Using a telescope is not easy. There is definitely a learning curve to it. Also, it can take you a decent amount of time to get the hang of a telescope. However, if you know some tips and tricks, mastering telescope will get much easier for you.
That’s why in this article, I am going to share 35 telescope tips for beginners. These tips have helped me a lot when I was starting out. I do hope they’ll help you out too.
So, without further ado, let’s get on with the tips!
35 Telescope Tips For Beginners
1. Planning Ahead
Planning is the most important thing when it comes to stargazing. With proper planning, the chances of your stargazing success will increase twice as much. Also, with proper planning, there is no need for you to stress when the crucial moment comes.
Here, by planning, I mean keeping everything ready in advance, having a mental note on what object you want to observe, check the weather, etc. Also, I’ll recommend you to use a software like Stellarium to know in advance where your target object will be in the night sky. Knowing this will save a lot of time and you can enjoy stargazing for a longer period.
If you know how to use Stellarium, go through my article on can you see Neptune with a telescope. There I’ve explained how to use Stellarium to find out the location of an object in the night sky.
2. Use Telescope With Both Eyes Open
I’ll share an interesting fact with you. Do you know why eye doctors tell you to keep both eyes open but keep one eye blocked with the hand? This is because, when we keep both of our eyes open, the effectivity of our vision increases.
When we see with only one eye, the eye can prove to be less effective in detecting objects. Also, seeing with only one eye increases the chances of your vision getting distorted.
That’s why it is recommended to see through your telescope with both eyes open. This way, your vision will get more effective and you’ll face an easier time detecting any object in the dark night sky.
3. Allow Your Telescope To Relax For Some Time
After you’ve set up the telescope in the outside and connected it with the mount, leave it there for at least 20 minutes. This will allow the telescope to adjust with the outside temperature. As a result, there will be no radiation of condensation of heat from the telescope. Both of these can negatively affect our view through the telescope.
4. Allow Your Eyes To Adapt To The Darkness
This is connected to the previous tip. While allowing your telescope to rest, it will also give your eyes the time to adapt to the darkness. However, our eyes need much more time to adapt to the darkness, at least 35 to 40 minutes.
Whenever we enter into a dark environment, our eyes can’t locate everything properly as they are not adjusted to the darkness yet. That’s why before using the telescope, we need to allow our eyes to get adapted to the darkness. Only then we can see the faintest object in the dark night sky.
Once your eyes are adapted to the darkness, don’t go back to your house for getting anything. It takes only 5 minutes for our eyes to get adjusted to the light. Once we enter into a well-lit environment, then we’ll again have to wait for 35-40 minutes for our eyes to get adjusted to the dark.
That’s why it is important that you bring everything you need with you at the first time.
5. Master Collimation
In simple words, collimation is the process of properly aligning the mirrors of the telescope. The process also ensures that both the primary mirror and the eyepiece are focused at the center to each other.
To know how to collimate your telescope properly, contact with the manufacturer or look at the instruction manual. The process can vary from model to model.
6. Dress Appropriately
It is always a smart idea to dress appropriately when you are heading out for stargazing. Most of us use telescope at night. During the night, the temperature generally drops down by a few degrees.
Also, while stargazing, we often stay still and don’t perform much physical activity. It can also make us feel colder.
That’s why, it is always smart to dress with warmer clothes when going out for stargazing. Just shave off a few degrees from the low predicted temperature value and dress according to that temperature. By doing this, you won’t have to shiver in cold if the temperature drops down significantly.
Or else, you can always take off 1 or 2 layers of clothes if the atmosphere remains hot.
7. Try Lowering The Center of Gravity
Most telescopes these days are designed to be ‘Top Heavy’. I find this uncomfortable, so as many astronomers. Due to this design, a slight bump to the telescope can ruin all of the alignment you did for hours.
However, there is a nice workaround for this problem.
I always tie a weight to a string and attach the other end of the string to the eyepiece tray of the telescope. This little trick successfully lowers down the center of the gravity of the telescope. The weight can be 5 to 10 lbs depending on your telescope.
If the base ground is soft, place some flat stones or boards under the telescope so that it won’t start to sink to the ground.
8. Learn Focusing Properly
Learning to focus is the single most important thing to master telescope. Once you’ve got the hang of it, the telescope will seem much friendlier to you.
Each type of telescope can have different methods for focusing. For knowing yours, look at the instruction manual or contact with the manufacturer for clear instructions.
These days, some telescopes come with a cover with 2 holes for focusing. Once you pinpoint the object in the night sky with your telescope, use the cover to adjust the focus until only 1 image appears through the holes. This way you can ensure correct focusing.
9. Use A Solid Base
You’ll always need to set up your telescope on a solid base. As a result, your telescope won’t start to jiggle or sink to the ground when you are observing. Grassy solid ground works the best.
You need to be aware of concrete, roof or parking lot grounds. The problem with these is, they can radiate the heat that they have absorbed during the whole day. This radiation will conflict with your stargazing and make it nearly impossible to locate the faint objects in the night sky.
