So You've Got a Telescope: Now What?

So You've Got a Telescope: Now What?

5 Things to do With Your New Telescope

It usually starts out with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. You get a new telescope, get it assembled and maybe test it out through a window looking at a tree or a car across the street. The clarity and magnification are impressive, and you can’t wait to explore the universe.

You wait patiently for a night with decent weather and clear skies, drag your telescope outside, and set out to explore the universe. Maybe you look at the moon or notice how many more stars you can see through your telescope, but most people quickly start asking ‘well now what?’.

If you’re at that point where you’ve gotten outside and don’t quite know what to do, you’re in good company. There are telescopes all over the world gathering dust instead of being outside gathering light. The sky is a big place, and it can be hard to get started. Here are a few tips for anyone new to the hobby.

1. Learn to navigate the sky

The sky is a big place, there’s lots out there. The human eye can see ~10,000 stars on it’s own. Through a good backyard telescope that number skyrockets to ~50 million! There is no end of things to look at and explore. Understanding what you’re looking at, or where to find what you want to look at is a great things to learn. There are loads of free apps that can help identify major stars and constellations. You can also choose the analogue option of a guidebook or planisphere (11 Inch).

2. Have a goal in mind

50 Things to See With a Telescope
Now that you know your way around the sky, go out with a goal in mind; know what you’d like to look at. It’s worth starting with the Messier objects. This is a list of 110 things that you can see with a backyard telescope. It includes things like the Pleiades star cluster, and the Andromeda Galaxy. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) has a free workbook here. Younger astronomers can start with something like “50 Things to See With a Telescope” or even "50 Things to See on the Moon"

3. Experiment with different views

As you get comfortable navigating the sky, and more familiar with the kinds of things you can see through your telescope, you may want to start experimenting with different magnifications and fields of views. It’s incredibly satisfying to take in a widefield view of the Milky Way, or to zoom in and find detail in the rings of Saturn of the bands of Jupiter. Different eyepieces will adjust the view through your telescope and tailor it to the kind of observing that you want to do. Most telescopes come with a couple of focal lengths to get you started.

4. Try taking a picture

Nexstar 8SE with a Smart Phone Adapater
Astrophotography is a bit of a rabbit hole, it’s immensely satisfying and it can be immensely frustrating as well. To get started, use a cell phone to take a picture of something you’re observing. A quick shot of the moon, or something like the Orion Nebula can be surprisingly impressive. Most telescopes can also be connected to a DSLR camera with relative ease. It’s also a great way to share your enthusiasm with friends and family. Also looks pretty cool on your insta.

5. Join a club

Astronomy can feel like a solitary hobby, but it’s a surprisingly social thing. There are loads of online clubs and Facebook groups that you can join to ask a question, or get some feedback. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is also a fantastic group to join. They have chapters in most Canadian cities. We will be back to hosting sidewalk nights and star parties later this year. Join our mailing list if you’d like to keep up to date on any events we’re holding.

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