The Best Telescopes for Beginners

Have a red light mobile
There are two different kinds of cells in the human eye: cones, which are responsible for color vision, and rods, which are responsible for seeing in black and white under dim lighting. Our eyes’ rod cells are only sensitive to light at a wavelength of about 530 nm, so they are unable to detect all of the visible spectrum’s colors. As a result, the rod cells cannot see longer wavelengths, such as red light that ranges from about 635-700 nm. As the longest wavelength seen by cone cells, it is a leading choice for preserving night vision. Only L-type (red light-detecting) cone cells contribute to picture formation when a red light is used. After being exposed to dim light for around 20 minutes, the human body will begin manufacturing a chemical known as rhodopsin, allowing for the development of night vision. Therefore, to maintain scotopic (night) vision, you need red light.

Picking the best night to stargaze
The time immediately preceding, during, and immediately following each new Moon is ideal for stargazing because the Moon will not be visible. The sky is most spectacular on cold, dry winter nights if you can stand the chill. There is also no brilliant moon to obscure the visibility of dimmer stars at these times. Thousands of stars will be visible to the unaided eye, and the view through a telescope will be much more impressive. Many astronomers speak of an “observing season” that spans the fall, winter, and spring months for optimal stargazing. The period begins with the “fall back” of the clocks in October (when evenings grow longer by one hour) and ends with the “spring forward” of the clocks in March (nights become 1-hour shorter).

Do I need a star map to stargaze?
Yes, you will need to bring a star map so you can put the constellations you spot to use. You can find anything with a good star map. For starters, you’ll need a basic, all-sky map that’s easy to follow even with the naked eye and that pinpoints the locations of the brightest stars and constellations as they appear at your specific local time, date, and latitude on Earth. The star wheel (Night Sky Planisphere) is also a useful star chart because it allows you to adjust the constellation view based on the time of day and the season. Beginner stargazers can also benefit greatly from using a stargazing app to help them find certain stars and constellations. You can just hold up your phone and the applications will figure out where you are.

Ensure your eyepiece is well secured and focused
The eyepiece acts essentially like a magnifying glass, allowing you to see details that would otherwise be too small to see. An ordinary telescope’s eyepiece brings the image generated by the objective lens within a few inches of the viewer. Your stargazing experience will depend heavily on how well it is set up, so give it some extra attention before you use it.

Keeping the lenses safe and clean
First, you need to clean the surface of any debris that may have landed there. This does not involve blowing across it with your mouth. Instead, try a can of compressed air or a camel hair brush. In order to blow and sweep at the same time, certain brushes feature air bulbs. If using a brush, sweep it lightly over the lens in a single direction, clearing it of dust with a quick flick after each pass. In order to avoid scratching the surface, many amateur astronomers opt to use compressed air instead of a brush. Put the can on its side, nozzle facing away from the lens, at least as far as the manufacturer specifies. Some of the propellants may hit the glass surface if the can is held too close to it or is at an angle. It is preferable to use a series of small bursts of air rather than one long one.

After dusting, use a mild cleanser to remove fingerprints, skin oils, stains, and any other lingering dirt. Use a lens cleaning solution to moisten a square of sterile surgical cotton or lens tissue. Cotton balls, toilet paper, and facial tissue from the store should not be used. And they’re harsher than you’d expect. Gently blot the lens with a piece of cotton or lens tissue that has been dampened, not dripping wet. Then, you can dry the lens with a piece of lens tissue.

Ensure the mount is well secured and balanced before setting up your telescope
You must ensure the stability of your mount before proceeding (often overlooked by beginners). An unbalanced scope will have jerky motions, be unstable, and be prone to drift, whereas a well-balanced one will move more smoothly and prefer to stay in place until you reposition it. Worse, the little motors in a motorized scope can overheat and burn out if the scope is not balanced properly, which puts additional strain on the gears in the slow-motion controls. As telescopes vary, you should read the manual properly to know how best to balance your mount. Ensure that all screws are in place and that the mount itself is stable and not shaky before use.

Finding areas with less light pollution
Light pollution is the result of intentional and unintentional human activity, such as parking lots, sports arenas, street lights, and home lamps. The glow in the sky is the result of light diffused from all of these sources. For observing weak stars and meteors, the darker the sky, the better. As one moves further away from the city center, the amount of skyglow from light pollution decreases. Therefore, leaving the municipal limits and traveling at least 20-30 miles away is essential.

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