You can use these grounds only if they are cooler than the air. To determine the temperature, use a meter like this one from the Amazon. It shows very accurate reading which is crucial for this purpose.
10. Turn Your Cell Phone OFF
It is always better to leave your cell phone in the home or turned OFF when you are going out for stargazing. Cell phones can disturb you in several ways such as-
- The light from the cell phone can cause light pollution.
- Cell phones will make it harder for you to concentrate. A notification alert every 5 minutes can hardly help you to concentrate, right?
- Along with creating light pollution, the light from your cell phone can also make it harder for your eyes to get adapted to the darkness.
However, if you are using some kind of app to locate the object you want to observe, then do keep your phone turned ON. But I’ll recommend to keep it in the ‘Silent’ mode so you are not distracted by it.
11. Choose An Area With Minimal Light Pollution
Light pollution is the most serious hindrance to a successful stargazing experience. No matter how awesome your telescope is, if there is light pollution, you won’t be able to see anything comfortably.
If you live in a city, then you need to take proper actions against light pollution. I have written an article on how to use telescope in a city. Go through that article where I’ve shared some effective tips to tackle light pollution.
Basically, you’ll have to set your telescope in a higher area (preferably rooftop) or someplace where there is minimal light pollution.
12. Research The Best Time For Stargazing In Your Area
The condition of the atmosphere has a huge impact on stargazing. If it is winter, then the sky will be clear and the air will be dry. This is the ideal time for stargazing. On the other hand, during summer, sky remains cloudy. Also, the air gets heavy with moisture. This type of condition often blocks the view of telescope.
Also, the phases of the moon also determine the success of your stargazing experience. If there is a full moon, then the light will be so bright that it’ll be impossible for you to track the faint objects in the night sky. On the other hand, stargazing is ideal when there is no moon in the sky.
13. Keep Your Eyepieces Properly Wrapped
Dews can significantly damage your eyepieces. So, when you are stargazing outside, keep the eyepieces (the unused ones) in a sealed container. This will ensure the eyepieces are protected from the dew. If you don’t have a container, do something DIY (you can use any airtight box) or at least, cap (the ones they came with) the eyepieces well.
When using a container, don’t forget to write the specs of the eyepiece on the container body. This will help you to keep everything organized.
14. Keep A Red LED Flashlight Near You
Though I’ve previously told you not to bring any light when stargazing, practically it is impossible to set up your telescope in the complete dark. Also, you may need light for choosing the appropriate eyepiece or having a look at your notebook. Whatever the reason is, a light source is necessary.
For this, always keep a red flashlight with you. Do you know why I’ve said red? It is because red light doesn’t affect the eye in darkness. Unlike blue and white light, it doesn’t disturb your eyes and hamper the adjustability to darkness.
If you can’t find a red flashlight, just take a regular flashlight and tie a red paper or cover on its front.
15. Face Towards The Ideal Direction
Always try to face your telescope towards the equator. That means, if you are in the northern hemisphere, set your telescope towards the southern hemisphere and vice versa.
Setting up telescope in a grassy or woody area is highly suitable. It’s because, grass or wood absorbs energy from the sun, but don’t radiate it like every other object. I’ve talked earlier about how energy radiation is bad for stargazing.
16. Make Your Base On Grass
Always try to set up your telescope on a grassy ground. Grass is good because it doesn’t radiate heat like concrete. So, your vision won’t get affected. However, there is one problem with a grassy ground i.e. that telescope can start to sink to the ground.
A workaround to that problem is, use some stepping stones or stone plates under the telescope mount. This way, your telescope will be firmly stable throughout the whole night.
17. Check & Remove All The Caps
Telescopes can come with many caps and covers. Sometimes these covers have holes on them. If not removed, these holes allow light to hit the telescope and compromise the integrity of the vision.
So, make it a habit to always check if all the caps and covers are removed after acclimating the telescope. This way, you won’t have to waste time thinking why the images are not getting sharper as they should be.
18. Have A Fixed Location
This simple little trick has helped me a lot to have a grasp on the night sky. Make it a ritual to always set up your telescope on the same location. By same location, l literally mean the same exact location where you’ve placed the tripod last time. You can mark the place with some stepping stones or concrete floor.
This way, you’ll always experience the same field of view of the night sky. Consequently, you’ll quickly get the hang of the sky and guess the location of the objects from your location.
19. Ensure Stability
Before even starting to observe, make sure your telescope is firmly stable. I have seen many people start to use the telescope before checking if it is stable or not. The result is as expected. Most of the time it falls over or jiggles over the ground which is a serious letdown for stargazing.
20. Make Sure All the Nuts & Bolts Are Properly Fastened
If you need to assemble the telescope before using, make sure all the bolts and nuts are tightly fit. But that doesn’t mean I am asking you to over tighten the nuts. Just make sure they are snugly fit.
21. Try Some Jiggling
One interesting fact of the evolution of our eyes is, our eyes can detect a moving object more quickly than a static object. This trait of evolution has helped our forefathers to escape from moving prey or other dangers.
