Can a monocular telescope be used for stargazing?
Many people are attracted by the compactness and convenience of using monocles. You can easily take it on a hike, and it doesn’t need any adjustment. You can also use it to aim the telescope. But still, for serious stargazing, it is better to use binoculars or an entry-level telescope.
Is it safe to look at a star with a telescope?
Yes, it is completely safe if you follow all the rules and use a telescope that meets safety standards. Don’t worry, it won’t damage your eyes unless that star is the sun. You cannot use it to look at the sun without special filters.
How does the moon affect stargazing?
The brightness of the moon in the full phase makes the sky look washed out, which prevents you from seeing less bright objects. Its strong illumination interferes with the telescopic views of deep sky objects. That is why it is better to choose the phase of the new moon.
From an Amateur to a Professional
Most people begin their journey into the wonderful world of astronomy by observing the stars. However, it is sometimes difficult to deal with a telescope, especially for a beginner. That is why it is worth taking a step-by-step approach. You can also try to do it during the day when it is easier to navigate. The main thing is not to hurry and do everything carefully. Also, keep in mind that with time and practice, you will find it easier.
How long did it take you to set up the telescope, and which step was the hardest? Please share your experience in the comments.