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Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking Up

I'm not talking about beer. Go somewhere else if that bothers you.

One of my other hobbies, and one I've enjoyed since I was in my teens, is backyard astronomy. I love sitting out in the dark with my telescope, looking at some of my favorite sights, searching for new things on my star map. Sometimes, I like to just point the scope at a random patch of sky, just to see what might be there.

One thing had always bothered me about telescope advertising. Everywhere I look, the magnifying power is blasted in giant letters, or high volume. I wish they were more honest. Power doesn't mean anything. It's the telescope's ability to gather light that matters.

Rather then the raw power, look at the size of the objective, the space where the light comes in. And use the lower power, you'll actually see more. At the higher powers, it's more difficult to focus, and the earth's rotation will carry anything out of view, in just a few minutes.

I had a 2-inch refracting telescope for...well, a really long time. It came with several eyepieces, but I almost always stuck with the lowest power, about 40x.

It actually showed good detail on the moon, I could see the 4 major moons of Jupiter, Saturn's rings were gorgeous. I spent many happy nights with friend and family.

If you ever think of getting a scope, ignore the power. Get the largest diameter you can afford. There are 2-inch refractors, or similar size reflecting telescopes, for under $100, that can get you started.

The next step up would probably be a 4-inch reflector. Which is probably between $100 and $200. Don't get more then you can easily afford. Regardless of what you spend, a telescope can be enjoyed.

Consider this hobby. It doesn't cost an awful lot to get into, and you get years of enjoyment from it.