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Archive for the ‘Telescopes’ Category

Saturns Rings and Planets in May – How to See Them

The Ringed planet Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury in May 2014

Saturn Credit: NASA

Saturn Credit: NASA

Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will be visible in night skies this month with tiny Mercury toward the end of May. We are in for a real treat as four of the best planets to see will be on show.  Venus shines bright in the mornings just before sunrise. Read the rest of this entry »

Tonight’s Sky: April 2013

Tonight’s Sky: April 2013

Your guide to constellations, deep-sky objects, planets and events, Tonight’s Sky, Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Telescopes for Beginners, Easy Guide and Review

The Best Beginners Telescopes

Telescope

Choose wisely when buying a Telescope Credit: meteorwatch

When people first get interested or even talk about looking at the night sky and astronomy, the first thing that jumps to mind is stargazing using a telescope. It’s like a fisherman has a rod or a boat and a painter has a brush, to many it’s a rite of passage and something they must have to feel like a proper astronomer.

There is so much a beginner can see without a Telescope and even more to see with binoculars (a pair should be owned by every beginner and budding astronomer), but there comes a time when a beginner feels they must have a telescope. This is when you can venture into a very technical and confusing world for the first time. Read the rest of this entry »

Telescope Eyepieces: The Weakest Link

 Originally posted on Universe Today by Adrian West


Do you have a new telescope, or are you considering buying a new one? Hopefully, you have chosen a telescope with the best specifications for your budget, but before you can truly get the best out of your wonderful new window on the cosmos, you need to have something even more important than the scope – Eyepieces!

A lot of people new to astronomy, or new to buying astronomy equipment tend to concentrate on telescopes and unfortunately overlook eyepieces, settling for the basic set of 2 or 3 that come with the new telescope.

Eyepieces are probably the most important part of your observing equipment, as they are at the heart of your setup and can make your observing experience fantastic or disastrous, or make an average telescope great or an excellent telescope bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy – Refractor Telescopes


If you ask someone to describe or draw a telescope, nine times out of ten it will be a refractor.

The refractor telescope is quite possibly the most common or easily recognized telescope. It is a very simple design, which has been around for hundreds of years.

The history of the refractor is that it was first invented in the Netherlands in 1608, and is credited to 3 individuals; Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Janssen – spectacle-makers and Jacob Metius.
Read the rest of this entry »

Scopeless not hopeless

A blog for us AMATEUR amateur astronomers. By @RadioVicky.

Bio:

I’m 33, I live in Bristol and I like astronomy.  However, I don’t have a telescope and even if you did give me one, I’d be uncertain where to put my eye. I write comedy and I’m a professional blogger. My favourite colours are beer and dark skies.

Telescopes scare me. Not in the way a stranger in my bedroom or a spider in my knickers would scare me, but they do fill me with a certain fear.

I mean, I absolutely love things that go *shine* in the night, and have since I was a little girl, but the prospect of going out and buying a scope – something I know NOTHING about — is fairly petrifying. It even makes me feel a bit of a fraud. How can I be in to astronomy when I don’t even know my azimuth from my elbow? And also, I’m not too hot on my constellations either – sure, I know the main ones they teach you at school, but ask me to point out Lyra? Pegasus? Lucky Jim’s Pirate Ship?

OK, I admit it, I’m an AMATEUR amateur astronomer, but so is 99.9999999999999999999999% (possibly more nines than that, I didn’t have time to conduct a survey) of the world’s population, so it’s a cool club to be in.

Before I got friendly with astronomers on Twitter, I always fancied one of those thin tubular ones they sell for £90 in Argos. Surely I would be able to see the storms on Jupiter, the arms of Andromeda, and the Bristol football team practicing from 10 miles away? Turns out I’d be better off peering through a toilet roll tube with some cling film on the end of it – I’ve been told that cheap telescopes merely turn unimpressive white dots into marginally less impressive WOBBLY white dots, so I’m saving the cash for a Virgin Galactic space holiday instead. I hear the weather’s quite exceptional on Mercury…

But something happened this weekend that made me feel better about scope envy. I’ve been getting friendly with our very own @virtualastro on Twitter, and when I discovered I had 900 free minutes to use before the end of the month, I thought it was nigh on time we spoke to each other.

