If you aren’t happy with seeing your child in front of the television again or playing on computers, then perhaps you should consider buying them a telescope.
1. Buying your child a telescope will help improve their schoolwork. The very nature of astronomy is inextricably linked to mathematics and physics. Your child will be able to explore the universe and see the point of these school subjects that they may have previously felt were dry or simply irrelevant to their life. This should improve not only understanding, but encourage motivation.
2. Stargazing can help encourage their curiosity and imagination . Just when you think children will never stop asking questions, they do. Whether it is age or boredom or a lack of stimulation, you can encourage and maintain a curiosity about the world through gazing at the stars, and this curiosity will inform other aspects of their learning too.
3. Astronomy will boost their confidence. How? By being trusted with their own piece of equipment – and an unusual one at that – and taking care of it, assembling and disassembling their astronomical telescope as required. Also through learning about something mysterious and complex, and by having to spend time alone or with one other person. All of these factors will develop a child’s self esteem.
4. It can help create closer family relationships. Standing in the garden on a cold clear night and staring at shooting stars or a previously unseen planet are incredible experiences to share. Sharing a hobby is a great way to get closer to your child and beats staring at the TV.
Imagine you have just invested in a great piece of Generation I night vision binoculars. You’ve already tried them out and seen some animals in your garden that you didn’t think you’ve ever see – badgers and hedgehogs – and are planning a moonlit adventure to some nearby fields because you’ve heard from other wildlife enthusiasts that deer have been spotted there.
Here are a few tips to help keep your night vision binoculars in top form and keep you enjoying local wildlife.
1. Only use night vision devices in the dark. It may seem like stating the obvious, but using night vision devices in daylight or around bright flashlights or car headlamps could damage them.
2. Handle with care. Night vision devices aren’t usually shock proof despite their tough outer image! Treat them as you would a camera or camcorder.
3. Travel with advice. While Generation I night vision devices are not usually regulated, you might find that more high-tech models are restricted from country to country. Get some advice. And note that electronic baggage security checks will not damage your binoculars.
4. Do not try and adapt/modify your equipment yourself. You might be tempted to replace your lenses with stronger ones – don’t! The lens in your equipment is designed to work in harmony with the casing and changing it could affect focusing ability and light reflecting properties.
5. Protect your eyes. Look out for headaches and eye strain particularly if you are prone to these when watching television or using computers.
While most of us don’t have access to the kind of diverse wildlife we see on television documentaries, we shouldn’t overlook the wildlife which is – literally – in our own back yards.
In most British fields and gardens we have access to badgers, hedgehogs and birdlife such as owls. Even urban parks play host to urban foxes, and further out in the countryside deer are commonly found.
All of these fascinating and truly wild animals have one thing in common: they are notoriously shy and nocturnal, meaning that you are only really going to see them under a cloak of darkness.
Night vision optical devices refer to binoculars or telescopes that have been designed to assist night time viewing. They are usually divided into three groups: Generation I, Generation II and Generation III. Generation I is regarded as the best equipment for most amateur wildlife watchers, given the balance of price, manageability and result.
Night vision optical devices allow you to see up to a distance of 10 to 400 feet, depending on your equipment. Despite their name, night vision optical devices do require a small amount of light in order to work.
If you think that you will be regularly using your night vision optical device in poor weather conditions (such as fog or rain) or in total or near darkness, than it is probably worth investing in an infrared illuminator which increases the distance and quality of your view.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get closer to the wildlife on your doorstep.
If you find that you take more than a passing interest in the birds in your garden, wonder what the Latin name for a robin is, and fight to get the remote control from your partner when a documentary about birds is on, the chances are that there is a bird watcher in you dying to get out!
You’ve done a bit of research and decided you need to invest in a good pair of binoculars. So you’ve been to the shop and chosen a good power range and a comfortable weight.
Now you have to make the compact binoculars work for you – and don’t be swayed by what your friends tell you or what the salesperson tells you. Get the fittings right for your eyes and get the focus nice and clear. Make sure you have a good clear view and your eyes feel comfortable.
Do they feel ok hung around your neck? Is the strap too thin or not strong enough? You’ll be carrying them around your neck like this, remember, so they need to feel comfortable.
