Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving a Telescope as a Gift

Telescopes are popular gifts. When someone you care for has in interest in science, and you want to encourage them by getting them an instrument that will open up a world of wonder, the telescope is an obvious choice.

Have a Positive Influence
Many companies want to take advantage of this, and sell you a shoddy product that will do more to destroy an interest in science and nature than to nurture it. They count on the fact that the buyer won't be the user. And that neither the buyer nor the user will be able to judge the quality of the instrument.

Don't get caught by this. Be an informed buyer.

What You Need to Know
1. The telescope itself does not need to be large or high magnification:
Starting Small
High Magnification: Forget It!

2. The support for the telescope, called the mount, is more important that the quality of the telescope's optics. The best optics in the world don't matter if things won't stay in view because of a bad mount.

Mounts: What NOT to Buy

3. A good finder is essential to locating objects and getting them in the view of the telescope. Most telescopes do not come with a good finder, so plan to spend a little less on the telescope and purchase a good finder (like a Telrad) as well:
Finders for Telescopes

In-Store Telescope Evaluation
If you don't have an experienced astronomer to assist you in selecting a scope, you may end up selecting one yourself from a store display. I have some tips for weeding out the worst junk:
Department Store Garbage Scopes
Checking a Telescope at a Store
The Store Telescope: Is It Good Enough?

Tips on Buying for Youth and Children
All I want for Christmas is...a Telescope that Works!
A Kid's Telescope

What Others Have to Say
Here is some additional information from reliable sources:
Choosing Your First Telescope
What to Know Before You Buy
Buying a Telescope
Buying Your First Telescope

Something Else to Consider
Something else you may consider is purchasing a good pair of binoculars and some books instead of a telescope. These are enough to get started in astronomy, and the binos can be used for pastimes other than astronomy, including birding, sports, etc.

A good pair of 7x35 or 10x50 binoculars with a good book like 365 Starry Nights or Touring the Universe Through Binoculars (and maybe a field guide to birds for the recipient's region) would do more to foster an interest in science and nature than a poor, but attractive, telescope. :)
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stellarvue SV1750BFD Product Review

The StellarVue SV1750BFD, like most StellarVue products, actually outperforms what its name suggests. The 1750 in the name refers to the nominal aperture of 1750mm. Yes, that's one thousand, seven hundred, and fifty. Not a typo. The actual aperture as measured is even larger, and its performance is even greater yet.

Unfortunately, it appears that the SV1750BFD I have here is only a prototype of a product which is otherwise unavailable. I was lucky to receive this one from Vic Maris at StellarVue when he felt he no longer needed it and wanted back the space it took up at his facility. To be honest, for someone whose business produces such fine "Grab and Go" products, an item of this size and weight is well out of his line. It took three of us to load it into my car (a 1996 Subaru Outback), which had less than an inch to spare, and I had to drive it home with my hatch left open.

Whether it's the size, weight, or just the fact that didn't fit the product line, this isn't something you can expect to get from StellarVue. But I thought the community of StellarVue users might be interested in this unique item.

Aperture Fever...with a Stellarvue?
The size of the SV1750BFD is what strikes you at first. It's big. Really big. Vic tells of how he acquired it for the use of one of his former employees. He tells of how she made it looks small. She must have been nine feet tall if she was an inch. The product showed obvious signs of use when I received it. Some cosmetic damage along with a few signs of wear through normal use.

Wooden Parts...on a Stellarvue?
The wood on the SV1750BFD is covered in an attractive rosewood veneer that gives it an air of quality. Its construction is rugged, though the weight is very high as well. Moving parts are steel with HDPE bearings. Movement is smooth, with detents just before the end of movement and effective safety catches to prevent movement beyond that point.

The actual clear working aperture is 1752.6mm, though the design presents 1830mm of aperture that is accessible through creative use. The depth of the aperture is 909mm, giving a maximum area of over 1.66 square meters!

Stellarvue Performance

All too often we in the astronomical community see large areas coupled with inadequate performance. Lots of area does not necessarily translate into clearer images, better contrast, or more "space." In fact, it's often the opposite. But this is StellarVue we're talking about. The company whose little refractors regularly outperform much larger light buckets.

StellarVue does not disappoint here. I had plans for this product. Then I got it and started using it. Then I expanded those plans. I am doing over 50% more what I was doing with the instrument that this replaced, though it is only 20% larger. A little more can mean a lot more in a well designed unit.