We can use this trait to our advantage when stargazing. If you are unable to find the object, try jiggling telescope very slightly. This can help you out!
22. Start Taking Notes
If you want to step up from an amateur astronomer to a serious one, I’ll highly recommend carrying a notepad with you when stargazing. Record what you’ve seen, what was your experience, what the object looked like, what are the difficulties you faced etc.
The ritual of keeping records help a lot in the long run.
23. Stop Directly Looking At The Sun
In this site, I have mentioned in several articles to not look at the sun directly. This can severely damage your eyes. Read my article on can telescope damage your eyes to see how serious damage can sun do to your eyes.
For some reason, if you need to look at the sun, then must use a solar filter. I have talked details about telescope filters in this article.
24. Disturbance From Moon
A full moon night is not ideal for stargazing. Do you know why? The bright light from the Moon can cause serious light pollution and prevent you from location faint objects in the night sky.
If you want to observe the moon itself, then use a moon filter. It will take the glare off the Moon’s surface and make it easier to see the surface details. Here I’ve talked about moon filters in details.
25. Use Filters
I’ve already talked about filters in details in this article. So, I’ll keep the description short here. Filters are a piece of equipment you attach with the telescope to see things better. They block a certain portion of the light wavelength and pass the rest.
There are many types of telescope filters such as solar filters, moon filters, CPL filters, Color Filters, neutral density filter, etc.
Always keep some of the basic color filters with you when going out for stargazing. Especially blue filter comes in handy a lot.
26. Try Enhancing Your Visual Awareness
This tip is more about training your eyes to see celestial objects. When you’ve locked the target object in the center of your field of view, try to observe the area around the object without moving your eyes. This simple exercise is great for enhancing the visual awareness.
27. Stay Connected To Astronomical Events Happening Around The World
If you seriously like astronomy, stay connected with other astronomers in the world and see what is happening ‘astronomy’-wide. Check when there will be the next solar eclipse, or lunar eclipse or some other interesting astronomical phenomena.
Try to establish a network with other astronomers through Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, whatever you prefer. The more you are connected, the more you’ll be aware of what is happening.
28. Join An Astronomical Club
Do you want to fully enjoy your hobby? What will be a better way other than joining a club? Look if there are local astronomical clubs around your city. If there is, you are lucky my friend.
Join the club as soon as possible. Don’t just forget it after joining. Try to stay active as much as you can, talk with other club members, interact with them, and join club events and so on.
No hobby can be enjoyed to the fullest alone. So, try to get some companions!
29. Try To Observe The ISS
If you are an absolute beginner, I’ll highly recommend starting your stargazing journey with the ISS. As it is much closer than the Moon, it is easier to locate and observe. Also because of shorter distance, it will offer a much more detailed look.
Observing ISS is easy. All you need to know is when the ISS will pass over your area in which direction. Then you can just point the telescope in that direction at that exact time. In this article of mine, I have explained step by step how to see the ISS (or any other satellite) with your telescope.
30. Play With The Magnification
Be flexible with your magnification. If some object is not showing clearly, increase the magnification or decrease it. You need to practice changing eyepiece quickly so that it won’t kill much of the time. With time, you’ll intuitively know what magnification you should choose for a particular object.
31. Know The Basics
It is important to know the theory and basics. Have a clear concept on how telescope magnification works, how eyepieces are measured, how to increase or decrease the magnification, what are the cons of having too much magnification, what is the role of aperture in stargazing etc.
This knowledge will come in handy in the practical field.
32. Don’t Set Up Beside A Window
It is not recommended to set up your telescope beside a window. Because, the temperature inside the house and outside can be different. As a result, there can be a disturbing air current flowing from outside the window to inside. This can hamper your observing.
33. Try Using Averted Vision
Here by the averted vision, I mean, looking through the corner of your eyes instead the center of the eye. The corner of our eyes is more sensitive to light. So, if you are facing trouble locating a faint object in the night sky, try looking with the corner of your eyes. It can be the difference between seeing an object and missing it.
34. Don’t Fall Into the Pit Of Cheap Products
Telescopes can range from $50 to $2000. Of course, I am not asking you to get a $2000 telescope, but try to get a decent one within your budget. There are many good telescopes these days within $500. Try to get one with decent reviews from customers.
Don’t buy a telescope only because it is cheap. Cheap telescopes will cost you more money in the long run.
35. Know Your Mount
Mounts are the other half of telescopes. Without a mount, telescopes become useless. It is necessary for you to have a good idea about the mounts for telescope.
There are basically 2 types of mounts: Equatorial and Altazimuth.
Both the Equatorial and Altazimuth mount has its pros, cons and distinctive features. Learn about these in details. The more you learn, the easier it will be for you to handle a telescope.
I hope these 35 telescope tips for beginners will come in handy to you the next time you are stargazing. Always remember, using a telescope is not easy, but following some tips & tricks can make it much simpler.