Thursday, April 24, 2008

Learning to See

Understandably, you will be eager to try out your new telescope. Here are a few words of advice: Expect to be thrilled—immediately—by the spectacle of the moon, with its sharply delineated craters and mountains. Point your telescope elsewhere, however, and you may be disappointed—at least until you learn more about what to look for. We have become spoiled by dazzling images from the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting above our atmosphere and toting the most sophisticated instruments available. No, your telescope won’t duplicate the performance of Hubble. But the point is that it is your telescope, and the photons of light that left the Orion Nebula are striking your retina. The experience is yours.

Your first impulse may be to blame any disappointment you feel on your telescope. Resist the impulse. As you learn what to look for—and as you come to appreciate the significance of what you see—you will derive great satisfaction from your instrument.

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