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.