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Have you bought your first telescope but are not sure what to do with it? This guide will be for you.
It can be exciting buying your first telescope, but also a bit overwhelming. Unlike with other items, you cannot simply use trial and error to figure out your telescope.
A telescope is a highly specialized and delicate instrument that will require both patience and knowledge to use.
Telescopes have many different parts that work together to produce magnified images of faraway objects.
However, you will need to know how to use the telescope properly before you experience the benefits of this fascinating instrument.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about using a telescope.
We will cover telescope assembly and how to familiarize yourself with the telescope.
Furthermore, learn why the mount matters and how to use the eyepieces.
Finally, this guide will explain how to align your telescope, how to choose the perfect location and help you find celestial objects for the first time.
If you are ready to start using your telescope to observe planets and other objects in space, then keep on reading.
The first thing you will need to know is how to assemble your telescope.
It is important to note that all telescopes will be different, and you may have to refer to the owner’s manual for exact instructions.
However, we will cover the basic steps of telescope assembly that will apply to most models.
- Check the instructions and make sure you have all of the parts. The first thing you should do is review the owner’s manual. Ensure that you have all of the parts, and review the assembly instructions in the manual. If the instructions are clear and easy to follow, follow those instructions first.
- Use a dust cap if you are assembling the telescope outside. Assembling the telescope outside is okay and even preferred since there is more light available to see things. However, use a dust cap to avoid damaging the instrument.
- Set up the tripod. The first piece to set up is the tripod. Don’t worry too much about having it perfectly level, but try to align it with a north/south alignment. Make sure that everything is tightened. Then use a compass and make sure that the marked north position on the tripod is facing north.
- Attach the mount to the head of the tripod. The next thing you need to do is to attach the mount to the tripod. Make sure that the mounting thread engages with the threading on the base.
- Attach the counterweight to the setup. Now you can set up the counterweight. Remove the safety screw from the counterweight rod and slide the weight onto the rod. Secure the weight with a screw and re-attach the safety screw.
- Position the mount in the position you will use it in. Before you attach the telescope to the mount, you need to position the mount in the proper orientation that you will use it in.
- Attach the telescope tube to the mount. Grab the tube mounting rings, the mounting plate and the dove tail. Use these parts to attach the telescope tube to the mount that is on the tripod. Make sure that all of the screws and bolts are tight and properly installed.
- Install the finderscope. You may need to loosen some screws on the mounting tube before installing the finderscope. After doing so, slide the finderscope onto the telescope tube and secure it into place.
Familiarize With Your Telescope
If you are wondering how to use a telescope, you should first familiarize yourself with the optical instrument. Keep reading to learn a few tips on how to do this.
Read the Owner’s Manual
The first thing you should do is read the owner’s manual. The owner’s manual will have all the information you need including instructions for assembly and a list of all the parts.
Before using the instrument, make sure to read through the list of all the telescope parts.
While you don’t have to read every description, simply skim the booklet and read about any parts you are unfamiliar with.
Practice Attaching and Removing the Eyepieces
If you have a brand new telescope, you may not have multiple eyepieces yet. However, if you have more than one eyepiece, you will need to become familiar with them.
During your time outdoors studying the sky, you will be switching out your eyepieces quite regularly. Even more, you will be replacing them in the dark.
For this reason, practice attaching the pieces to your telescope and taking them off.
You can start practising in the daylight, and as you become more comfortable with them, start practicing during the evenings.
Before you know it, you will be able to do it with your eyes closed.
Get Comfortable With the Tripod
Another essential component of your telescope is the tripod. You will be setting your tripod up in the dark every time you go out.
When you buy your first telescope, practice setting it up during the day like you did with the eyepieces.
Make sure to refer to the owner’s manual the first time you set it up.
You will need to keep a few things in mind when setting up the tripod.
Make sure to practice setting it up so that it sits evenly on the ground. You will also need to be able to tell what direction it is facing in the dark.
Practice Using the Mount
Finally, you will need to become familiar with the tripod mount. The mount is what you will use to move the telescope around.
It will also support the telescope and keep it in place.
In your backyard, practice moving the mount around and pointing it in different directions. You should also practice attaching the mount to the tripod and the telescope to the mount.
If you are wondering how to use a telescope, one of the first things you should learn about is the mount.
The best mount setup will include a sturdy tripod as well as a high-quality mount head to place your telescope on.
Most mounts will have knobs located on the head of the mount. These knobs are what you will use to control the mount and move your telescope.
