How to get the most from your new telescope

Washington, Jan 8: A new telescope brings with it exciting opportunities to see the unseen sights of space, but what is the best way for beginner to get the most from his or her telescope?

"Most telescopes provide fine views of the Moon and bright planets and these are traditionally the first celestial targets tracked down by budding starwatchers," said Robert Naeye, editor in chief of SKY and TELESCOPE magazine.

The Moon is one celestial object that never fails to impress when seen in a telescope - big, bright and just a quarter million miles away. A telescope can keep you busy on the Moon for years to come.

During mid-January, the Moon is well placed for viewing in the evening sky (full Moon is January 19th). Use your telescope to explore its thousands of impact craters and dark lunar "seas" (vast plains created billions of years ago by lava erupting from the interior).

And when the Sun sets, Jupiter is seen shining brightly high above the southern horizon.

"Jupiter is the king of planets. It's big, it's bright, and it has moons that do interesting things," said veteran observer Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at SKY and TELESCOPE.

Even at 100x, you should be able to make out a pair of dusky bands girding Jupiter's midsection. These dark equatorial "belts" and the bright "zone" between them are cloud features akin to jet streams high in the Jovian atmosphere.

According to MacRobert, larger telescopes (with main mirrors or lenses at least 6 inches in diameter) will bring a few more belts and zones into view, along with an assortment of spots and streaks.

Look for a distinctive trio of bright stars in a nearly vertical line: the Hunter's Belt. Just a few degrees to their south (lower right), you'll find the Orion Nebula, a luminous, swirling cloud of gas and dust where stars are forming by the hundreds. This nebula is obvious in any telescope, and a high-magnification eyepiece should reveal a tight quartet of stars near its center called the Trapezium.

Using the three stars in Orion's Belt, draw an imaginary line to the upper right, past the relatively bright star Aldebaran (the reddish eye of Taurus, the Bull) to a tight knot of stars called the Pleiades.

"To get the most from your new telescope, be patient. Spend time with each object, and get to know it. Much of what the universe has to offer is sublime," said S and T associate editor Tony Flanders.

Too many first-time telescope users expect an explosion of Hubble-like colour through the eyepiece, he explains, when in fact our night vision sees almost everything as shades of gray.

Copyright Asian News International/