So, you bought
your first telescope. Congratulations! Now what?
Do you know what you have and how to use it? Below are
some tips on how to get started enjoying the night sky. The
area astronomy club, provides the information in this packet to help you
get started enjoying amateur astronomy.
Learn About Your
information provided with your scope, and make sure you understand
what size your scope is, what its
focal length is, and what type of scope it is. This data will
be important as you start using your scope. If you have questions,
see the contact information below.
your scope together following the directions provided. Make
sure all connections are tight. You can’t eliminate all
vibrations, but an overly wobbly scope will make observing
difficult. For instance, tighten any loose joints on a tripod
by adding washers if necessary.
your scope is together, practice moving it until you are familiar
with how it moves. Don’t force it! If it doesn’t
move easily, try to figure out why, and if you can’t figure it
out, see the contact info below.
can you get more help? Try the Rose City Astronomers (RCA),
area amateur astronomy club. Our web site provides a wealth of
information about astronomy.
We also hold many activities, including public star parties,
where you can get help with your new instrument. RCA meets
every third Monday of the month in the OMSI auditorium from 7:00 PM
to 9:00 PM. The public is always welcome.
We also have a monthly telescope workshop. These guys are
experts on all aspects of telescope construction and operation and
are always willing to help newcomers.
Learn the Constellations
Why? It’s how you’re
going to find the objects you want to observe. The constellations
are your map.
Get a good introductory book like “The Stars –
A New Way
to See Them” by H.A. Rey, or “The Golden Sky Guide.”
Don’t try to learn the all of the constellations all at once.
Pick a couple that will be up each night and go outside and try to
find them. Don’t try to see the Greek Gods in the sky. Make shapes
that you recognize out of the constellations. For example:
Hercules reminds many people of a bow tie, and Sagittarius looks
like a teapot. You’ll be surprised at how much easier this is.
Read About Astronomy
1. There is a
tremendous amount of published information available about amateur
astronomy, and we recommend that you avail yourself of this
resource. Specifically, we recommend you look at the
“Nightwatch” by Terrence Dickinson: This book will provide you
with generic background on astronomy and navigating the sky. It
also has some very basic star charts with guides to constellations -- a
great book for getting started.
b. “The Messier
Album” by John H. Mallas and Evered Kreimer: This is a good
compilation of the 110 brightest deep sky objects, a great observing
project for beginners.
c. “The Golden Sky
Guide”, a great beginner’s manual: This book touches on just
about every aspect of amateur astronomy and is usually available in the
science section of any bookstore.
d. “365 Starry
Nights” gives you a night-by-night set of projects to learn the night
Astronomy, Sky and Telescope – keep up with the latest in the hobby of
Hubble Space Telescope news and pictures:
NASA home page: www.nasa.gov
Sky Publishing home page:
Kalmbach Publishing home page:
Star Charts: The charts in “Nightwatch” are excellent for
beginners as well as a set of charts called “The Bright Star Atlas”
by Wil Tirion. A Planisphere will tell you what is visible in the
sky at any given date and hour.
Getting Ready to
Your Scope: Remember that scopes aren’t magnification devices. A
telescope is designed to make faint objects bright, not small objects
big – and you can easily use too much magnification. Most new
scopes come with an eyepiece in the 25-mm range. This is a good
eyepiece to use for general observing. If your scope comes with a
Barlow or eyepieces in the 7-mm to 18-mm range, stay away from them for
now. They are high magnification eyepieces for specialized uses.
Accessories: You want to avoid white light while you are out observing
– white light will destroy the dark adaptation of your eyes and make
it very difficult to see faint objects in your scope. Red light is
necessary to preserve night vision, so you are going to need a red
flashlight. A telrad type finder scope is always a useful
accessory for your scope. This is a device that paints a red,
laser bull's-eye on the sky and helps you find objects. Appropriate star
charts will also help you find what you are looking for. Bring a
surface to hold your star charts, flashlight, and any other accessories
you may have. Bring a chair to sit down in every once in a while; it
gets tiring standing at the eyepiece!
A plan: Figure out what you want to look at before you get out
there, and bring the appropriate charts and books. Attached is a
list of public star party objects the RCA uses to introduce the night
sky. You could try finding some of these objects.
Clothing: Bring warm clothes, more than you think you’ll need.
Even in the dead of summer it gets very cold out at night. Your outfit
should include a hat as you lose most of your body heat out the top of
your head! Dress in layers.
Snacks: Bring something to munch on and drink. Warm cocoa,
or coffee, or hot soup is a good idea as well as nuts, granola, cookies,
or brownies. Stay completely away from alcohol – it destroys
your night vision. Even one glass of wine will make it impossible for
you to focus your eyes satisfactorily.
Never look directly at the sun with the naked eye, binoculars or
telescope! Permanent blindness can result! Special filters
are available from astronomical sources and are required for solar
Prepare for an evening of viewing by making a list of objects you want
to see and becoming familiar with their locations in the sky.
Abstain from smoking or using alcoholic beverages. These
substances destroy your night vision and ability to focus on faint
Be well rested. Fatigue decreases accuracy and enjoyment.
Plan to remain in the dark for at least 30 minutes before observing
really dim objects.