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.
On a clear night with a bright full moon, no one could blame you for wanting to make a living out of gazing into the sky at planets and the odd shooting star.
But how easy is it to make a career out of stargazing? And do you really need complicated equipment like astronomical telescopes?
There are several skills and personality traits that a professional astronomer needs. The first is – perhaps obviously – excellent observational skills. The second is a meticulous eye for detail, in order to correctly and methodically record all date and observations. An analytical mind to help understand results and formulate theories is a must, and so is an aptitude for solitude. Being able to stay up late probably wouldn’t go amiss either!
Early study in the sciences, English and mathematics will provide a good intellectual grounding for the work involved in being an astronomer, while further study in astronomy (especially at research level) should help with getting that dream job.
Experience of visiting planetariums, observatories and museums will also help you learn about the nature of astronomy, while proving your commitment to potential employers.
Finally, it may be painful to accept but an expensive, potentially delicate piece of equipment such as astronomical telescopes are a vital tool for any serious astronomers. Those clear starlit nights may be few and far between, making your astronomical telescopes completely essential.
Astronomical scopes are your key to making a career out of astronomy if that is where you are aiming for. If you are only looking to experience astronomy as a hobby, then astronomical telescopes will be the key to your enjoyment.
If you are looking for astronomical telescopes for the first time, the chances are that you or the person you are buying it for will be relatively new to stargazing and are likely to be overwhelmed by the amount of equipment on offer.
Luckily for you, we’ve done all the hard work for you so buying astronomical telescopes can be less daunting. Read on to discover about the three main types of astronomical telescopes available today.
The refractor is the first type and takes its name from the long tubular piece of the telescope. They have their pros and cons. A refractor has the benefit of protecting delicate optics and is therefore a good bet for those who don’t want to have to be too careful about their equipment – kids for example. However, they can be bulky, may require a tripod, and are invariably more expensive.
If a refractor doesn’t sound like much for the money, then perhaps a reflector would suit you better. Using mirrors, reflectors provide great visibility but do need regular TLC in terms of being kept clean and adjustment.
Catadioptrics are the third possible option and are seen as an ‘in between’ to refractors and reflectors. They are compact and lighter, making them easier to handle.
Buying astronomical scopes doesn’t end with choosing which type to go for. You will also need to consider size of the aperture (the lens or mirror which defines the clarity of your vision through the telescope), telescope mounts and finders.
If you are just starting out, choose sensibly: go for quality and ask lots of questions. Happy stargazing!
According to the Cambridge dictionary, a telescope is described as “a cylindrical device for making objects that are far away look nearer and larger, using a combination of lenses, or lenses and curved mirrors”.
Neat as this description may be, there are distinct types of telescopes within this which we shall examine here.
Optical telescopes collect and focus light mainly from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Using one or several optical elements such as glass, lenses or mirrors, they also gather light to affect the size and brightness of distant objects.
Instruments found in this group include theodolites, spotting scopes, monocular, binoculars, camera lenses and spyglasses. Particular telescopes found in astronomy are refracting, reflecting or catadioptric; and infrared, submillimetre and ultraviolet.
As if that wasn’t enough, telescopes can also be used to measure and observe things not discernable to the eye – for example, naturally occurring radio emissions and microwave radiation from stars, galaxies and other astronomical objects. These telescopes are called radio telescopes and are built with dishes made from conductive wire mesh to collect information.
Radio telescopes are also used to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
High-energy telescopes make up the final group of telescopes, and they are (unsurprisingly) used in high-energy astronomy. Objects studied in this group are those which emit EM radiation of highly energetic wavelengths: black holes, neutron stars, active galactic nuclei and supernovae. Some high-energy telescopes use mirrors while some do not focus at all and use coded aperture masks, while others still have no image-forming optical system.
We have secured a small quantity of the Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z45. This 12.1 megapixel digital compact camera makes an ideal camera with which to do it digiscoping with. Featuring a 4x 28mm to 112mm stabilised zoom lens, it allows plenty of flexibility when shooting through the eyepiece. Framing your shot is simple using the bright 3.0 inch TFT colour display on the back of the camera. The energy saving feature in the EX-Z450 means it’s possible to take up to 550 shots on a single battery charge, so you’ll never run out of power at the wrong moment! The Intelligent Autofocus and the Dynamic Photo Function help ensure your shots are the best they can be, while the ability to record HD video makes the EX-Z450 equally capable as a movie maker. All this functionality comes at a low cost of only £145.00, combine this with a bracket like the Baader micro stage II and you have a combination capable of attaching to most spotting scopes on the market. The camera is supplied in a dark brown finish it also offers outstanding performance as a general-purpose point-and-shoot digital camera.