Try them up against your eyes. Check that they feel balanced in your hands and that you can reach the central focusing wheel.
A good tip for glasses wearers is to choose binoculars that have fold-down eye-cups.
Once you have found the right pair, paid up and gone home, it’s worth remembering a few pointers for everyday care of your bird watching binoculars:
1. Keep them clean and dry
2. Treat them gently – they are often more delicate than they look
3. Look out (excuse the pun) for health problems such as eye strain or headaches.
Bird watching isn’t all about hiding in bushes. In recent years it has thrown off it’s frumpy image and is even recruiting the support of celebrities like comedian Bill Bailey.
Bird watching is a relatively low fuss activity – all you really need is some wildlife, patience and a pair of bird watching binoculars. However great your eyesight and observational skills might be, bird watching binoculars really are essential to help you see as much of the bird as possible, in as much detail as you can and without scaring it away.
Choosing a good pair can be tricky though, especially if you are just starting out. Power ranges are the first things you need to get right. Every pair of binoculars will have two numbers on it e.g. 8×24 which refers to the power range.
The first number refers to the magnification. While you might think the higher the number the greater the magnification and therefore the better the binoculars, it’s better to go for a 7 or 8 as any higher than that and the binoculars might be uncomfortable to handle.
The second number refers to the objective lens – the bigger the lens, the more light comes through and therefore the more you can see. Again, while a larger objective lens suits darker conditions like poor weather or night time viewing, it does also mean the binoculars are going to be heavier.
The best thing to do when deciding on what power range to settle for, is have a good think about what conditions you are going to use the compact binoculars in and how much carrying you are likely – and willing – to do.
You may be surprised to hear that binoculars can be a very effective tool for the aspiring or accomplished astronomer.
Buying an expensive piece of kit when you are just beginning with a new hobby can make people apprehensive. This is understandable. For parents with children taking up astronomy as a hobby, they may have seen this interest in other things before and then watched in dismay as the interest dies and the ballet shoes, guitar or pony is forgotten.
While astronomical telescopes aren’t usually as expensive as ponies, they are still a formidable outlay of money. This is where binoculars come in.
Far cheaper than astronomical telescopes yet just as effective – even more so in some cases – binoculars should be the first optical tool embraced by would-be astronomers (and their parents) whatever their age.
It isn’t just the price that makes compact binoculars a good starting point for novices. They are usually lighter than telescopes and easier to use – telescopes usually require assembling before they can be used and then disassembling before they are put away again.
Binoculars are actually superior to astronomical telescopes in that they offer a wider field of vision. And of course, they can be used to view a variety of other things, not just planet and shooting stars.
Once a commitment has been made to the study of astronomy, the time will come where a telescope is a required purchase.
Even then, a pair of binoculars will be a good piece of any astronomer’s viewing kit and will complement a telescope nicely.
You might think it is silly needing a guide to using binoculars – surely all you do is put them up to your eyes and squint in the direction of what you are looking at?
Well, yes. But if you’ve ever found yourself squinting out of binoculars or closing one eye, then you really aren’t making the most of this wonderful piece of optical equipment.
So, let’s begin.
Consider this situation. You are on holiday in a beautiful place renowned for exotic species of birds. You are going for a walk, bird-watching binoculars in hand, when you suddenly spy movement above you. In a flurry of excitement you reach your binoculars up to your face and smack yourself in the head. The shock makes you drop your binoculars, they fall and one of the lenses cracks.
While you are busy kicking yourself, the bird has long gone.
The best place for binoculars, whether they are full size or compact binoculars is always on a strap around your neck. It keeps them safe but within easy reach.
You should never have to squint when looking through binoculars. Make sure they fit by adjusting the barrels to the correct width of your eyes. Your view should be a perfect circle.
Get them in focus by manoeuvring the central focus wheel while you focus on something in the distance. Further improve your focus by using the diopter adjustment to fine tune your vision.
Look out for signs of eye strain or headaches. This might be a sign that your pocket binoculars are out of alignment. If this is the case, contact the manufacturer who should be happy to help remedy the problem.