How to take care of your new telescope?
One of the most important parts of caring for a telescope it keeping it clean. Dirt can get on the lenses or the mirrors, which will scatter the light, making the objects you’re viewing less crisp. To combat this, there are a few things you should do.
First, always use the lens cap when not using the telescope. The eyepiece holder should be stored in a case as well. The eyepieces themselves need to be capped on both ends and stored in a proper durable case. Store the reflectors and their mirrors facing down so dust won’t settle on their surfaces. Don’t touch the lens or mirror surfaces to prevent the oil on your skin from deteriorating the optical coatings.
Clean your telescope and its accessories only when needed, as cleaning could cause tiny scratches in the components. If cleaning is needed, do so carefully. For the lenses, place your finger over the eyepiece without touching the glass and suck the air up from under your finger. You can also use a camel’s hair brush, which has soft bristles that likely won’t scrape the lens. If these methods don’t remove the dirt, you can use a lens-cleaning solution like pure isopropyl alcohol or methyl alcohol and a grit-free wipe.
Cleaning a mirror takes a bit more effort since you’ll need to take apart the telescope to do so. Once you’ve removed the mirror, place it face-up on a towel in the sink. Rinse it with room-temperature water until the dust and grit are removed. Then rinse off the mirror with distilled or demineralized water to ensure no mineral deposits are left behind. Let it dry, wiping with the corner of a paper towel if necessary.
Features to consider while choosing a telescope
If you’re in the market for a new telescope, you should first know what its main features are all for. The following is a basic guide to the most important characteristics of any telescope.
There are two main types of telescopes out there. The refractors, like the Celestron Inspire 100AZ, have a glass lens located at the front of the tube. This lens bends the light that passes through it. They are quite easy to maintain but can be a bit expensive for a higher aperture.
A reflector telescope (like Orion StarBlast II 4.5) uses a mirror instead of the glass lens, which is located near the rear of the telescope tube. It bounces, or reflects, the light off the mirror. These types of telescopes reflect the wavelengths all the same way, so there is no chromatic aberration to deal with. They are also cheaper to make.
The aperture, or objective, refers to the diameter of the light-gathering mirror or lens. It is usually expressed in millimeters, though sometimes it shows up in inches. Telescopes should have a minimum of a 70mm aperture, though some models, like the Orion StarBlast II 4.5, go much higher than that. The larger the aperture of the telescope, the easier it is to see fainter objects in the sky.
The focal length refers to the distance between the telescope’s mirror or lens and the focus point where the light rays come together.
This helps determine the magnification that can be delivered with the eyepiece – just divide the telescope’s focal length by the eyepiece’s focal length.
When checking out telescopes, there are two main types of mounts available. The first is the altazimuth, or alt-az, mount. This is the simplest type, with altitude (vertical) and azimuth (horizontal) motions. Most models include slow-motion knobs for precise adjustments when trying to track an object across the sky, and sometimes include a computer for automatic tracking. This type of mount is best used for scanning at low power or observing objects.
Equatorial mounts are considered the superior mount for astrophotography and observing objects for longer periods of time. It can be aimed at any celestial object and easily guided manually using slow-motion controls or an electric motor.
The eyepiece, or ocular lens, is what you look through when using a telescope. It is placed near the focal point of the telescope to help magnify the image coming through. Eyepieces come in a range of sizes and types. Many telescopes, like the Gskyer Powerseeker 90600AZ, come with a few different eyepieces to give you multiple magnification options.
Though larger telescopes have more light gathering capacity and are better for looking at deep-sky objects, they are also heavier than other smaller models. This makes them a bit less portable.
If you’ll just be setting it up at home and leaving it put, this won’t be an issue. But if you plan to use your telescope away from home
, the more it weighs, the harder it is to carry around.
The length of a telescope determines the field of view. The shorter the focal length, the wider this field will be, which is essential for deep-sky viewing. Longer tubes create longer focal lengths, showing you a narrower patch of sky for those seeking smaller objects, such as planets or the surface of the Moon.
The warranty is also an extra to check out. Though a decent telescope should last for years, there could be issues you are not prepared for. The better and more extended the warranty, the more piece of mind you’ll have when using it.
An accessory tray is handy to hold your extras within reach. Instructional DVDs, star maps, and other astrological guides make it easy to find what you’re looking for or show you things you may not even know you want to see.
A finderscope helps you aim the telescope, sometimes with a red light for easy viewing. A camera attachment or smartphone adapter is another handy feature to look for as it lets you take pictures of what you’re seeing.