I crossed another goal off the list of 2015, which makes me feel quite accomplished. With the help of my very smart husband, we assembled my telescope, read the materials and used it. It. Was. Awesome.
So here’s the backstory: I grew up with a fascination of the stars. I rarely saw them though because my parents live so close to Chicago that there was a lot of light pollution. When I went to school in Oxford, Ohio, I’d walk the entire way home from parties looking up at the sky excited that I could see so many stars, so I decided to minor in Astro-Physics. And just to be clear, that’s Astronomy, NOT Astrology. Astronomy is physics based. I have no clue if a Gemini and an Aquarius are a good love match (Actually, that’s not true, I happen to have heard recently from a friend that they are one of the best love matches), but I digress. So I’ve been asking my parents for a telescope on my Christmas List for about 10 years and this year… I got one!
Assembling my telescope was pretty easy, most of the work was getting the rotating base set up. Then we had to add springs to keep it from falling over and breaking the mirror inside. It took us about 30 minutes. I also did some reading up on how to take care of the telescope, use it, and how to get the best results.
Tip One: First and foremost, everyone should know that you should absolutely never look at the sun through a telescope unless you have a sun filter. It can cause serious damage to your eyes. I think most people know this, but I felt obligated to mention it.
Tip Two: One thing that I learned that I didn’t know, was that for best viewing, you have to let your telescope acclimate to the temperature. For every 40 degree temperature difference from your house to outside, it needs to rest outside for 30 minutes. So with our freezing temperatures, my telescope had to sit outside for over an hour before I could use it!
Tip Three: The telescope came with two eye pieces, a 25mm and a 10 mm. The 10 mm is the one that lets you see up close. The best way to use it though is to first use your sight scope to get your telescope pointed at what you want to see. In our case, we looked at the huge bright moon. Then you start with the 25mm eye piece to zero in. Once focused, you can swap in your 10 mm if you really want to see it up close. Things are way too hard to find if you start with your 10mm!
Tip Four: The last piece of information I’ll share is how to know if it’s a good night for viewing. One thing to check is to look at the stars above the horizon. If they appear to “twinkle” then it is not a good night to view the stars. The best viewing happens overhead, but check those stars about 40 degrees above the horizon. Twinkling is not good in this case. You can also check the star Megrez, which is the star in the “Big Dipper” that connects the handle to the scoop (pictured below). If you can see that star well, you’ll get some great visibility.
Our moon looked pretty awesome through the telescope. You could see the surface very clearly and it was fun to have a nighttime activity. I can’t wait to use my telescope on a warmer evening and I can’t wait to see some other cool stuff! I’m also experimenting with how I can hook my camera up to take pictures. When I get some, I’ll be sure to share. In the meantime, I’m always looking for suggestions on what else I should look at!