I discovered a secondhand telescope, now what?
It is superb what you will discover on the streets of San Francisco. No, the precise metropolis streets, not the ’70s cop drama starring Michael Douglas. I just lately got here throughout a scavenger’s treasure within the metropolis’s Sundown neighborhood: a totally operational Meade NG-70 Altazimuth Refractor Telescope. It was simply sitting there on the curb with a handwritten observe merely stating “Free” taped to its barrel. Now, I am going to inform you, I am not a lot of an astronomer — inasmuch as I’ve by no means used (even touched) a telescope or ever had a lot curiosity in studying. The thought of standing round outdoors at the hours of darkness, twiddling with dials all the time appeared an excessive amount of problem to make very distant sparkly objects to seem barely bigger. However what I’m additionally not is a sucker — and a free telescope is a free telescope — so into my automotive’s trunk it went.
As soon as I acquired the rig house, I set about analyzing my prize. Typically in San Francisco, “Free” tags are merely code for “right here, you throw this away.” However, shockingly, this telescope had almost all of its bits and items — from the lens cap to the 2 additional eyepieces, most every thing was current, intact and practical. The one issues lacking have been the educational DVD, the laser rangefinder and, individually, even a rudimentary understanding of what “Altazimuth Refractor” means. Determining find out how to focus the telescope and easily monitor shifting objects was easy sufficient, so I set about educating myself on the vast world of newbie astronomy. By which I imply I downloaded Google Sky Maps and swiveled about my front room in an workplace chair for quarter-hour whereas looking for fascinating celestial phenomena.
After having swiveled myself dizzy with out discovering something value taking a look at in my hemisphere, I made a decision to revise my technique with a little bit of web analysis. First issues first, I Googled “Altazimuth Refractor.” Seems altazimuth refers back to the telescope’s two-axis mount, which works very similar to an Etch-A-Sketch with separate knobs controlling horizontal and vertical motion, whereas refractor refers to the truth that the telescope employs a lens to enlarge photographs as an alternative of two mirrors like a reflecting telescope. I additionally discovered that the person eyepieces supply various ranges of magnification, which explains why I might want multiple. Having gotten the hold of my telescope’s primary operation, I started looking for assets for novice astronomers. And what higher useful resource might there be than NASA itself?
Sky maps of Messier objects [Image credit: Deep Sky Watch]
The Nationwide Aeronautics and Area Administration must be the primary cease for anybody thinking about moving into astronomy. Not solely does the location keep a useful compendium of on-line assets for neophyte stargazers, but in addition the company itself has partnered with a mess of nonprofit organizations throughout the nation to assist promulgate astronomical societies, just like the Night time Sky Community. NSN is a group of greater than four hundred astronomy golf equipment throughout the US (just like the San Francisco Newbie Astronomers) in addition to an astronomy portal operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab that seeks to convey “the wonders of the universe to the general public.” Customers merely enter their zip code to seek out native occasions, star events and public viewings at close by observatories of their space. For people within the UK, the Society for Common Astronomy provides an identical service in addition to an excellent-useful tutorial for establishing and utilizing a telescope for the primary time.
Digging across the NASA and SPA websites then led me to a variety of personal organizations like Sky and Telescope, which options every thing from tutorials and weekly sky maps to breaking astronomy information and product evaluations. S&T Senior Editor Alan MacRobert’s “How you can Begin Proper in Yard Astronomy” is from 2006, however I discovered it extraordinarily useful. In case you’re on the lookout for extra in depth sky maps than what S&T gives, head over to Deep-Sky Watch. Its Illustrated Deep-Sky Observing Information (downloadable PDF) consists of greater than 7,000 celestial objects that may be seen with 14x magnification in addition to greater than 600 deeper objects. And to make sure which you could truly see what you are in search of, the Darkish Website Finder map is invaluable.
My favourite and most used website, nevertheless, has obtained to be The Superior Newbie Astronomer. Universiteit Leiden within the Netherlands created this web site as a part of the EU’s Universe Consciousness program. It is designed for teenagers, positive, however it’s truly a very partaking system that teaches the essential theories behind astronomy. Customers full 10 steps with various duties — resembling visiting a planetarium, studying the parallax technique or making an angular measurement — to “end” this system. Plus, every step consists of hyperlinks to associated on- and offline assets. Truthfully, this must be an app.
With these assets efficiently bookmarked for future reference, I am feeling fairly assured about not solely understanding what to search for, but in addition the place to look and easy methods to discover it. Over the previous couple of nights, I have been capable of spot options on the moon, spied the highest of the illuminated cross on Mt. Davidson from my front room and scanned the heavens for UFOs (no luck but). I did not assume I might be that enthusiastic about staring into the night time sky when I discovered the telescope, however now I can not anticipate sunset.