Although we tend to think of astronomical telescopes as being the ideal equipment for stargazing, you can also use binoculars. In fact, if you’ve never used a telescope before, you might even be better off using a pair of binoculars if you are new to stargazing.
Astronomical telescopes can be a little tricky to get your head around at first if you are not used to them, as you have to learn to master the equipment itself while also working out where to look in the vast night sky. While you learn to navigate the inky blackness of the night sky, you should probably use a pair of binoculars to get some experience before moving on to a telescope. While binoculars certainly won’t be as powerful as using a telescope, they will still give you the light gathering power you need and a much greater magnification than using nothing at all. A good pair will give you a magnification somewhere between 10 and 30 times (depending on what power you buy), which will allow you to see some detail on the moon, as well as many of the planets, although you won’t be able to see detail on them.
At Sherwoods, we have a wide selection of astronomical binoculars by different well-known and respected brands such as Opticron and Helios. If you are looking to buy a pair of binoculars specifically for astronomical purposes, then choose a pair with at least a 50mm across as the aperture is most important for this purpose.
Getting into birdwatching requires the ability to be able to use a pair of binoculars properly. Using a pair of binoculars is more than just putting them to your eyes and looking around. If you are new to this equipment, you will need to learn how to use the focus wheel and dioptre. The dioptre is also used to focus, but is there to compensate for the difference between your left and right eyes because they will not focus to the same degree. You need to be able to use both of these focuses in the right way in order to get the clearest image from your bird watching binoculars.
To get started with focusing your bird watching binoculars, you should first make sure that they are in right position for the width of your eyes. If they are too far apart or too close together you will have black edges infringing into what you see. When you look through the eye pieces, you should just see a perfect circle. Having got this right, look through them at something and use the central focus wheel to bring the image into focus.
Use the dioptre wheel to focus more finely on the object you’re looking at. To do this, you need to close each eye in turn and adjust the wheel until the image is clear. When you open both eyes again, the image should be perfectly clear through your binoculars. If not, continue to adjust slightly until it is.
Having spent the time and effort to choose a perfect pair of bird watching binoculars, you will want to do your utmost to make sure that they stay in tip top condition. Obviously this includes basic care such as always using the strap to wear them around your neck, to prevent damage should you drop them by accident, but also you should carry out regular cleaning and use other protective equipment.
Binoculars have special optics lenses which need to be cleaned regularly and with care. Cleaning them the wrong way can damage them by causing scratches which will then reduce the clarity of vision when you use them. You should clean the lenses using a very soft brush or even compressed air to remove any particles such as dirt or dust. Then use a lens tissue or cloth wet with special cleaning solution and wipe over the lenses gently. Use a dry part of the same cloth to dry them and then check for any smudges or smears.
When you buy your binoculars from us here at Sherwoods, they will come with a case and neck strap. Always use this case to store your binoculars when they are not in use, as it will prevent them from getting exposed to dirt and dust unnecessarily and avoid them getting scratched. We also sell various binocular accessories, including different types and lengths of straps and also the Lens Pen, which is ideal for cleaning your binocular lenses and is compact enough to carry around with you.
Buying your first telescope is an investment we want you to be happy with and so we’ve come up with some pointers for you to follow to help you to choose the right kind. Unlike binoculars, telescopes are not supposed to be solely for magnification, but instead to collect light which will then provide you with detail. Of course, magnification is also necessary in order to be able to see things which are far away, but it is only the amount of light collected that will affect how much detail you see.
Therefore, when buying any kind of telescope, but in particular astronomical telescopes you should focus on the aperture of the instrument rather than the power. The aperture is measured through the diameter of the main lens. The eyepiece is what determines the power and telescopes generally have optional eyepieces available to increase or decrease the power and magnification. You should generally have three eyepieces in your kit – for low, medium and high magnification.
There are three kinds of telescope: refractors, reflectors and catadioptrics. All three have their advantages and disadvantages for use as astronomical telescopes, so it really depends on what exactly you want to look at with them. For a beginner’s telescope, the best all rounder is a catadioptric and these are very compact and portable for carrying around. They are also generally cheaper than refractors and are also the best suited for any near focus work as well, should you want to use your telescope for that purpose also.
If you are thinking about getting into astronomy then a good start is to go and observe with someone else first. They will help you to get used to astronomical telescopes and learn how to navigate the night sky with one too. They will also help to show you what you will be able to see. You should be able to see the moon and all the planets (except Pluto), but some with more detail than others. On Jupiter, you should be able to see the bands and Red Spot, while you should also be able to see Saturn’s rings.
Many people recommend that beginners start off learning how to spot the planets and the constellations using a pair of binoculars first. This is indeed a good way to get started, and you may prefer to stick with your binoculars for a while longer even once you’ve got used to spotting the night’s sights. What’s more, if you find that astronomy isn’t for you, you won’t have invested a large amount of money in buying a telescope.
Astronomical telescopes are affected by weather conditions. The equipment needs to cool down to the outside temperature to give clear and focused images and this usually takes around 20 minutes, but could take longer depending on the temperature difference. Conditions are also affected by seeing conditions and this is down to both the weather and where you live. Large cities are heavily affected by light pollution which will decrease visibility due to excessive amounts of outdoor lighting.
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