So, I called him up, and we spent a total of FIVE HOURS on the phone over the course of Saturday and Sunday night. Rest assured Twitter, we have plotted and planned some very exciting things together which will be blazing your way like a comet made of ideas instead of muddy ice soon …but the best, most wonderful, amazing, magical thing we did was…GO STAR HOPPING TOGETHER. Without a freakin’ telescope!

Even though we are about 70 miles apart (I live in Bristol, he lives in Oxfordish somewhere) we were both able to look up at the same sky, see the same ISS passes, and the same meteors. It was remarkable to be on the phone to someone with such an incredible knowledge of the skies. I sat gob smacked, mouth and ears open, as he talked me through constellations, clusters, satellites and gory Greek myths. I had no idea Cassiopeia had been a naughty girl and was sentenced to dangle upside down on a chair for eternity. I’d never heard of the Cygnus Rift — an ominously dark patch of sky in our milky way. I couldn’t even pick out the summer triangle, but now I know where it lives I will undoubtedly point it out to people in the pub, spilling cider as I leap around, trying to remember which stars make it up.

The best part was a dazzling ISS pass with a Perseid meteor streaking past like an arrow through a love heart. @VirtualAstro even had to put the phone down to deal with the deluge of tweets, and it felt amazing to be part of something so communal, so magical, yet so fleeting.

He also reassured me I didn’t need a telescope to enjoy the skies – which is fabulous because I was getting a bit sick of wishing for one on every meteor I saw. He said ‘if you look up at the sky…then you’re already an astronomer,’ a line which neatly castrated the last traces of my scope envy.

As I lay back and looked at the star-flecked sky, with crickets singing in the hedge, and Adrian firing me up with a guided tour of our resplendent heavens, it dawned on me. This was better than any naughty phone chat line. He could quite easily wire up a premium-rate number to his phone and charge £1.50 a minute for the pleasure of his knowledge.

Yep, I had a great time star-gazing without a scope last night. To the point of rubbing my thighs and drooling a bit. And how was it for you, darling?

Vicky pretended she was having fun looking through the telescope, but the view was better with just her eyes.

 

#Meteorwatch Competition

Faulkes Telescope

WINNER @bethlovescake

Win a chance to have Nick Howes (@NickAstronomer on twitter) equipment consultant for Astronomy now image your favorite object using the almost Hubble sized mirror of the amazing Faulkes Telescopes. One in Hawaii one in Asutralia…the choice is yours?

He will even process the image and submit it to the Astronomy Now magazine gallery.

For every Perseid meteor spotted and tweeted over the next two nights for the Meteor Map, each tweet will be entered into the #meteorwatch competition and the winner randomly selected.

So don’t forget to tweet #meteorwatch, 1st part of your postcode, Country code and how many meteors you just saw.

Share your #meteorwatch experience and have fun :)

Robotic Telescopes

Faulkes Telescope operates a network of research class robotic telescopes. Currently there are two telescopes, one in Hawaii and the other in Australia each with mirrors nearly the same size as Hubble costing £5,000,000

2011 © Copyright Faulkes Telescope Project, official partner of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network

AstroParty

23rd to 30th of October 2011

In celebration of its 5th year, the Salisbury Star Party will be hosting AstroParty with 7 days of Astronomy activities for people of all levels of interest and ability. All are welcome and those who attend will enjoy dark skies, a fantastic location, great company and lots and lots of fun. The organisers intend to make the Astro Party one of the biggest and best astronomy events in 2011 and beyond.

Venue:

The event will be held in a lovely and spacious campsite in the pretty village of Sixpenny Handley in the glorious Wiltshire countryside, (an area of outstanding natural beauty) with dark skies and excellent facilities including a large cafe/ conference area.

The site is located within 300m of the Village High Street. There are a variety of shops, including General Stores/Newsagents, Butchers, Post Office, Gift Shop and also a Public House. The village church backs on to the campsite, which adds a little more of that country atmosphere to the venue.

The historic City of Salisbury and the market towns of Blandford Forum, Wimborne Minster, Shaftesbury and Ringwood are all easily reached within 30 minutes drive.

If you aren’t keen on camping, there are local B&B’s and hotels etc in the surrounding area.

Activities:

Star Party – Running for all of the 7 nights with around 70 to 100 experienced astronomers at its core, the Star Party is the main part of the event, so bring your kit if you have any, join in and take advantage of observing and imaging with a large group, whatever your level of experience? You don't even need to bring a telescope, just use your eyes.