Some other telescope mounts will have buttons connected to an electronic motor that you can press to control the mount.
When you choose a mount, a crucial thing to look for is the smoothness of the movements. A high-quality mount will make small, smooth movements that will not blur your image.
There are two basic types of mounts, including equatorial mounts and alt-azimuth mounts. With alt-azimuth mounts, you can move it up, down, left or right.
Equatorial mounts are a bit different. These mounts will move the telescope on two axes. One axis is called declination, north to south, and the other is called ascension, which is east to west.
If you are a complete beginner and want the easiest-to-use mount, go with an alt-azimuth mount.
These are simple to use and light, and easy to travel with. However, they are not as good at tracking celestial objects as equatorial mounts are.
If you have a bit more experience with telescopes and want the highest-quality product, go with an equatorial mount.
You will need to spend some time aligning an equatorial mount, which can confuse beginner astronomers.
However, these mounts will accurately track whatever object you are studying.
Eyepieces and Barlow Lenses
Telescope eyepieces allow you to view objects in the night sky at different magnification powers.
Say you find a new object you want to study, but your current eyepiece is not strong enough to zoom in on it. You can simply swap in another eyepiece and study it more in-depth.
When using multiple eyepieces, start with the lowest powered one. Then, take it off and go in with a higher-powered eyepiece.
You want to do this because it is easier to initially find objects in the sky with a low-powered eyepiece since they have wider fields of view.
Try to only use high-powered eyepieces for binary stars, the moon and planets since the more magnification power you use, the less detail you see.
Using a Barlow Lens
Another simple way to amp up the magnification power of your telescope is to use a Barlow lens.
A Barlow lens is a special eyepiece that can double or even triple the magnification power of your existing eyepiece.
To use a Barlow lens, simply connect it directly to your eyepiece. However, you will need to make sure that they have the same barrel size.
If you are trying to figure out how to use a telescope, learning how to align the instrument is essential.
Take a look below to learn how to do this.
- Set your telescope mount’s polar axis to the North Star (Polaris).
- Find the celestial equator and aim your telescope to a star that is above the equator, as south as you can aim.
- Aim your telescope so that the star is on the north or south edge in the lens.
- Use the focus wheel and defocus the image a little bit.
- Turn on the telescope’s clock drive and pay attention to where the star starts to move.
- If the star moves to the north, then your polar axis is aimed too far to the west.
- If the star moves to the south, then your polar axis is aimed too far to the east.
- Adjust the polar axis depending on your results; doing this will ensure that the star does not move.
- Find another star that is low in the sky (eastern sky) and near the celestial equator.
- Watch the star to see where it moves.
- If the star moves to the north, then the polar axis is set too high.
- If the star moves to the south, the polar axis is too low.
- Adjust the telescope according to these findings.
After you have gone through all of these steps, you will need to repeat them.
While this will take a bit of time, repeating the steps will ensure that your telescope is accurately aligned.
Choosing the Perfect Place
The next topic we will review in this guide to how to use a telescope is choosing the perfect place.
Here are a few helpful tips for when you go out to find a good location.
- Make sure the ground is level. Try to choose a location where the ground is level; this will prevent the tripod from tilting.
- Find a spot with the least amount of light possible. If you are using your telescope in the backyard, turn off all outdoor lights. If you can, drive out to a remote spot with no lights around.
- Try to place your tripod on grass or dirt. Materials such as cement will release heat during the evening, which can distort the image.
- Go where you have the widest view of the sky possible. Try to avoid tall trees or buildings when choosing the perfect spot.
Finding Celestial Objects
To find celestial objects in the sky, you can always use a star chart. Bring along a red flashlight to avoid readjusting your vision and find some celestial objects with the chart.
Another option is Google Maps. Choose the satellite view and zoom out until you see planet earth.
If you keep zooming out, you will see a list of moons and planets appear on the screen.
There are also a few different phone apps you can use, such as the NASA app, Star Walk 2, Star Chart, Solar Walk and more.
Finally, consider taking advantage of your finderscope to scan the night sky. Once you spot a celestial object, zoom in with your telescope.
We hope that this guide has helped you learn how to use a telescope.
When you first buy a telescope, try to familiarize yourself with it by reviewing the owner’s manual, practicing attaching the eyepieces and getting comfortable with the mount.
Before using the instrument, you will need to align it, find the perfect place and find celestial objects in the sky.
Even though telescopes seem like complicated machines, you can start using the fascinating instrument in a few simple steps using this guide.