Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Little advice about telescope

At nearly $3 billion for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, astronomy can be a dauntingly expensive pursuit. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend quite that much to get started. In fact, you don’t really have to spend anything. A lot of observation can be done with the naked eye, and many local communities have active amateur astronomers who would be happy to let you gaze at the heavens through their telescopes. Some veteran amateur astronomers even warn newcomers that they will be disappointed with a telescope unless they first obtain some star charts and guidebooks and make an effort to learn the major constellations, perceive differences in brightness, and learn to explain the phases of the moon. “Learn to use your eyes before you buy a telescope,” they say.

There’s some real value in this advice. You need at least a little working knowledge of the sky before you can locate much of anything with a telescope. In addition, the type of telescope you buy will depend in part on the type of observing that you want to do, and you won’t know that until you have a little experience. So our first piece of advice is to be patient: Don’t run out to a sale at your local Mega-Lo-Mart and buy a telescope just yet.

But let’s face it—part of the fun of astronomy is making faint objects look brighter and distant objects look closer. To many, a big part of the fun of astronomy is its tools.

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