A look at the aperture area of the Stellarvue SV1750BFD
A look at how useful the aperture of the Stellarvue SV1750BFD can be. That's a Beige PowerMac G3, Aluminum iMac 20", and a VT-102 all on one desktop with room to spare!
The actual aperture is so large that my camera couldn't get it all in one shot from this location!

The SV1750BFD (StellarVue 1750mm Big Freakin' Desk) is nothing short of amazing. On my old desk, I was able to squeeze in two computers and their peripherals and sometimes some papers, if I put aside one keyboard. My new StellarVue desk holds three systems, peripherals, and books and papers with room to spare. The systems I have on it are a Power Macintosh G3 with 17" CRT monitor, AppleDesign Keyboad, and mouse, a 20" aluminum iMac with keyboard, mouse, external drive and half a dozen parasitic pieces of electronics, and an Ampro Little Board Plus with a DEC VT-102 monitor. Originally I had planned only to use an old ADDS 2020 monitor with the Ampro, but after installing the SV1750BFD I saw that I had plenty of room for the far superior, but larger, VT-102.

Plenty of Leg Room

Normally, using multiple systems at one desk means back and neck strain from using any system but the centered one. The SV1750BFD has a leg area that's 967mm wide, wide enough to shift from system to system with comfort and without sitting at an angle. I do sit at an angle anyway, but not in a way that is poor ergonomically.

The desktop height can be minimally adjusted, but sits at a nominal height of 740mm. This may be too high to be acceptable to users under 1.8m in height. For myself, I find it quite usable. The minimal amount of adjustment (about a half centimeter plus or minus) means that the user must be fit to the product, so to speak.

Overall Impressions

I can't say how delighted I am to have a desk that allows me to use my main current system, my favorite obsolescent system, and one of my favorite classic computers all in one place. The plus of being able to use the best, though largest and heaviest, terminal from my collection only makes this deal even sweeter. It took me a lot of effort to figure out a way to fit the SV1750BFD into my office, but once there (perhaps immovably) it was worth all that trouble and more. As it was, I had to remove a door, temporarily relocate a book case holding about 600 books, rearrange my living room (temporarily), use two dollies, and inclined plane, and three people, move two desks, seven computer systems, an oscilloscope and a curious cat (repeatedly) over the course of three days.

Now it's in, and I'm writing this on it. About the only thing it doesn't do is convert my new iMac's screen to a comfortable matte finish rather than the shiny new screen that reflects the window behind me.

Summary:

Model:StellarVue SV1750BFD
Aperture: 1752.6mm clear, up to 1830mm usable.
Fit and Finish: Very Good
Stability: Excellent

Cons:
Very large and difficult to move.
May not accommodate users under 1800mm tall
without viewing platform or stepladder.
Not available for purchase from StellarVue.

Pros:
Huge size.
Stability,
Good dimensions for practical use.
Incredibly low price, if you can
manage transportation and installation.


Update, June 2012
Two years after this review was originally written, I am still an enthusiastic user of the SV1750BFD!

Since this review was written, I have changed the desktop arrangement to move the Aluminum iMac to the former location of the VT-102, put a flat screen on top of the Beige G3, added a full size tower PC with a Dell 24" display, and shifted the VT-102 to a different desk near me (it is not happy to be on a non-Stellarvue desk!)

Despite the increased area demands of the new PC system, the SV1750BFD continues to perform day in and day out. It even gives me enough room to place a pair of Parallax Propellor development boards and associated peripherals on one side. It's like having the State of Wyoming for a desktop.

After about two years of ownership and daily use, I still rank the Stellarvue SV1750BFD two thumbs up (ten thumbs up for readers on Altair VII).

Biggest Stellarvue Evar?
It has come to my attention that I may be the proud owner of the largest Stellarvue product ever made. The closest competition appears to be a roughly 200mm scope presently on display in the Stellarvue product showroom at 11820 Kemper Road in beautiful Auburn, CA (right off I-80 in the Sierra Foothills.) Clearly a 1750mm (nominal) aperture totally blows that away!
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Telescope in the Store: Is It Good Enough?

Before you buy, can you:

A. Get a specific visible object in view? (Bright star, planet...anything harder to find than the Moon.)

B. Keep it in view for fifteen minutes or more without heroic efforts?

c. View it for that long or longer without an aching back, neck, or other physical discomfort?

