Tips for New Astronomers #1

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What can you see with your telescope?

  • The Moon: The Moon is a favorite target that will show great detail in virtually every telescope. You will see features on the Moon such as  craters, mountains , seas and a number of other details. The Full Moon is never a good time to observe the Moon as you will not see details due to the brightness and due to the Moon facing directly towards the Sun.The first and last quarter of the Moon is always a good time as the Moon is lit from an angle where you are able to see much more detail.
  • Mercury: Mercury is a planet which is hard to see as it tends to never get far enough away from the Sun for decent observing. When you do see Mercury through a scope, you will most likely only see what phase the planet is in…… no detail.
  • Venus: Venus is similar to Mercury in that it is also fairly close to the Sun and hard to see at times. But when visible you will see it easily as it is a very bright planet at the best of times. You will probably only see the phase of this planet too as it’s surface details are covered by a dense atmosphere.
  • Mars: Mars is easily seen even using small  telescopes. However you need to wait for it to get close to Earth to see any details on it. Unfortunately this period lasts only a few months every few years. Mars is a small planet so don’t be disappointed if you fail to see any details like the polar ice caps or surface markings when it is close to Earth.
  • Jupiter: Jupiter is the planet that will give you the most detail .On any given night you should be able to see cloud bands as well as the four Galilean Moons. You may even see the Great Red Spot if you have a powerful enough telescope.
  • Saturn: You should be able to see the rings of Saturn but it will be difficult to get a large view of the planet even under larger magnifications.. Look closely and see if you can pick up any of the subtle cloud bands on Saturn. Also look for it’s largest moon Titan which you will see as a dot near to the planet.
  • Uranus: You should be able to spot Uranus once you learn how to find it. When you look through your scope it will appear as a small green dot of light. Uranus is too far away to see any details.
  • Neptune: You should also be able to see Neptune as well on really good nights and this planet will look like a small blue dot  among a field of stars. Look for the color when searching for Neptune.
  • Pluto: You have no hope of spotting Pluto with a small telescope and you would need at least an 8 inch telescope in a dark sky. Even then, Pluto would only be visible as very faint dot among the stars.
  • Stars: Stars  will look brighter in a telescope but they will not look any larger as the stars are too far away.
  • Deep Sky Objects: You can also view “deep sky” objects such as galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, and double stars. But your view of these will depend on light pollution in your area as well as transparency of the atmosphere. When looking at galaxies and nebulae you will most likely see them as fuzzy patches of light in your telescope. Star clusters are great targets for those who have even small telescopes.

~ by sydneystargazers on June 30, 2010.

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