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Monthly Archives: December 2008

31 Dec

Happy New Year with your new telescope or astronomy binocular. 2009 could be a good one for a binocular or a telescope with a possible bright comet in February, six planets in the spring morning sky at once, a better look at Jupiter this year in late summer, a possibly great year for the Leonid meteor shower in November and much, much more. If you just got a new telescope or astronomy binocular for the holidays, the fun is just beginning.…

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30 Dec

Okay, let’s face it, tripods are not too glamorous. Most of us think in terms of what sits on top of the tripod. That’s understandable, but trying to get by cheap when choosing a tripod is a mistake that only a beginner makes. Mount a good digital camera on a cheap tripod and see what happens to your pics. Mount a big, heavy astronomy binocular on a light flimsy tripod and you’ll understand in only a matter of seconds. Crank up the magnification on a spotting scope when mounted on a light tripod and try seeing fine detail when the …

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30 Dec

A lot of new telescopes that were purchased for the holidays are trying to see the rings of Saturn and a lot of new telescope users are being disappointed. Sorry, this year and next, the rings of Saturn are nearly edge on due to the relative position of our planet and Saturn in their orbits. On the other hand, the moon makes a great “first target” for new telescopes, even the very thin crescent moon visible in the evening sky, right now. In fact, the terminator – the edge area between the light and dark portions on the moon – …

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29 Dec

Saturn is perhaps the most sought after object in a beginner’s telescope and rightfully so. A first time look at Saturn though the telescope eyepiece never fails to elect some oohs and ahhs. This year may be an exception, though, because Saturn’s rings, the star of the show, are nearly edge on to us this year and next, so we’ll have to be patient a bit if we expect to see Saturn in all its telescope glory. The reason? It’s a matter of Saturn’s orbit with respect to Earth’s orbit. Over a period of 4 or 5 years Saturn’s rings …

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24 Dec

Using a telescope for the first time? Don’t feel too lonely. The holidays are the most likely time of the year to find a beginner behind a telescope. More telescopes are sold during the holidays than the rest of the year combined. Now, you would think that the manuals supplied with beginner telescopes would be all a beginner would ever need to learn how to use a telescope. Not so. Most instruction manuals that come with beginner telescopes are generic and, well, skimpy. That’s why I wrote several articles on our website to help answer some basic questions for new …

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23 Dec

Okay, I’m no fan of the ubiquitous 60mm refractor telescope. Let’s face it, there are better choices in a beginner’s telescope. Even stepping up in size to a 114mm reflector, such as the Celestron Astromaster 114 AZ is a significant improvement in terms of how much and how many things you can see. Still, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I started my love affair with astronomy with a 60mm refractor that wasn’t even as good as the Bushnell 6570×60. Maybe because I am stubborn and maybe because I am passionate about everything I do, …

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22 Dec

The weather outside has been frightful, here in the Chicago area, at least from an astronomy point of view, but, like very astronomer, I know the sky will clear sooner or later. Winter is really not a problem for a telescope, by the way. You can use any telescope safely in cold weather, with a little planning. Battery drain is greater in cold weather, so if you are using a computerized and /or motorized telescope like the Meade DS-2114, be sure to use fresh batteries or keep spare batteries on hand. In terms of optics, you also need to allow …

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18 Dec

If you are looking for an astronomy telescope than can also do double duty as a daytime telescope, be sure to pay attention to the mount, not just the optics when buying a telescope. The best choice for daytime mount is an alt-az mount. An equatorial telescope mount is a better choice for astronomy, but an equatorial telescope mount is not well suited for tracking objects by day. As far as optics, for day use, go with a refractor telescope, a Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope or its close cousin, the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. When used with diagonals, these all produce upright images. Reflectors …

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17 Dec

telescopes come in all sizes, so keep that in mind when shopping for a telescope for the holidays. For instance, the 16″ Meade Lightbridge is as big as a Chrismtas tree. In fact, you will need a step ladder to get to the focuser when the scope is pointing directly over head. Talk about performance, though! At the other end of telescope size, are small Astroscan type reflectors, such as the Celestron Explorascope. This is not much bigger than a purse and, in fact, it has a strap so it can actually be carried like a purse. What size telescope …

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16 Dec

Great news for anyone getting a telescope for Christmas. The moon will be “new” on the 27th. That means skies will be dark enough to put that new telescope right to work on Christmas night with no interference from the light of the moon, provided, of course, you are fortunate enough to have a clear sky. Great beginner telescope objects this time of year include the Orion nebula and many great open star clusters, including the Pleiades, M34, M35 and so on. Get that new telescope out and use it! If you are observing in a cold climate, be sure …

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