Ten Tips on How to Get More From Your Telescope

A question that comes up quite a lot and that is how to get the most out of your telescope I have come up with 10 tips that can help you get more from your telescope.

1 - Choose your Location

The first one is choosing your location carefully. If you try to use your telescope inside the house looking for a window, you will not be able to get good results as it will distort the view because you are putting an extra bit often dirty glass in front of the telescope.

When you open the window and look out that way with your telescope, you will get a lot of haze from the hot air meeting the cold, which will reduce the quality of what you see. So, try to find somewhere outside that is dark away from any light sources. If stray lights do come in from your neighbours or other sources, I would suggest creating a barrier with a sheet to block that light before it reaches your telescope.

Of course, you can

2 - Align your Finderscope

The next thing you should do which is always a good idea to do before you go out and observing, is during the day is align your telescope with your finderscope if you do this it will help you find the targets you want to see, which will always make your night observing a lot more fruitful.

3 - Let Your Telescope Cool Down

Let your telescope cool down this is quite a strange one to think about but if you take your telescope from inside a warm house into a cold garden often the telescope will start to contract and air currents and so on will be moving inside it in strange ways as it cools down.

If you try and use your telescope before its cooled down, you will find that your images are slightly distorted. So, you need to give the telescope between 10 to 20 minutes to cool down before you use it.

4 – Eliminate Dew

You need to protect your telescope from dew. This is very important, since if there is dew on your objective lens or within your optics, you are basically looking through a thin film of water, so you will find that your view is both blurred and out of focus. The simplest method to do this and most telescopes do come with one is to put a dew cap on the end and this is kind of a piece of material a cylinder that goes out from your objective lens to give the dew somewhere to sit to form on rather than your objective lens.

If this is not enough and it may not be especially if you are observing in particularly cold conditions then you may need a dew heater. Now these can cost around about £20 upwards depending on the size of your telescope but they are well worth it if it is a constant problem for you. Because with a dew heater it will just eliminate the dew problem entirely 

5 – Collimate Your Telescope

This is an important one you need to ensure your telescope is collimated. This only really applies to reflectors and Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes, but it refers to aligning the optics inside the telescope so that the mirrors are all aligned. If they are not aligned, you will find that your stars and planets and so on are not properly sharp. Instead, they could be bulging on one side or something like that or never quite focused. So, you really need to make sure your telescope is collimated before you try and use it, I always recommend you trying to use do that with an artificial star during the daytime rather than try and do it at night.

6 – Ensure Your Mount is Stable

A wobbly mount will give you bad views simply because the mount is wobbly, which means the telescope is wobbly, which means the image is wobbly. Of course, not everyone has the money to get any more expensive amount. A good technique if you cannot do that is to attach a sack filled with weight to the bottom of the tripod to weight it down so that it is more firmly attached to the ground and does not move as much. You will find that that will improve your views a great deal.

7 – Your Eyes

In essence, your eyes are the camera for your telescope, so you need to ensure that they are performing at their peak. First thing you need to dark adapt your eyes that means when you go outside do astronomy you need to wait at least 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjusted to the dark, which is great because it also ties in with the cool down time with your telescope.

If you don't want to spoil your night vision, you should leave your mobile phone at home, and view things using only red light, which will not affect your night vision. So, if you are going to read something like a star chart or something like that use red light torch. The easiest way to do this is to put a red film over your over a torch and use that to shine on to the page. 

The other thing is to keep your eyes in good condition by drinking plenty of water this always helps with the viewing do not drink alcohol before doing astronomy and try and take some vitamin A as this also helps with what you will be able to see.

8 – Use the Correct Magnification for Your Telescope

This is often one that catches out beginners, you will often see telescopes advertised with massive magnifications such as “this telescope is capable of 600 times magnification”. Although technically the eyepieces they give you and the Barlow lenses combined can give you that magnification, it is not actually useful. A useful magnification you can usually determine by it is about 50 times magnification by every one inch of objective lens so if you have a three-inch refractor for instance then the maximum magnification you can expect to achieve will be about 150 times.

However, it can this can be exceeded in certain circumstances. So, if you have an exceptional viewing, you might be able to push the magnification a bit further. Although magnifying does not only increase the size of what you are looking at, but it also decreases the brightness, so a lot of targets will appear washed out.

In other words, you will not gain as much from it, so you may not want to push it too far, and only with some bright targets, like the Moon and Jupiter.

9 – Averted Vision

Going back to your eyes again, due to the nature of your eyes they are not actually uniform in how they detect light. The middle of your eye which is used most of the time, is mainly set up for the collecting colour light which is great when you are walking around on the planet but not so great if you are looking in a dark night sky. 

So, what you want to do is look slightly off from the actual object you are looking at so do not look directly at it instead look slightly away. The best to way is to look towards where your nose is that way and what will happen is the light will hit the off centre black and white cones in your eye. Which are a lot more sensitive to low level light so you should be able to see a lot more detail.

10 – Improve your Accessories

Some accessories may help you when you are observing. If you bought a telescope depending on the type you have probably got a diagonal with it, unfortunately it is probably going to be a cheap diagonal. Since they do not put much money into it, you will usually find that if it is a mirror diagonal, it is only about 90 percent reflective. Therefore, if you want to improve your view, you can get a better diagonal. This can improve the sharpness, contrast, and brightness,

Another thing is if you are using an eyepiece below six millimetres you probably want to get a more expensive one rather than the cheaper eyepieces in that range because it is more critical that what the job they are doing at particularly high magnifications. 

Now we all most of us live in light polluted areas so another good idea would be to get a broadband light pollution filter and this will help you with most targets it will get rid of most of the light pollution not all of it but I will get rid of most of it and increase the contrast of your image of your views.

If you would like to see me, go into more detail in this subject, please watch the episode below.

I get commissions for purchases made through affiliate links in this article.