Visual Astronomy

Visual  = Live = Analogue = Retina Busting What is the most impressive place you have ever visited? Maybe a waterfall or a monument? Do you remember everyone around you glued to their phones, taking lots of pictures? A lot of those photos were viewed once and then forgotten. But you still remember that view,…

Using a new telescope

First, don’t rush and enjoy the experience of learning a new skill. It will take time as this is a slow hobby. Check your telescope over indoors. Make sure you can adjust the vertical and horizontal position, that you know how the focuser works and how to change and secure the eyepiece. Don’t try and…

What do I look at?

Like many observers, I enjoy a combination of things to look at but I am happy to limit myself to just a couple of objects in one session. “Turn Left at Orion” is an essential guide for the visual observer.  It suggests good targets and explains how to find them. It also shows you what…

Collimation Checks

The Newtonian telescope is very simple – Two mirrors, one curved and one flat. But to work, it needs to be set up properly with those mirrors and the eyepiece/focus tube aligned. Hanging wallpaper in your house is easier when the walls, floors and windows are square! Collimation is a very simple process made complicated by the…

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The Zoom Eyepiece

The “stock” eyepieces that came with my 8″ 200P Dobsonian were great for me to get started. A new owner should definitely get used to them before considering any “upgrade”. For me, the stock 25mm produced good results but the 10mm was dim and I was disappointed with the clarity of what I was seeing.…

Essential Accessories

This is my essential list of accessories when observing. The aim is to maximise comfort with the minimum amount of carrying. I am assuming that you already have a copy of “Turn Left at Orion” Collimation cap and Cheshire eyepiece/sight tube combination tool Eyepatch – worn half an hour before observing to ensure my eyes…

Finding dim objects

Sometimes a dim object like M1 (Crab Nebula) can be difficult to locate as it may take a long time looking through the eyepiece before it becomes visible. This is the method I used to find M1 or even dimmer objects like M97 or M108. Usual Method in a nutshell Search for target in SkySafari …

Through the eyepiece tube

The view through the eyepiece tube of the reflector telescope can be confusing, hence this page. A sheet of yellow paper has been placed behind the secondary mirror to help identify its edge. The view through the focus tube of a typical 200mm (8″) f/6 Newtonian Reflector Showing n reflections in the sight/focus tube >…

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Observing Log

I keep a log of observations in a spreadsheet (download here). This is uploaded to the cloud so that I can update it when I am away from the desktop computer. The log has four main sections (sheets), Binaries (double and multiple stars), DSO (Messier and NGC objects), Solar System and Other (everything else). The…

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Dobsonian Astrophotography

So what about the other 1%? I said I was a 99% visual observer who prefer “live” views, but once in a while to use a smartphone to capture an image. The Dobsonian mount is very limiting and imaging with a smartphone is fiddly and with no stacking or processing (I have better things to…

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Mirror Cleaning

Over time dust will build up on the mirrors of a reflector telescope and the amount will depend on the conditions where you live and how you store your telescope. Dust can be minimised by keeping the aperture capped when not in use and storing the OTA with the primary mirror facing down. Dust will…

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Telrad Dew Reduction

The glass of the Telrad is rather a dew magnet. To reduce this I have used these anti-fog wipes and built a dew shield made from an A4 sheet of black foam and some velcro cut into small squares. It is very easy to make and the details for doing this are below. More details

Flocking

Lining the OTA of the telescope reduces unwanted internal reflections and has the additional benefit of keeping dew off the mirrors. To flock the OTA of my 8″ 300mm telescope, I used two 1m rolls of Black Velour Material. This is easily fitted to the tube without rippling. As I was removing the secondary and…

Observing Chairs and Stools

I find a height-adjustable chair or stool an essential accessory when observing. The longer you look through the eyepiece the more you see. This is especially the case for clusters and galaxies. I would also find sketching impossible without a chair. The homemade Denver chair folds flat and doesn’t take up a lot of room…

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Solar Filter

A solar filter made using a sheet of Baader AstroSolar Safety Film. Important – Do not point a telescope or finder at the sun as this will result in permanent eye damage. When using the filter ensure caps are on the finder. The film comes with instructions for making a solar filter which I modified slightly.…

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Finder safety harness

The findersope bracket and mount on the Skywatcher 200P has been (presumably) designed so that if the OTA is lifted using it, there is no danger of the finder and bracket becoming detached. The problem is that unless the knurled screw is very tight, there is a danger that in the vertical position, the finder and bracket may…

Skywatcher 200P impressions

This was my first telescope since the toy 2″ refractor I owned as a child in the late 1960’s. Since then I’ve just been a naked eye and binocular observer. Why did I choose the Skywatcher 200P Dobsonian? It was ordered at the end of October 2020 from First Light Optics and it arrived four…

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SkEye – A push to finder app

SkEye is an app that like the excellent Stellarium allows you to find objects in the sky. It dispenses with ‘bells and whistles’ so there are no pretty constellation images but that functionality suits me fine. With a phone attached to the tube of my telescope, it also has the advantage of what is termed…

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Top 500 double stars

A file of over 500 double stars selected and recommended as targets because they are a sight to behold. Double stars make brilliant targets for light polluted skies Download The data file is in a spreadsheet for ease of sorting and modifying in Excel, Google Sheets, Libre Office etc. The fields include object name(s), location…

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Star Gazing – Useful Information

Glossary and Useful Formulae Magnification (Power) of telescope  = Focal length of telescope / Focal length of eyepiece Focal Ratio (f/stop) = Focal length of telescope / Aperture of telescope mirror or lensA “fast” speed (f/11, f/12 – f/15) is good for high power observing (moon, planets, splitting doubles)A “slow” speed (f/4, f/5) is good…