D. View comfortably both standing and sitting?

What's needed:

A. Good low power or Telrad or red dot/ring finder, stable mount, working mount movement locks.

B. Good drive or slow motion controls.

C. Eyepiece at a good height and angle, good eye relief. May require an eyepiece diagonal, tube rotator rings, or other ways of bringing the view to where your body puts your eyes.

D. Suitably adjustable tripod, stand, and other accommodations as for C.

Note: Don't go by what store clerks or product literature tell you should work or should be possible. I have had many scopes with locking screws that don't lock, slow motion controls that are too coarse or sticky or difficult to adjust to be useful. Finders that don't let you see enough of the sky to find anything, wobbly mounts, diagonals that you can't use because the focuser won't adjust enough to focus with them in--all delivered with the telescope!

Don't blame yourself! If it's not working, it's not your fault!

Any properly designed product should do what it claims with the ability of an ordinary person of average ability. Contact the manufacturer or seller to make sure you're not just misunderstanding something, but if you're using the product as intended and not getting results--it's not a good product. Don't fall into the trap of thinking it's you.
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Telescope Portability: Questions to Ask

When considering a telescope, chances are your early telescopes will have to be moved around to be used. In other words, you're probably not going to start right out with a telescope that's installed in an observatory that never gets moved someplace else to be moved.

Here are some questions to consider:

Can I move this telescope or its parts by myself, or only at times when I can expect to have the necessary help both before and after observing?

Where will I store my telescope between observing sessions? Is it a safe place, with at least enough temperature control and protection from the elements that I won't end up with a damaged telescope?

How will I actually move it? All as a piece, or taken apart?

Can I move each of the pieces safely and comfortably?

If planning to transport it by car, will it fit in the car? Will the people and other things I want to take along fit with it? Will it be secured safely for the passengers and to be moved without damaging it?

Can I take it apart and put it back together in poor light or at night? What if I drop a screw or other part? Can I safely handle it while tired?

What do I do if the weather suddenly turns bad while it's out?

How many trips between car and observing site will it take to get everything I need out or back?

How will I store the accessories, tools, and other items I need during transport? And during the observing session?

You probably won't be able to or need to answer all these questions specifically, but they need to be considered when buying a telescope.

Here are a couple of pictures to consider:
Two Dobson Telescopes, six inch and eight inch,

This shows two telescopes I regularly pack in my car for star parties. In fact, I usually have one additional telescope in the back of my "compact station wagon" with them.

These two telescopes are Dobsonians, both have tubes about 56" long. One is an 8" scope with a 10" diameter tube, the other is a 6" with an 8" diameter tube. The bases are about 20" wide and deep and about 26" tall. The opening in the base is wide enough to accept the end of one or both telescope tubes.

They pack in the car on top of a cardboard box that has had semicircular cutouts taken out of each end. This forms a cradle for the bottom tube (the larger one). Then a piece of Sonotube is inserted into the "ear" of that tube (the bearing ring), and the smaller tube goes on top of that. They are slid into the car, with one half the seat back at the rear of the car folded down to make room. In the front a bungie cord holds the tube ends from moving side to side and secures them to the car. They fronts of the tubes go up against a footstool in back of the driver's seat. One of the rocker boxes (the wooden base) goes around the back end of the two tubes in the back of the car. The other is placed against the passenger side read seat back, and the accessory boxes are placed inside it.

Moving these scopes is really easy. There is the rocker box, the tube assembly, and an accessory case. When we're doing public star parties (showing the sky to people through our scopes) we bring two folding stepladders. That's four parts per telescope, usually haulable in two or three loads. Each tube has a garage door handle inside one of the bearing rings so that it can be carried one-handed. The rocker boxes have a handle cutout in the top so that they can be carried in one hand. So rocker box and tube go in one load, the accessory case and stepladder in another. Very easy, even when we park the car up to half a mile from where we're putting the scopes.

car packed for astroimaging

This has the car packed for an astro-imaging session. In this case we normally expect to drive right in to where we set up the scopes next to the car. There are two telescopes here, the one for imaging and a visual scope to keep us from messing with the imaging scope when it's taking pictures. The imaging scope is a Newtonian with a German Equatorial mount. The mount breaks into two pieces, the head and the stand. The head can have the counterweights removed to lighten it up, but I seldom bother.

The telescope tube is the third part, the accessories case the fourth. The tracking computer is in a separate case, as is the camera itself. That would be too many pieces if I wasn't working right out of the back of the car. I also have a red light I can mount inside the dome of my car to provide some "safe" light when rooting around among things, packing, or unpacking. That way I don't disturb other astronomers at the site.

