Starting out

Started Mar 13, 2013 | Discussions thread
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star shooter
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Starting out
Mar 13, 2013

A lot of people ask me how can they take up Astronomy as a hobby? Do I need a telescope? is another ans the answer to all this is simple:

Look up on the Internet or in the phone book to see if there is an astronomical club. There you will get all the help and assistance you'll ever need. In these clubs all levels of the science are covered. Some just like to sit back and do 'armchair astronomy' while others either build the stuff or actually use it be that visually and or photographically. Either way joining a club will benefit those who are serious about their hobby.

It's a standard practice amongst amateur astronomers that you do not need a telescope to begin with but it does help! As for aperture of the telescope, in refractors (lens type) nothing less than 10cm diameter is suggested and with the reflectors (mirror type) nothing less than 15cm dia.

While the former are best for lunar, planetary viewing and photography, the latter are best for viewing and photographing Deep Sky objects - nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, etc. because astronomy is dealing with infinite light sources that are timeless to say the least, the bottom line is when it comes to telescopes, there is no substitute for aperture and quality. The latter BTW. comes with a price.

When you go to buy a telescope after you have seen what others have and use, take note of that and don't head off and buy the first thing you see. Shop around, Google it and most all, do not buy one of those  department store telescopes. These bits of Chinese junk  'telescopes' have done more damage introducing a person into astronomy than not having one at all. Be careful as you get what you pay for.

In reference to mounting a telescope, the more beefy it is the better. You don't see a giant Californian Redwood with a trunk of a fir tree do you? so just make sure your pride and joy is sitting on a well made Equatorial mount and big tripod legs or pier.

Skywatcher which is leading the GOTO race has many models to choose from. From portable (but shaky on their undersize tripods) to heavy beasts that can swing scopes weighing up to 30kg or more. While the majority of users say a GOTO is better meaning once the mount has been set up and config for your loacle all you do is press  button and ths scope whizzs off to its target.

While automation is great, what happens when it fails? can you reset the mount or use it manually? Too much reliance on GOTO stuff does not teach us the basics and the true nature of using a telescope under the stars. Ask anyone who grew up in world of no mod cons, no auto cars, no mobile phones and they will tell back then, life was lot more fun and at times frustrating but enjoyable, building your telescope from the ground up. Back then we used a synchro motor RA drive and a dual speed drive corrector and pushed our scopes to the object to view and or photograph. We could 'read the skies' we knew what is where and how to get to it. Our cameras used film and many did their own B/W processing.

Fast forward into the 21st century. Today we have the Internet with more pages and info on the science than can be imagined. There are dozens of astronomy forums like Cloudynights, Star Gazers Lounge, IceinSpace to name a few all of which are aimed of bring together same like people who love to share, learn and do, their chosen hobby justly and proudly.

You meet the nicest people under the stars.

In all avenues of life, we learn from others who have been there, done that. As we gain this knowledge, we gain the power of understanding and experience is the name we give to our mistakes. learn from them.

As for me I'm 67 and have been a proud stargazer, ATM'er, observatory designer/builder, founded three astro clubs and an astro-photojournalist in Australia since 1957 and I'm still at it. I now run an astro-tourism business in Maidenwell, in SE Queensland.

Enjoy your new adventures into Astronomy!

James

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