With the naked eye you can see an amazing spectrum of beautiful sights in the awe inspiring night sky, with just our own unaided eye we can view thousands of individual stars, a hand full of star clusters, glows of a frosty nebulae where millions of stars are being born. But as an eager stargazer you’ll want to see much more and if possible in clearer detail. With a good telescope you’ll have enough viewing objects to last you a lifetime, there is no better way to spend a relaxing night soaking in the bright night sky with a hot drink in thoughtful contemplation and if you have children, it’s a really enjoyable way to spend some quality time, the look of awe in their faces will be more than worth it.
Many beginners who buy a telescope before learning the basics of what to see in the night sky usually get frustrated and give up astronomy before they even get started. Just like every new undertaking we must start with the basics, just like some starting out at the gym isn’t going to put 225lbs on the bench without learning the right form and basic moments to stay safe! So, by learning a little background information, as a new stargazer you can make your experience with your first telescope rewarding. Then with the right tools you will see thousands of beautiful and memorable celestial objects that few people ever get to see – how amazing is that!
So how do you know when you’re ready to buy and use a telescope? Here’s a subjective list of 6 things to know and try before you take the leap:
- Learn what to see rather than how
I found it useful to understand what I wanted to see before I got the ‘how’, learn some basic bright stars and some major constellations and where to find them in the night sky, my favorite book on the subject is “How the Universe Got its Spots” by Janna Levin. Know the main points on the celestial sphere: the Horizon, Zenith, Meridian, location of the North and South poles this will all be of great assistance once you get your hands on a telescope or binoculars and can only contribute to a more exciting experience!
- Learn to find and see things through binoculars
A great and inexpensive way to start, is to get a pair of binoculars and learn to pinpoint the most well known objects in our night sky (hopefully the objects listed in Tip 1 above) but try especially to locate the Moon. It takes some practice to look through an eyepiece, to pinpoint your favorite objects but stick with it and it will be a rewarding experience.
- Learn the ‘How’
Learn the main types of telescopes – the pros and cons you can read this article to learn the main features and specifications of telescopes, to get a better understanding of the pros and cons, also I would recommend picking up the following book as great introduction into the how’s of the telescoping world. “The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide” by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer.
- Look through someone else’s telescope
If you have local astronomy clubs or an observatory nearby, get down there – often they have some telescopes that you can borrow, also it’s a great way to get involved in the astronomy community. I’ve made some great friends and spent some amazing time camping and watching the sky with people I’ve met through an astronomy club.
- Where do you plan on observing / How you will get your telescope there? / What do you wish to observe with your telescope?
There is no need to get a heavy, bulky, cumbersome telescope if you plan on getting out of town every night, wrestling with a big telescope every night may just turn you off going out that night! Whereas if you’re mainly planning on backyard telescoping then you can afford to get a bulkier product. Deciding what you want to view should also be a consideration.
- What’s your budget?
Lastly what’s your budget? This will be a huge determining factor. Check out some posts where we cover some affordable but very competent telescopes and some more higher end models.
Some Posts You May Find Useful:
- Most Powerful Telescope for Home use
So there you have it, our guide to the 6 Things to know and try before you buy a telescope!