How to Use a Telescope

There is a lot more to using a telescope than just putting your eye to the eyepiece and squinting until you see something interesting. A telescope is a precise piece of scientific equipment, and while not rocket science, correct use of a telescope can be something many amateur astronomers neglect to learn during their first few years in the hobby.

One of the first, most important things to learn about using a telescope is where to site it. By carefully choosing the spot on which you set up your little astronomical vantage point, you can open up new sights and experiences that would be unobtainable by just plonking it down in the garden or on the sidewalk. Firstly, look for a site that is dark, unobstructed and preferably elevated above any surrounding light pollution. A hill or a cliff top, for example, would be ideal. Consider the bulk of your equipment – how far can you comfortably transport it? Look for alternatives, weigh up the pros and cons of each one, and then make a decision based on that. It may well be that your back yard or the roof of your tenement building is the best site for you – this is in no way a bad thing. Most sites can be found to have some advantage or another – some astronomers even set up their scopes in the flatbeds of their pickup trucks!

Secondly, learn how to correctly set up your telescope. Become familiar with the components, the settings, and how each works with the others. Practice taking it down and putting it back together again in varying lights – knowing how to pack a telescope away in pitch darkness could come in handy if ever your light fails. However, if you can leave it fully assembled as much as possible – this will make your life far easier in the long run. Also, if you have a finderscope make sure it is properly aligned – correcting it in the field can be hard work.

Pick your observing times wisely. Very humid or super-cold nights are never the best for stargazing as they can severely affect optics. Plan your viewing for when the moon isn’t too bright, or is on the opposite side of the sky to what you want to look at.

When using the telescope itself, make sure you take care of the little things, like cleaning away dust caps. Align the axis to the Pole Star if you have an equatorial mount, secure your tripod legs, and always start off with your lowest-power lens until you find what you are looking at. Make sure to keep the dustcaps handy, and to put them back on when finished.

Related Information

Explaining the Different Parts of a Telescope

Things to See with Your Telescope

Telescopes | Astronomy | Cosmos Telescopes | Astronomy | Cosmos