The tubes on all these scopes are too long to fit in my car crossways. I can carry four passengers even if I fold down part of the back seat, but the two in the back need to be friendly. It's too tight for drives longer than an hour or so.

I am working on a new scope that will fit crossways into the back of my car, and making its rocker box act as a cradle for holding it in the car. It will take much less space than my present scopes, and allow more room for passengers. Or more scopes.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Mars and Magnification

Normally I tell people not to worry much about high magnification. Most observing, especially for beginners, is done best at low levels of magnification--below 200x, and more commonly at something like 50-100x (power of magnification).

Mars, however, needs a bit more magnification if you're going to see it at its best. Even when it is at its brightest and closest, as it is right now (March 2012) and will be every 26 months.

Mars
Mars, with a range of small, delicate details that require magnification to see.

The largest details on Mars--the polar caps and Syrtis Major--can be seen at magnifications as low as 35-50x depending on your viewing conditions. But Mars will show far more if you can get to 300x or something close to it.

But doing this takes more than a high power eyepiece.

First, we have to have a sturdy mount, which I talk about in many posts, including the linked post. Next, we need to have some way of tracking the sky. To work at high powers, your scope needs to have some sort of automatic drive mechanism, whether it's a computerized clock drive or a kitchen timer with a friction wheel pushing your telescope along. It should work smoothly, and for periods of time at least 15-20 minutes long without needing manual interference.

Then you're ready for a higher power eyepiece or a Barlow (which multiplies the magnification of your current eyepieces.)

But what if you have a Dobsonian or some other manually moved telescope?

In that case, you'll be limited to medium level magnifications, and you won't be able to pick out as much detail. That's because you won't be able to just sit and relax at the eyepiece for as long. I regularly observe through my all-manual Dobsonian at magnifications up to about 250x. It's not as pleasant as deep-sky views at 56x, but it can be done.

You could modify your scope, but to be honest observing detail on Mars is a pretty specialized pursuit compared to working your way through a variety of deep sky objects at low to medium powers. It's not worth taking away from a scope that does that well just to look at Mars.

Instead, consider getting another scope. A smaller one will do, Mars is plenty bright. That keeps telescopes from taking over the household with their size. Plus, a smaller scope can be driven by a smaller drive mechanism. Just make sure it's got a high quality mount that keeps it steady.

Also, the sort of scopes that have good optical qualities for looking at the deep sky are not as good for objects like Mars. They usually have "fast" focal ratios. That is, their f/-number is a small number--six or lower. Scopes with higher f/-numbers, f/7 or higher, will generally give better contrast and detail in views at high powers than a light bucket with an f/4.5 focal ratio.

On top of that, an unobstructed optical train, that is, one without a secondary mirror in the light path, gives the instrument an advantage. An unobstructed 3" to 4" scope, on something like Mars at high power, will perform as well as a 6" or larger telescope with a secondary mirror in the way. Like a Newtonian or Schmidt-Cassegrain.

This is why we can't expect to buy one telescope to do everything. Different scopes do different things well. If we try to make a scope do everything, it becomes compromised for everything. It's better to have a scope that does a lot of things very well, though it's not optimal in other areas. It's best to accept that, enjoying what it does well.

In fact, the best scope isn't necessarily the one that gives the best views. The best scope is one that fits your lifestyle and needs well enough that you take it out and use it a lot.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seeing Mars with Color

An inexpensive addition to a new scope is color filters. They're usually sold in packs of three or four at an affordable price. They're threaded to screw into the end of your eyepiece barrel.

Normally it would seem silly to cut off some of the light that comes through your telescope. For many objects, we want as much light as possible to see faint detail. But for some things, like the Moon and planets we often have plenty of light. What we want to see is details that can be washed out by that light, or that are hard to see without some sort of enhancement.

Mars is near its opposition right now. That means its the biggest and brightest it will be for the next two years or so. Right now (March 2012) it's 14 arc seconds in diameter. By June it will have receded enough from us to only appear half that size.

Planet Mars
The planet Mars has lots of fine detail that's hard to see in a telescope. This image shows haze near the polar caps and clouds. Also, there is a lot of fine detail in the reddish/yellowish face of the planet.

