Starting in Astronomy? – Here some Basic tips & mistakes avoidance
How to start the easy way with minimal expense.
Well, you simply need a pair of binoculars, as they are portable and relatively inexpensive to start with.
You will be amazed at how much you can see of the night sky using binoculars and they are very good for views of the Moon, the comets, the Milky Way (summer months) mantle of stars and large deep-sky objects.
In fact, even expert astronomer would use binoculars while waiting for the Telescope to adapt to external temperature and for the human eyes to adapt to the night view – it usually takes 30 to 50 minutes. Although these days they use cameras and stay indoor!
Do this simple test to prove your eyes need adaptation:
– go outside from a illuminated room
– switch any external lights off and check the sky straight away for 10/20 seconds and fix a point in the sky with a shape of stars you may easily remember
– then close your eyes and count for 30 seconds
– now open your eyes again and look in the same spot of sky
– you will be amazed at the amount of detail you have gained only in 30 seconds – if you were born an observer!
Imagine after about 40 minutes of adaptation – you might get about 20% of a Cat’s sight!
DO NOT SWITCH ANY EXTERNAL LIGHTS ON after adaptation or you will need 10 to 20 minutes to re-adapt (at least) – if you switch the lights off quickly!
So, make sure you do not have neighbours with those energy wasting PIR Floodlights.
If you know you are going to watch the sky, ask politely your neighbour to ‘please’ not to use the floodlight for a certain length of time – maybe your neighbour is a Amateur Astronomer and you do not even knew it!
Even better if they do lower it as most of them waste light in the sky, rather than illuminating their yard/garden!
Best way would be to offer to do it yourself and even move their light with the back of it against ‘your wall’ and therefore the light beam would go away from you. DO NOT do it if you now you are a bad DIYer ;p)
The binoculars I own are a standard Super Zenith 10×50 – wide angle – field 7° and should be easy to find for as little as £. 20 – the x50 means 50mm lens (the front ones).
You need at least 40mm minimum, but better if you can get one between 50mm to 70mm aperture.
The 10x means 10 times magnification – do not go less.
A field of view of 7° generally matches the ‘average’ human eye.
You will also need a sunbathing type of reclining chair to be comfortable and some good layers of clothes on, to stay comfortably worm enough.
Actually staying near the floor is warmer!
Do not forget a woolly or heavy cotton hat and double socks – i.e. always have a layer of cotton between your body and the wolly external part – layering keeps you warmer and cotton keeps you from itching!
As we adapt our eyes to the dark, our pupils will dilate and Binoculars would need to have an exit pupil of about 9-5mm for a teenager and about 7mm if you are about 20 to 30 years old, 6mm for 30 to 40 years old and about 5mm if you are over 40/45 – pupils tend to shrink with age (although I always believed the other way around – that they relaxed with age!) and the pupil exit of the binocular must match your pupil for maximum results.
I have read somewhere that after a certain age they shrink 1mm for every decade you age.
Then the field of view is another component to deal with.
Binoculars need to be of a minimum field of view of 7° or more if possible – ask the retailer.
Remember that the higher the lenses and the narrower is the field of view, unless you buy large binoculars 80mm or more and they are Wide-Angle ones – they can have a larger field of view.
Now you have your binoculars you need to set them – set them?
Simple, focus on a group of stars with the left eye – the main focus is the dented wheel in between the binoculars.
Now look ‘only with your right eye on the right side and on the right hand ocular (were you place you eye on) and rotate it left/right until you focus better.
Even if you do not wear glasses, if you adjusted it very slightly, that difference (imbalance) is normal or if it is more than slightly you may have just discovered you need to visit your optician!
That’s it or nearly!
These days you can buy a Stargazer kit which usually includes a bag, binoculars, LED RED light mini torch, Stars chart and a DVD very cheaply – browse the Internet and see what you can find.
You are ready to ‘learn to’ stargaze !
Remember to keep watching the late Patrick Moore’s The Sky at Night on BBC one – set it to record it regularly – it usually is on once per month + some special editions for special events.
Next tip is to either check online for your nearest Astronomy Club to get more info on ‘what’s on’ or simply join them.
I am sure they are nice guys with the same interest, they also harvest know-it-all-or-know-it-better-than-you-idiots (!) like any club- but that is how the world revolves – just ignore them!
There is a fine line between the know-it-all and those that are helpful by nature.
You will notice the difference from the way they interact with you.
They generally are those that never speak and if you ask a question they reply with an hour speech.
There are those ‘willing’ to help because they love Astronomy and not because of the limelight and this is the part I HATE on TV – too much Limelight – I do hope they do not ruin Science.
Sorry, I did not wish to scare you – this is life.
Note: older people have a BETTER night adaptation – try it!
Especially if you have a good vision, my eyes adapt to the dark very fast indeed.
Try this simple scientifis approach, at night:
- stay in a well lit room and observe its objects
- switch light off, you will almost see nothing!
- stay in a lit room again and move to a room with no light on and close the lit room’s door – same as before nothing visible
- from a lit room, move to a non lit room, close the door, close your eyes for about 10 seconds (in the dark!), re-open, you will start to see – while closing eyes, your black and white area will enhance its detectability as it needs to
Stay in the dark room for another minute or 2 and things will improve dramatically>That is dark adaptation at work – so when outside, wait at least 10-20 minutes and start your observation using binoculars to adapt better as the eye tries to discern stars from dark sky!
- after about 40 minutes you should be at your best
- get on the telescope and enjoy our visible universe!
Note: I will NOT be responsible for any injury or anything else possible (!) due to this script or anything else in this or other websites of mine – these are personal views that come from practical experience