Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Beginning Astronomy

So you've seen a shiny new telescope in a shop, borrowed a set of binoculars and looked at the moon, and now you think that you're ready to take the plunge and get that scope. Well firstly STOP!!!!!! my advice is to truly understand what it is that you are about to undertake, and stick with the binoculars for a bit, Space Jockey uses a set of 25 x 100's and is able to view just as much as a lot of people with a scope, why? because he knows how to use them and what to look for, he sees nebula as well as star formations, check out his blog here.

If your still hooked after a little binocular dabbling (and you will be) then if you want to, plump for a scope, but, which one? Reflector? Refractor? Dobsonian? Matsukov? Schmitt Cassegrain? the list is endless with each scope being good at something, but not good at all things. One thing to remember is that the bigger the aperture the more light you can gather, the better you may see, with this in mind Reflectors are good value for money, they provide the biggest aperture for your money. But they can be big and difficult to move about, bear in mind the bigger it is and the more it does, the more likely it is to stay put away, as it's so much hassle to get out and set up. Reflectors are relatively inexpensive and can be bought for around the £100 mark.

Mount is another consideration as the one you buy could be critical to your enjoyment, up and down, side to side (Alt Az) or Equatorial? What a decision to be faced with, equatorial follow the arc of the sky and can be very accurate and easy to use, once you find out just how to use them, Alt Az is in my opinion easier, but not what you want in my opinion if you want to advance in the field of astronomy.

So what did I buy when I first began this obsession? Well as I mentioned I got a pair of binoculars first a pair of 15 x 50 and I was hooked. I looked at the Moon and saw so much detail, I had a bit of a moment you might say, I then purchased a book that I would recommend to anyone starting out, it's called "Turn left at Orion" and will teach you the sky and how to star hop, so as to know where you are, and more importantly, what you are seeing. Once I had the hang of that, something which took a time I might add I began the trawl, you know the one where you read everything and talk to everyone about telescopes, but still are unable to make up your mind as to which one to get.

Everyone was more than happy to explain to me their personal preferences and as to why they had made that purchase. I first leant towards a Dobsonian, I like the simplicity and the sheer size of the scope, but I new that I wanted to image the sky and that a Dobsonian would not suit the way in which I wanted to do it, I then thought I'd go straight to the reflector good scopes with plenty of punch and more portable than the Dobsonian. But I still could not make up my mind, all the scopes had their pros and cons.

Finally I turned to what I already know, photography. This led me to take a closer look at the Maksutov style of scope as they are basically to me a large telephoto lens on an equatorial mount. But which one again, so many to choose from so little money. I then spoke to the good folk at David Hinds I explained what I would like to do and they steered me towards an offer they had on at the time. I am now the very proud owner of a Celestron C6 XLT Schmitt Cassegrain, and as you can see in the picture at the top of this blog it resembles a big DSLR lens. I bought it because it was an excellent price and is kind of a jack of all trades if there is such a thing in the telescope world, it produces me superb images of planets and nebula, and Im over the Moon with it, if you excuse the pun.

So to conclude, my advice, check around, but speak to the experts, it's a lot of money to be disappointed about spending, and look through as many scopes as you possibly can, each one is different in it's capabilities. Get the best mount you can afford, it's very important to have a steady base for your scope, and a good mount will be able to take all those upgrades and new tubes you no doubt will eventually get.

Also remember that whenever you buy anything that looks at the sky, after you have bought it and are eager to get out and use it, the sky will automatically cloud over for the following weeks.

Good luck, and clear skies.

1 comment:

  1. Your article is wonderful. I really wish you would post more often. Your writing appeals to beginner stargazers like me! Thanks.