Mars has very faint and difficult to see detail. A lot of that detail is lost in ranges of color that our eyes aren't very good at seeing detail in--the orange-red end of the color spectrum. Fortunately there's an easy way of dealing with that--color filters.

I usually like to have four color filters, thought more are possible. Six is as many as I could see being useful. My most-used filters are red, yellow, green, and blue. For Mars specifically, I use the red, yellow, and blue filters. I don't find green all that useful on Mars, though it's very useful on Saturn and the Moon.

Here's what I use red, yellow, and blue filters for on Mars:
  • Red--Best subtle detail in the plains of Mars, or for distinguishing the edges of the "seas" from the plains.

  • Yellow--Best for picking out sharp small details, such as the area around Valles Marinaris, the smaller plains areas around Cimmeria, faint changes in color such as between Utopia and Elysium.

  • Blue--Picks out the polar caps, sharply defining their edges. It also makes the hazes and clouds stand out, such as the polar hazes around the polar caps and the clouds in the equatorial areas, especially near the limb (edge) of the planet's disk.


Green has some minimal value at bringing out the seas and some of the detail in them. A light green filter works better here than a dark green. The dark green reduces contrast too much.

As to the other filters I could see putting in my accessory box, there's orange and violet. For Mars, orange can be very useful. It does some of the pulling out of detail that yellow does, though not as well, but it also brings out some of the subtle shadings that a red filter brings out along with sharpening the detail a bit.

Violet works well on the same things that blue does (polar caps, atmospheric haze and clouds), but it can sometimes pick out equatorial clouds near the center of Mars' disk that a blue filter won't quite show.

Check out filters for your telescope. They come in different sizes depending on whether you have 2" diameter eyepieces or 1.25" eyepieces. The larger ones are more expensive.

You don't need a full set to start with, either. Starting from scratch, I'd say the most generally useful filters are a yellow filter and a light green filter. The next most useful are the red and blue filters. Orange would be next on my list, and the violet is a specialty filter that I wouldn't rush to buy unless I already had everything else I wanted. A dark green filter is good for the Moon, but not much else, and a neutral density filter, especially a variable one, works just as well on the Moon and has other uses as well.
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Checking a Telescope at a Store

So you see a telescope at a store and you want to check it out. What do you do?

You can only get the most basic idea of the optics while it's in a store, but you can check it out mechanically pretty well. The mount is actually more important than the optics for most starter scopes. So you can get a pretty good idea of a scope, even in the store.

commercial Dobsonian telescope


Mount Stability

Put the scope at different angles then see if it says where you put it. What does it take to make it move off-target? If it moves on its own, it may need balancing. Or it may be junk. If it moves when touched lightly, the same is true. If the mount seems like it might be stable, see if you can balance the scope. This will also tell you if the scope is built to be balanced against the effects of eyepieces or accessories of different weights.

Once balanced, it should be possible to get the scope to stay wherever you put it. If there are locking mechanisms that hold it in place, do they cause the telescope to move visibly when you engage them? If so, that's not good.

How does the scope react to being tapped? Does it stay on target? It should. How about light pressure? Stronger pressure? A thump, like an accidental bump with the arm?

Pretend to swap out eyepieces. Does it stay put as you remove and reinsert the eyepiece? You'll be doing this a lot. You find something at low powers, then swap in a higher power eyepiece. If the scope doesn't stay on target, you'll be frustrated whenever you try to increase magnification, since higher power eyepieces see a smaller area of the sky than lower powers. Which makes finding your subject more difficult if you have to do it with the high power eyepiece all over again.

Focuser Stability

When you adjust focus, does the eyepiece wobble at all or does it travel smoothly along its axis? Once its in a place, can it be jiggled--either in and out or side to side? If so, these are all signs of a poorly made focuser. Are the materials it's made of solid or a bit flexible? They should be rock solid.

Does it hold eyepieces securely, or loosely? You want secure.

Adjustability

If the scope's height is adjustable, can it be moved securely, and does it stay put? Some mounts are only supposed to be adjusted when the scope isn't on them. That's fine. But once it's in place does it stay put? Do any of the stand adjustments present a safety risk to the user? Does the mount allow the telescope to be put on safely? I've known people with high-end name brand telescopes who risk their scope every time they set it up or take it down. Eventually the dice roll against them, and the telescope gets dropped and broken. You may not be in a position to set up or take down the scope in the store, but you can ask. Or have them demonstrate it.