Imaging World Record – More info coming soon?

Inflatable Planetarium Shows – Big planetariums with big shows all topped off with what’s up guides.

Talks – A daily program of talks by famous and experienced people in the world of astronomy.

Tweetup – A social gathering of social media. Twitter and Facebook users meet and tweet with your online friends here.

Tours of the Sky – live and real tours of the sky by experienced astronomers.

Telescope and Equipment Workshops – Ask for advice or get help with astronomical equipment.

Trade Stands – More info and who is coming soon?

Competitions – A raffle for that nice telescope or piece of imaging kit?

Hospitality – There will be a hog roast on the final Saturday, and there is a cafe which is open through the week. We hope to have additional tents where you can warm up, tweetup, get a coffee, have some soup, or somewhere to chill and drink your beer. There is a licensed bar on site and a pub in the village.

More activities and services will be added to the program before the event starts.

A website will be launched shortly where you can look for additional information and book your tickets for the event.

Please book tickets here 

Let’s Make AstroParty, hosted by the Salisbury Star Party one of the biggest and best astronomy events and we hope to see you all there.

 


Choosing a New Telescope – GoTo or not GoTo

Originally Posted on Universe Today by Adrian West (@VirtualAstro)


I am often asked by people “I’m a beginner, so what telescope should I buy?” Or more often, what GoTo telescope would I recommend for someone starting out in astronomy?

When venturing out and buying your first telescope, there are a number of factors to consider, but because of glossy advertising and our current digital age, the first telescope that people think of is a GoTo.

Do you really need a GoTo or would a manual telescope suffice? In order to make a good decision on what telescope to buy, you need to decide on what you want to use the telescope for — observing, photography, or both and does it need to be portable or not? This will help you make the best decision for the mount of your telescope.

GoTo telescopes are usually advertised as being fully automatic and once they have set themselves up, or are set up by the user, they can access and track and many thousands of stars or objects with just a simple touch of a button. These features have made GoTo scopes are very desirable with many astrophotographers.

Manual telescopes are not automatic or driven by motors as GoTo scopes are. They are predominantly used for observing (using your eyes instead of a camera) and the scope is moved by hand or by levers by the user to find different objects in the eyepiece. Manual telescopes usually have a finder scope, red dot finder or laser finder to aid in finding objects in the eyepiece. They are unable to track objects, which can make them unsuitable for photography.

GoTo Vs Manual
Compared to GoTo telescopes, manual telescopes are much more economical as you are basically buying a very simple mount and an optical tube assembly (the telescope tube, or OTA). With GoTo you are adding electronics and control mechanisms to drive the scope, which can add heavily to the cost. A small GoTo telescope could cost the same as a lot larger manual Dobsonian telescope.

Good GoTo telescopes make astrophotography very accessible and enjoyable, especially with the addition of cameras and other kits. As opposed to manual scopes, GoTos can be used for long exposure astrophotography. Be aware though, that much astrophotography is done with very expensive imaging equipment, but good results can be achieved with web cams and DSLR cameras.

Manual telescopes are brilliant at helping you discover and learn the sky as you have to actually hunt or star hop for different objects. I once met a person who had been using a GoTo telescope heavily for a year, and at a star party I asked her to show some kids where a well known star was with my laser pointer, she didn’t know because she was used to her GoTo scope taking her to objects.

So which one should you buy?
I would recommend for pure visual observing a manual telescope such as a large Dobsonian or Newtonian telescope. The human eye needs as much light to enter it as possible to see things in the dark, so a big aperture or mirror means greater light gathering and more light entering your eye, so you can see more. What you saved by not having GoTo, you can spend on increasing the size of your telescope.

If you want to add photography or imaging capabilities then I would definitely recommend a good quality GoTo scope or mount. You will get a smaller aperture compared to the manual scope for the same money, but the scope will track for astro-imaging and can also be used for visual observing. Be prepared to spend a lot more money, though.

Consider how you want to use your telescope and the size of your budget. Avoid buying low end, cheap, budget, or what is known as “department store” telescopes to avoid disappointment. Save up a little longer and get a good telescope. Visit your local astronomy store or telescope distributor and before you buy ask an astronomer, they will be glad to help.

I hope you enjoy your new telescope for many years to come :)

Dobsonian Telescope