Telescopes

Can you see astronauts on the Moon?

If there were astronauts on the Moon, could we see them? I get some variant of this question almost every time I show someone his or her first view of the Moon through a telescope, especially at high magnification. The breathtaking sight of lunar craters, mountains, and other features down to the limit of...

Cleaning eyepiece lenses

How do I clean eyepiece lenses safely? Very carefully — and not often. If you rub fine optics, you risk rubbing microscopic bits of gritty dust against them. These leave tiny scratches (“sleeks”) that will scatter light and degrade contrast. A few sleeks won’t matter, but many of them eventually will, so your goal...

Comparing Plössl Eyepieces

I bought exactly the same Plössl eyepiece that a buddy has, but mine doesn’t work as well as his. Did I get a lemon? That’s possible, but very unlikely. Our guess is that your telescope has a short focal ratio, perhaps f/5 or less ,while your friend may have an f/10. Plössl eyepieces are...

Eyepieces offer widest true field

Some eyepieces are being advertised as offering the widest possible true field in any telescope. How is this determined? The amount of sky shown by an eyepiece is governed by the diameter of its field stop, the ring that defines the edge of the visible field. On a given telescope, you can compute the...

Polar align in daytime?

I want to see a planetary transit. How can I polar align my telescope in the daytime? One good way is to use the Sun. Carefully level your mount with a bubble level and set the polar axis to the latitude of your site. Hang a weighted string from the mount (between the tripod...

Prevent your finder from dewing over

How do I keep my finder from dewing over when I observe? Your finder should have a light shield (“dewcap”), which you can cover between uses. Or you can purchase an anti-dewing device. This need not be expensive. You probably have a box full of them at home: A simple tissue stuffed into the...

SAO numbers for Go To telescope

I want to observe double stars, but my Go To telescope needs their SAO numbers. Where can I get them? SAO numbers come from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Star Catalog (1966). They aren’t normally used by double-star enthusiasts, who prefer special notations such as ADS 1630, S748, and Krueger 60.Finding equivalent catalog designations can...

Should I wear eyeglasses while observing?

Should I wear eyeglasses while observing? If you are near-or farsighted, with no other eye problems, definitely take them off. You’ll have to tweak the focus, but you’ll see objects in the telescope just as clearly as if you had 20:20 vision. By taking off your glasses you’ll avoid the “tunnel vision” effect often...

What does “true color” mean in a deepspace photograph?

What does “true color” mean in a deep-space photograph? How would a galaxy or nebula actually look to the naked eye from close up? “True color” is how an object would look if you were nearby or were viewing it in a telescope under a dark sky, and if its surface brightness (the amount...

What to do when your telescope mirror is dusty

I took my new scope out last night and pointed a flashlight down the tube. My mirror looks really dusty. What should I do? The answer is simple: Don’t shine a light down the tube at night! Seriously, it only makes the dust look a lot worse than it is. If you clean your...