Look for places where you can't be sure of whether something is properly in place or not, or where you're not sure if something is engaged until you let go and see if it starts to fall. You don't want that.

Finder Scope

You should be able to use the finder at any angle from horizontal to straight up without undue strain. You should certainly be able to look through it without bumping your head into the telescope. It should be secure as well. and the adjustments to align it with the main telescope should be easy to use. It won't be any use if you can't line it up easily.

Overall construction

Overall, the scope and mount should use solid quality material. It should feel and function like a precision piece of machinery. Tubes made of plastic or heavy paper-type materials are OK, but they should not be at all floppy--they must support themselves and the optical components accurately and firmly. Any sag or wobbliness are trouble.

The scope should be soundly seated on or secured to the mount.

The mount should be stable and firm.

The optics should adjust smoothly, stay put when they're put in place (the eyepiece or focuser shouldn't creep or wobble).

Also, the scope shouldn't have parts that interfere with its proper use for the sake of cosmetic appearance. Like bulgy plastic dew shields or molded plastic part covers.
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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Learn to Use Your New Telescope!

Did you get a new telescope recently? This is the time when the most new telescope owners are made!

Using a telescope isn't entirely natural and easy, no matter what scope you have. In fact, the scopes with the most "ease of use" features are often the hardest to get started with.

A local astronomy club is a good way to find others who can help you learn more about how the get the most out of your telescope. They're using their own telescopes, they will know some good places to use them, vital accessories for them (very few telescopes are sold with everything they really need to be useful), and have tips. The club may have formal classes, or just give you the chance to meet up with others with like interests to yours, and more experience.

There's information available online, but having someone who can actually be there with you and your scope, even if just for a short observing session or daytime practice session, can be invaluable. They can see things in a moment that you won't know to mention online. They can tell you things just as quickly that would make for long murky postings online. The "personal touch" makes all the difference.

Also, don't beat yourself up while you're learning. Learning to see things through a telescope is something you have to do. It's not natural like looking with your eyes without an instrument. If you're experienced with using other optical instruments like binoculars or microscopes it'll help, but a telescope is still a different animal that takes getting used to.

Don't set yourself up for failure by expecting to see observatory photograph views of difficult objects. The Horsehead Nebula doesn't look like the pictures to eye, and it's very, very hard to see even with the correct telescope and accessories. Start by looking at things chosen from a naked-eye astronomy book or binocular astronomy book. Train yourself to find the objects, keep your scope on them, and see the detail in them.

Each scope behaves differently, and you will want to get experience seeing what your scope shows. It's a matter of experience, and you'll find there are several different levels you can achieve as your skills develop. Regular repetition with the right equipment is the key to developing. Each new level brings a new level of enjoyment. Things that didn't look like much before suddenly become far more interesting, even if the equipment hasn't changed at all. You learn to see an notice things that weren't apparent before.

Plus you'll need to learn to be patient and give your eye the time to see what you're looking at. Most beginners spend far too little time actually looking through the eyepiece and relaxing once they've got something to see in it. Your relaxed eye will see far more than an eye that is rushed through a quick "there it is!" look.

Keep your scope stored in a state and location where you can easily use it. Its size and type matter far less in its performance than whether it is simply taken out an used regularly.

If you seem to be hitting a wall, there may be something that needs to change with the equipment, or that you need to know about how to use it. Don't be discouraged, find an answer. Astronomy is not supposed to be difficult. If you find that it is, suspect that there's something else you could be doing other than what you are doing.

Don't be daunted by the fact that there are things to learn. The process of learning them is (or should be) a pleasure in itself. There are many ways to approach doing astronomy, none of the good ways require an overabundance of patience or muleheadedness or a giant egg-shaped head. All they take is normality, an interest, and the ability to ask questions and occasionally follow directions.
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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Good Time for Bargains, But Watch Out!

This is a good time to find bargains on telescopes. There are many used scopes for sale as folks seek to clear room for new acquisitions in their homes, or raise money to pay the holiday bills. Stores also receive many returns that are re-sold at low prices. Plus they may have overstock that they are looking to clear out.

One thing to watch out for, though, is the ever-present junk scopes, especially if it's a telescope being purchased for a youngster. These aren't bargains at any price. Find yourself a scope with a good price, but first and foremost, remember that it's a scope that should be quality.

A good mount is critical. Half your budget or more should go to ensuring that you can point your scope at what you want to see, and keep it on while you observe.

Many wishes for a happy new year of telescope use!
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