Last year we gave you the Last of the Celestron Advanced 80 EDR at the low price of £300 This year we have managed to get our hands on the last of the Celestron 100EDR’s. The scope is supplied complete with a Celestron CG5 Equatorial mount making a combination ideal for both imaging and observation. The advanced ED optics Give images and views free from chromatic aberration (colour fringing). The price of this combination is £395.00 including delivery, a big saving when you compare it to the cost of some of the competitors scopes on the market, in fact the mount alone would set you back £210.00 (Synta Optics Skywatcher EQ5 mount). So if you are in the market to upgrade your tube, mount or both this is a perfect time to jump in.
For anyone interested in astronomy, and tempted into buying a telescope you will probably have encountered a variety of different kinds of astronomical telescopes throughout your research. This can be quite daunting. However, it turns out telescopes aren’t actually as complicated as they first appear, and the various types are actually relatively easily explained.
Although there are many variations between telescopes, basically there are two main types of astronomical telescopes, each with clear advantages and disadvantages:
Very briefly, refractor telescopes use lenses to bend the light that they receive, causing convergence on a focal point near the eyepiece. This simple design has some obvious advantage of reflector telescopes (the other type.) Specifically, refractors are more durable than their counterpart, due to the fact that their parts are well enclosed, which also means that they are easy to use, and do not require frequent cleaning. This durability and ease of use makes them suitable for beginners, as well as those requiring sturdy equipment, such as for field work.
Reflector telescopes or Newtonian reflectors are more complicated affairs, and involve the use of mirrors to focus light towards an eyepiece. The increased amount of component parts, when compared with a refractor, means that reflectors are not as durable, and require frequent cleaning and recalibration. However, they are the perfect choice for observing deep-sky objects and practicing astrophotography, whilst also being cheaper up to certain sizes.
For viewing activities, whether bird-watching or astronomy, there is such a wealth of equipment available that it can be difficult working out exactly what you’re going to need. When it comes to telescopes and binoculars, although they are both viewing apparatus, they are actually quite distinct bits of kit – so which should you choose?
Well, the answer is actually entirely dependent on what you’ll be using it for. The obvious advantages of binoculars, for example, is their portability, which makes the ideal choice for “field” activities such as bird-watching or marine watching. In fact, such is the range of binoculars available that it is possible to achieve great magnification as well as extreme portability.
It might surprise you that binoculars also offer some certain advantages in terms of astronomy, and particularly beginner’s and “field” astronomy. Again this is in part due to their portability, meaning that they can be used quickly to observe transitory celestial events, such as meteor showers or eclipses and also due to the fact that they have a larger field of view than telescopes, making it easier to survey the sky, or view large sections of the moon, for example.
Despite these certain advantages, however, the supreme choice for astronomical viewing is surely astronomical telescopes. These are perfectly engineered to locating deep-space objects or observing the fine detail of the moon that a pair of binoculars just can’t rival. You might assume that such potent viewing capability comes at a premium, but over the last few years, top quality telescopes have become available for less than £200.
Astronomical telescopes truly come into their own when observing celestial bodies. However, although many of them come equipped with planet finding features, such as red dot finders or “goto” motors, if you truly want to be able to find your way around the sky quickly and easily you’re going to need to know were to look.
Firstly, the planets are generally going to be the brightest objects in the sky, and therefore locating, say, Venus (the morning star) shouldn’t be too difficult. Yet most of the planets aren’t even visible throughout the entire year, and for most of the year even planets like Mars or Venus are only viewable through telescopes.
When viewing Venus and Mars, the best time of year is the middle of July where you’ll see both planets in the sky at the same time; for Jupiter, look for the brightest star in the sky at the end of August; for Saturn look near to Venus during March, around dawn – the rings should be visible through astronomical telescopes.
Remember, astronomy is a very complicated business, so it would be helpful if you had a reference to hand throughout your observations, such as a star chart, and over time you will come to learn the positions of the planets, and their specific movement patterns; in a way this self-directed learning of the night-sky is one of the best pleasures of practicing astronomy and one of the definite advantages of using astronomical telescopes.
Should you crave some help locating the planets, however, a Celestron NexStar 4 SE would be a great choice of telescopes, being equipped with the latest in planet finding features and software.
Quite obviously the moon can be observed with the naked eye. However, only through a pair of binoculars or an astronomical telescope does it truly spring to life, displaying its many features and contours. In order to maximize my viewing of the moon and to observe as many of its features as possible – what steps then can I take?
Firstly, the moon undergoes some striking visual changes depending on what phase it’s in. Therefore the viewing experience will be vastly different depending on the moon’s aspect. You may assume that when the moon is full, that its features would be most observable but this isn’t the case. Although astronomical telescopes will still be able to see many of its craters, during full phase the moon is so bright that any naked eye observing will not be able to see very much detail at all. Instead, it is best (especially when observing through binoculars or with the naked eye) to observe the moon during its other phases such as at quarter or half phase, when its contours are lit more delicately.
The next thing to consider is your viewing apparatus – whilst it is possible to observe the moon with the naked eye, it is definitely more satisfying to use binoculars or telescopes. Binoculars in particular are great for observing the moon as they have a wider field of view than an astronomical telescope, and are highly portable. However, if detail is what you want, then a telescope is also a fantastic viewing tool.
For owners of astronomical telescopes or naked eye observers, 2010 promises to be a fantastic year for astronomy, with celestial events ranging from eclipses to meteor showers, ensuring that your eyes will be fixed firmly toward the stars.
Already this year there have been some dramatic astronomical events. For example, on January 15 over Africa we saw an annular solar eclipse – the first of four eclipses this year. We have also seen our first meteor shower in the form of the Quadrantids at the start of January, which served as a portent to a truly dramatic year of meteor showers.
Don’t worry though; you’ll still have plenty of occasions to use those astronomical telescopes, as some fascinating astronomical events are set to occur later in the year. And 2010 is especially notable for its eclipses, most of which won’t be observable from the UK. However, toward the end of the year, on December 21st to be exact, you’ll be able to point your astronomical telescopes toward the night sky and be able to see a total lunar eclipse – from Europe.
As well as an eclipse there will also be a chance to observe that most dramatic of celestial events – meteor showers, either with the naked eye, or through astronomical telescopes. Specifically, you can expect to see them at mid April, at the beginning of May, around August 12th , at the end of October and November, and in the middle of December – so get those telescopes ready.
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.