Like many other people, you may well have developed a burgeoning interest in astronomy after watching Professor Brian Cox and Dara O’Brien’s excellent ‘Stargazing Live’ programme on BBC2. Indeed, this wonderful show may well have made you go out into your garden and look up at the Heavens and examine the night sky in a way that you’ve never done before.
And like millions (if not trillions) of people before you, you will likely have thought to yourself: ‘If only I could see more’
Well, what would you think if we here at Sherwoods told you that, within limits, you can see galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae without having to invest your hard-earned cash in an astronomical telescope?
Chances are you would think that we were pulling your leg.
However, you’d be wrong because the truth is you can see all of this and more simply by taking nothing more convoluted than a pair of birdwatching binoculars out with you on a clear evening.
Strengths and Benefits
Fledgling stargazers often believe that binoculars (or astronomical glasses) are simply not powerful enough to reveal anything of importance in the night sky. This is not true. In fact, many experienced observers keep a pair of glasses close to hand to make sure they have every angle covered.
Although glasses are smaller and give lower magnification, they have a number of benefits when it comes to stargazing. For example, they’re not only lighter and less expensive than your average telescope, they’re also much easier to take outside, use, and put away. Moreover, they also give you a much wider view than a telescope, thereby making celestial objects easier to find (which is very handy when you’re first starting out). In addition, they let you use both eyes so you can see more integral, natural views.
What Can I See?
On a clear, dark night out in the countryside, you can see around 3,000 stars with the naked eye. But, whipping out even a modest pair of astronomical looking glasses will immediately increase that number to around 100,000 stars!
Pretty impressive, huh?
And of course, there’s much more to see in the night sky than just random stars. Double stars, Milky Way star clouds, star clusters of various sizes and types, and stars varying in brightness from month to month (or even hour to hour), as well as a smattering of nebulae and dim, distant galaxies can all be seen in this way and be easily identified with a detailed sky map and/or some guidebooks.
Which Ones to Buy?
Because astronomy is done in the dark, you really need to concentrate on getting hold of some astronomical glasses that have big aperture i.e. big front lenses. Glasses with big aperture collect lots of light, thereby enabling you to see fainter objects. Indeed, astronomers the world over agree that the bigger the aperture, the better.
Want to find out more? If so, simply browse our pages further or call 01527 857500.
If you are thinking of buying a telescope for the first time, chances are you will have been doing a little bit of research online. Whilst carrying out your research you will have most likely discovered aspects which you aren’t familiar with and encountered terms which you don’t fully understand. This is quite normal. Indeed, part of the beauty of astronomy is that it often throws up as many questions as it does answers. If you have an enquiring mind then you will enjoy this aspect almost as much as scanning the Heavens.
However, when you’re first starting out, there are a few things which you really do need to have a good understanding of. And, when it comes to buying astronomical telescopes, nothing is more important than aperture.
Basically, a telescope’s aperture is the diameter of its main, light-gathering lens or mirror. (This lens or mirror is called the telescope’s ‘objective’.) The bigger the aperture is, the sharper and brighter your view through the telescope will be. As you have probably realised, a bigger aperture allows you to use more magnification. In fact, you can make any telescope provide any magnification you like, just by changing eyepieces. However, high magnification is worthless without large aperture (indeed, you’ll end up with a dim, blurry, mess).
A telescope which can only be pushed to 50 times magnification (50x) before the view goes blurry will enable you to see Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s rings, and some detail in the brightest star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. However, if you’re looking to explore surface features on Mars or see both members of a tight double star, you will need to have the sharp views which a telescope at 150x can deliver. Depending on optical quality (and observing conditions), you can expect to get anywhere from 20x to 50x of useful magnification per inch of aperture. Put another way, a four-inch telescope will manage 200x whereas a six-inch telescope will go as high as 300x, if they are both used under ideal conditions.
Another important feature of large aperture is that it lets you view fainter objects. This is different from providing magnification. In fact, the problem with most hard-to-see astronomical objects is not that they’re too small and need more magnification; it’s that that they’re too faint and need more light i.e. more aperture. For example, there are several dozen galaxies beyond our own Milky Way which can be distinguished through a 4½-inch reflector. Some of these galaxies are more than 50 million light-years away, so being able to see them with a telescope which can be comfortably tucked under your arm really is pretty good. Of course, it is worth noting that a 12½-inch Dobsonian telescope will reveal literally hundreds of far away galaxies, even when you use the same magnification!
If you’d like to find out even more about aperture and browse through a great range of beginners telescopes in detail, simply take a few moments to explore our pages further.
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