Ah yes, so you just got your very first telescope huh? Prepare to have your mind blown by everything that the universe has to offer. The infinite cosmos is now yours to explore, conquer, and plunder. All you need now is a space ship and a few years’ supply of food and air and you’re good to go. But first, you’ll need to take in as much of the beautiful space as you can by making great use of your scope.
I know what you’re thinking; now how do I use this blasted thing? You’re not alone! One of the reasons why many telescopes get forgotten in a dark, dusty corner in the garage is because well… they’re tough to figure. And since no one teaches you how to use it the right way, you end up practicing by spying on your neighbours (you know what I’m talking about).
Lucky for you, we’ve put together this here guide to help amateur astronomers learn some tricks and techniques that will turn them into pro backyard stargazers. That’s right; this is how to use a reflector telescope for dummies (you know what you put in the search box).
Reflector Telescopes for Dummies
Did you know that the reflecting telescope was invented by Isaac Newton? Turns out he did more than just watch apples falling from trees. As the name suggests, these types of telescopes reflect light through a combination of curved mirrors to form an image. Instead of the usual lenses found in other types, your reflector telescope makes use of large concave mirrors to both gather and focus light.
Due to its good visibility and price range, a reflector telescope is perfect for beginners. Which is probably the reason why you have one right now you telescopic novice you. Unfortunately, you can NOT view any terrestrial objects with a reflector telescope – this means you can forget about spying on your neighbour, bird watching or basically looking at anything on earth.
Fortunately, this means that this type of telescope excels at extraterrestrial gazing. So lesson number one on using reflector telescopes for dummies – stick to things like the moon, stars, nebulae, galaxies and other faint, distant objects. Likewise, using your telescope during the day is ill advised – never look directly at the sun. Now that you know what to look at (and what not to) let’s dive right into the action.
Using your Reflector Telescope the right way
Step 1: Get to know every part of your telescope first
Look at your manual and get familiar with the names and functions of all lenses, knobs, locks, eyepieces and other equipment. At home is the best place to practice changing the eyepieces and understanding how the mount works. You’ll also use the finders scope so make sure you can adjust it on the fly. This will save you a whole lot of time out in the field.
Step 2: Study your star charts
That’s right; we still haven’t left the house. As fun as star gazing seems, you might just end up staring at nothing if you don’t know what and where to look. Since it will be dark outside, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the charts in advance instead of trying to refer to them in the dark.
Step 3: Find the perfect location
For reflector telescopes, the perfect location is a dark and open clearing with no high trees or buildings to obstruct your view. The darker it is the better since any ambient or outdoor light can make viewing difficult. Start by looking at the moon since it’s usually the brightest object.
Remove the lens cap and try to aim your scope at the moon. Start with the weakest magnification eyepiece and rotate until the moon becomes centred and focused. Next, look though the finder scope and adjust the screws until the moon is perfectly centred on the crosshairs. Now your telescope is aligned.
Step 5: Explore freely
Now that you’ve got everything aligned, feel free to explore the cosmos referring to your charts if you get lost. If something in the distance catches your eye, just lock the scope in place, replace the eyepiece with something a little stronger and adjust the focus knob for a sharper, clearer image.