Follow Optics Blog:

Monthly Archives: April 2012

30 Apr

The world of telescopes and telescope accessories and the astronomers who buy them have never been immune for the bigger, better, newer syndrome. We astronomers may not be as bad as fishermen to try the newest and latest, but we do like to explore, tinker and test new products, all the same, or the folks that make telescopes and telescope accessories probably wouldn’t be in business. Yes, we do like our equipment. We can be real gear freaks at times.

I’m no exception to taking the bait on new astronomy products, though I am actually conservative compared to some astronomers …

Continue reading

27 Apr

Snow flurries and stiff north wind, this morning, but, hey, this is the north woods and that’s not at all unusual for April in these latitudes. It’s not great birdwatching weather and definitely not good canoeing weather, but there is a positive side to it. The skies are beginning to clear, high pressure is building, things are drying out, so tonight may be a good night to setup & use the telescope and do some astronomy.

Being an astronomer in our area is like being an on-call doctor. You have to make room for astronomy in your schedule when the …

Continue reading

26 Apr

There have been times in my life when we simply could not afford to buy telescopes and telescope accessories, though I’ve always managed to have astronomy binoculars and the binoculars did do a good job of keeping me a happy and contented astronomer. Still, when it comes to astronomy, people think telescopes and telescopes accessories, first and maybe then consider binoculars, either as an alternative to telescopes or as a supplement to telescopes.

I can’t argue with this, since most astronomers who choose binoculars as their “first” telescope end up with a telescope, anyway. On the other hand, I think …

Continue reading

25 Apr

Much of my life, I’ve lived in the suburbs and city and, while I did own spotting scopes, I had to travel outside the city to put a spotting scope to good use. Being the country girl I have always been, I naturally dreamed of the day when I could escape the city and live in a place where I was surrounded by birds and wildlife that I could observe, right from my own home, through my binoculars and spotting scope.

My dream has come true and it is everything I thought it would be. My birding spotting scope sees …

Continue reading

24 Apr

You can buy the very best in telescopes, telescope accessories and even astronomy binoculars if you have the money, but owning the best equipment money can buy won’t automatically make you a good astronomer. Far from it. It takes a truckload of experience and skill to get the most out of even a small telescope. It’s not as simple as being able to setup & use a telescope and have the universe magically materialize before you.

I’ve been sharing views in the telescope eyepiece with non-astronomers all my life, so I know how experience can make all the difference even …

Continue reading

20 Apr

Okay, the forecast for the evening is for clear skies and you are an astronomer. What’s the first thing you do?

The first thing I do is check the phase of the moon as well as when the moon will rise and set. The presence or absence of the moon in the sky determines what kind of observing I will do and that, in turn, influences my choice of telescope. If the moon is up, I will use one of small refractor telescopes since those are more than adequate for viewing the moon or planets. If the moon is not …

Continue reading

19 Apr

A spotting scope is a small telescope, designed for day use, but the word small needs to be taken in the correct context. Spotting scopes are indeed small compared to many telescopes used in astronomy, but spotting scopes do come in different sizes and you do need to tailor spotting scope size to the way you plan to use your spotting scope.

There was a day, for instance, when I carried a birding spotting scope and tripod over my shoulder, traveling great distances, hiking through thick brush and cover to reach remote marshes. Every ounce of spotting scope size counted…

Continue reading

18 Apr

Rainy days for a bird watcher are akin to cloudy nights for an astronomer – both can shut you down.

With birdwatching, though, you can still do some work with your birding binoculars from indoors on a rainy day by looking out through a window at the birds in the yard or birds out on a lake (if you’re lucky enough to have such a view), assuming the birds haven’t taken cover in the rain. Sure, if I was really ambitious, I could brave the elements and do some birding in the rain. I have been known to do that…

Continue reading

17 Apr

Where you use your spotting scope can be just as important as the optical quality of your spotting scope when it comes to how much magnification you can use.

This is not something you’ll see listed in the specifications for any spotting scope, but it’s true. I’ve experienced it many times.

I’ve lived out western mountains areas where the air was dry and thin, thanks to both climate and elevation. In those locations, there were days where the usual 60x maximum on most spotting scopes provided great images. In fact, there were days when I could have used 80x or …

Continue reading

16 Apr

Where do you store your telescopes? Some folks store their telescopes in a garage; some folks store their telescopes in a closet; some folks store their telescopes in the basement; some folks even build an observatory over their telescope so they don’t have to move it.

My telescopes are typically parked in my living room, of all places. It’s not that I intentionally set out to decorate my house with telescopes as furniture, though I do like the look – it grows on you. It’s just that there’s no room in the usual telescope storage spaces in our house, so …

Continue reading