Newbie viewing tips!…

Posted by: Bubo Observatory
Newbie viewing tips!

Stars never resolve into anything other than points of light. They never show any detail other than colour. No amount of magnification can change that!

Planetary viewing needs stable atmospheric conditions (called “seeing”), but you’ll find it easier to focus on a bright star first, then move to a planet. Planets are difficult to focus on. You’ll also find that helps for “extended” or deep sky objects (DSOs) like nebulae, clusters, and galaxies. Many can be hard to find, but there are quite a few you can see with even with a 4″ and many with a 10″. Always start with your “biggest” (highest number) eyepiece to find dim objects, because they give a “brighter” view.

Hopefully your scope has a “subaperture” cap (aperture cover) for lunar viewing; a smaller cap comes off of the main cap to reduce the brightness. You use the smaller “hole” (subaperture) with the main cap in place to view the moon. You may also have a “neutral density” (grey) eyepiece filter to further reduce the brightness. The moon is uncomfortably bright to look at without reducing the brightness somehow, but is always fascinating. Even after 20+ years, I still get distracted from my intentions just exploring the moon for no reason other than the fascination. We call it “walking on the moon”. 😉

Viewing is limited by a few things, but you should be able to find an astronomical forecast for your area. Obviously cloud is a problem, but light pollution comes in several subcategories, and seeing can be difficult to predict. Seeing is what makes stars twinkle; layers of air roil as they rub against each other in the atmosphere and create turbulence, much like looking through running water, it can make things hard to see; if you keep observing an object, you’ll find brief periods of clarity, we call “pockets of seeing”. Good seeing has lots of these clear pockets, poor seeing has few. Sometimes you can have a perfectly clear night with poor seeing, and likewise a partially cloudy night with excellent seeing. You never really know until you look!

Your most important and best resource are other astronomers, so join a club! They’ll help you with all your questions, help you with your gear, you can try theirs, and comradery is always beneficial. The best investment in astronomy is to JOIN A CLUB!

Other great resources include various books, magazines, websites, and certainly a book of charts of the night sky. Planetarium software is very popular as well, just remember that even a short glance at your phone or tablet will ruin your night vision for 15-30 minutes!

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