How to Use a Telescope: Best Tips

Last update February 15, 2019
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If you want to watch the stars and admire the night sky, learning more about space and its endless mysteries, you’re going to need some pretty powerful optics. One of the easiest ways to peer deep into the universe is with a telescope. But this type of device is pretty nuanced and has lots of features that you need to know about to get the full scope of its capabilities. So today we’re going to learn a little bit about how to use a telescope and we’ll start with the basics and some frequently asked questions.

Can You Use a Telescope During the Day?

Yes, you can indeed view some celestial objects through the lens even in the daytime but the number of stars you can actually spot when the sun is still out is quite limited. Even then, you’ll have to know exactly where to point your telescope in order to spot the stars and not even the best rated telescopes can offer a view as broad as they would in the nighttime. However, you can try to lower your lens from the sky to the ground and survey your surroundings instead, especially if you have a pretty skyline outside of your window.

What Planets Can Be Seen With a Telescope?

You can observe all eight planets in our solar system but, depending on how high-quality your viewing tool is, you might not be able to spot too many details of their surfaces. All in all, you can only take a good look at Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, which are fully visible and, with a high-power home telescope, you can look at the craters on the planet’s surfaces. Among the others, you’ll definitely have a hard time spotting Pluto as it looks like a distant barely recognizable star. Neptune and Uranus aren’t too far ahead, looking like blue-green discs floating far away, not the best objects to observe.

When Is the Best Time to Use a Telescope?

There’s no one specific answer to this as the optimal time of day for space surveillance depends on what object you’re trying to spot. Bigger bodies like the Moon can be seen during daytime with a reasonable amount of detail, provided that your telescope is powerful enough. But many stars won’t be visible until the nighttime comes and stargazing is best saved for later hours, especially if you want to see a truly brilliant sky with thousands of stars shining down. Still, if you want to peruse your viewing tool in the middle of the day, nobody’s going to stop you or tell you you’re wrong, it’s a viable way to use the telescope.

How to Look Through a Telescope: Adjust Your Eyes

Before you peer through the lens, you need to make sure that you’ll actually be able to see anything. For that, you have to get your eyes adjusted to the dark. Remember to avoid bright lights and keep any light sources away from the telescope, you need to have dimmed illumination in the room with the device. If you go straight from daylight to stargazing, you’ll barely be able to make out anything and will only waste time staring through the lens. Some people even go as far as to wear an eyepatch to make sure that their eye is used to the darkness and thus will see clearly and spot the tiniest details.

How to Look Through a Telescope: Take Your Time

Even if you’ve followed the proper procedure and adjusted your eyes to the darkness on the other side of the lens, you may still have to wait a bit before you can make out the planet’s surfaces or shapes of the stars you’re looking at. After a few minutes, you should be able to see much more and once you’ve pointed the telescope in the right direction and waited for a bit, the sky will open up to you and reveal its mysteries. If you don’t mind taking things slow, you’ll be peering down into the craters of the moon pretty soon and who knows, maybe you’ll spot an alien invasion and then your Star Wars replica lightsaber will come in handy!

How to Look Through a Telescope: Watch Closely

Don’t forget to fiddle with the magnification settings if you feel like you’re not seeing enough. A high-end expensive Celestron telescope may help you spot the smallest details and rocks on the surface of the Moon but don’t think that you have to crack open your bank account just to see the planets, many cheaper telescopes have that power as well, it’s just that they will take much longer to set up properly and the results won’t be strictly as good. Still, you can get some respectable image quality even with a basic model.

How Does a Telescope Work?

The quality of the image that you’ll see through your telescope depends largely on the size of its aperture, though many shops try to put emphasis on magnification, which is far less crucial to a telescope. The light from outside enters the main tube through the aperture, the size of which determines how much light is gathered and, in turn, how clear the resulting image will be. Bigger aperture means more detail in what you see, which is vital for those that want more than just a basic stargazing experience. With more light the object you’re looking at appears closer and, thus, easier to see clearly, so pay attention to the aperture size.

Different Types: Reflector Telescope

Reflectors are one of the more well-known types of telescopes, using mirrors in the rear of the device to gather light and provide a clear image. They are pretty inexpensive compared to some of the other models but you’ll have to readjust the focus from time to time as it tends to shift with the slightest tremor or if someone bumps into the device. Still, the image quality is pretty good and it’s a solid choice for beginners.

Different Types: Refractor Telescope

Another popular type, the refractors have lenses at the front of the telescope that gather light and provide a good view to the user. Plus, they don’t require much maintenance and aren’t that tough to set up initially. However, they tend to get quite pricey, especially if you want a model with a high aperture. These are recommended either for experienced astronomers or those that don’t mind paying more for higher quality.

Different Types: Catadioptric or Compound Telescope

As the name suggests, this type combines the features of reflectors and refractors, using both mirrors and lenses to work. This type is usually pretty lightweight and good for those that want to take the stargazing apparatus out for a trip to the woods or on a hike. It’s exactly the kind of telescope you can lug up a hill to see the planets without light pollution from the city. Take a picnic blanket with you and you could even make the trip into a romantic date, gazing at the stars and into each other’s eyes!

Which Type Should I Pick?

If you’ve been reading thoroughly up until now, you already know the main differences between the telescope types so choosing one shouldn’t be too tough. If you have some spare funds, spring for a refractor model since you’ll get a very high-quality picture when peering through that kind of device. But if you’re working on a budget a reflector model would be just fine as your first foray into the world of stargazing. Choosing the right apparatus is just a matter of getting your priorities straight and knowing what you want from the telescope.

Before You Gaze

Your first experience with the telescope may be improved substantially if you take some time to learn the position of stars and constellations in the night sky above you so that you’ll be looking at familiar sights instead of nameless celestial objects. Next, remember to double (or triple) check your device’s mount, it should be steadier than a brick house and keep the telescope standing firmly so the focus doesn’t get ruined, leaving you with a blurry image. Also, consider seeking out an experienced astronomer in your area and seeing if they have some unconventional tips and tricks to share as a human experience is often both surprising and highly useful. In the end, you’ll make your own way in stargazing but proper preparation has never hurt anybody and it’s not like you’ll be spoiling the surprise of stars shining down.

A Few Parting Words

So whether you end up choosing Meade telescopes or a basic off-brand model or even turning your gaze to the other direction and peering down into the microscope, we hope that you’ve learned something about telescopes and feel more at home with these windows into the celestial world. Don’t forget, the universe has endless mysteries to offer you and it’s up to you to look at them and uncover the wonders before your very eyes! Stargaze and see the planets turn, all through one lens.