Always on hand to offer our little bit of wisdom when it comes to telescopes, star charts and such, we thought you might need reminding of the Perseids meteor shower, one of the summer’s most prominent and consistently stunning celestial events.
The Perseids garners its name due to the perceived origin of the shower (called the “radiant”), the constellation Perseus. The Perseids enjoy the venerable parentage of the Swift-Tuttle comet. The amazing Perseids meteor cloud consists of detritus ejected by Swift-Tuttle as it passes close to the sun.
An interesting side note of the Swift-Tuttle comet; upon its rediscovery in 1992 it was feared the comet would likely strike the earth or moon. However, upon further calculations this appeared not to be the case. Swift-Tuttle will next be highly visible to the naked eye in 2126.
The 2011 Perseids show is estimated to last from the 17th July – 24th August, peaking on 13th August. The long viewing life of the shower makes it the ideal practice ground for pushing astronomical telescopes to show off the best celestial marvels the night sky has to offer. In the UK we can expect a peak of around seventy meteors per hour. One of the great things about
Parseids is that you don’t necessarily need even one of our beginner astronomical telescopes to see its brilliance.
For more information on telescopes and stargazing tips, take a look at the comprehensive guides in our “Books & Maps” area.
Like cameras and all truly fantastic devices, it can be tough to pinpoint exactly which options are best for your beginner use requirements. So, if you’d like a little help on what, why and how much to pay, read on!
Most of our customers are after astronomical telescopes for varying degrees of use. Some are professionals looking to expand their viewing pleasure at home, whist many are enthusiastic novices wanting budget friendly telescopes that do the job but don’t break the bank. When shopping for astronomical telescopes it’s always worth remembering that what you see through the lens of a budget range refractor telescope won’t be a reproduction of the celestial photographs you see in textbooks etc. That said, a cheap (£200 range) compact telescope, when properly used, can produce absolutely splendid results.
Magnification is often a concern of the novice astronomer. What if it’s not enough?! The simple fact is that lower budget telescopes tend to come around the 32x magnification mark, which is perfectly adequate to see the craters of the moon, Saturn’s rings and even the Orion nebula. They may be small, but a good beginner telescope will produce crisp, clear images.
Since they’re highly tuned and tend to last a lifetime, telescopes don’t come cheap. The usual price for good quality beginner scopes ranges between £200-500 approximately. Telescopes don’t lose their value rapidly, so you should always be able to sell on a well maintained second hand device when you’re ready to upgrade.
If you’re looking for a hobby to occupy your little monster this summer, why not consider star gazing and visual space exploration? Our range of astronomical telescopes includes some brilliant beginner models to set the imaginations of little stargazers flying at the speed of light!
Books and Guides
We currently offer a great astronomy introduction guide called “Stargazing for Beginners” The book is full of tips, facts, charts and techniques to help the novice astronomer get the most out of their equipment and the night sky.
Astronomical telescopes are essential if you want to get the most out of viewing time. Telescopes are steady and designed specifically for the purpose of viewing celestial objects. Binoculars, even high end models, are rarely a patch on even the cheapest telescopes. A good quality telescope, when properly cared for, can last a lifetime.
A Little Real World Help
Days out to the stars may be off the table, but a visit to somewhere like Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre can be of astronomical (get it!) benefit to budding young stargazers and celestial enthusiasts. Kids love to see things in real life, and the working team at Jodrell Bank are always on hand to demonstrate techniques and show just how far the speed of light can take your little one’s enthusiasm!
NASA, the BBC and such organisations offer brilliant online resources to aid in all things astronomical. You could also look to open source (free) software like Stellarium to install excellent 3D planetarium tools on your computer.
On balmy nights as the hazy sun goes down, the urge to wander outside and indulge in a little stargazing could happen upon you. The great thing about summer is the weather (clear skies make for ideal viewing conditions), but one of the frustrations for stargazers is the shorter night. It’s particularly very young astronomy enthusiasts who suffer, as bed time tends to be just before it gets dark!
Equipment and Clothing
Even the warmest summer night can get chilly once the sun’s gone down (or rather, once the earth’s turned away from it!) so be sure to keep some warm clothes (including shoes and socks) on hand and a couple of blankets.
Astronomical telescopes are designed for celestial viewing. Binoculars, no matter how great, tend to be a little shaky (very frustrating!) and not really suited to this kind of observation. Best to leave the binoculars at home for twitching! Our range of astronomical telescopes covers beginners right through to professional/advanced enthusiasts.
Although light pollution happens throughout the year, the warm summer is the ideal time to really push the boundary and travel to somewhere remote for your celestial observation. Consider Dark Parks like Galloway Forest Park and Exmoor.
A reliable star guide is essential. A good book will usually provide hints and tips as to how to find your bearings in the changing seasonal sky. It could be worth downloading an application onto your smartphone too!
Although we tend to associate binoculars with those who enjoy bird watching, there is a growing trend amongst ornithologists to use telescopes as these pieces of equipment give higher magnification and add an extra element to the experience.
The telescope you choose will depend on several factors, with the budget you have available perhaps being the most important. The next thing to consider is the size and weight of the telescope? If this is something you are concerned about then you will need to look closely at the options available.
If carrying heavy equipment is going to be difficult for whatever reason, you can find lighter telescopes which will allow you to see birds close up without injuring yourself in the process! If you prefer to stay with bird watching binoculars rather than a telescope you will find a great range here on the Sherwoods Photographic website, as well as telescopes and other equipment which will enhance your bird watching experience.
After you have bought your binoculars or telescope, taking care of them is relatively easy as long as you remember a few basic rules. If you have been using them in rainy conditions, make sure you always wipe them dry before putting them back in the case. If you think moisture has got inside the binoculars or telescopes, leave them in a warm place to dry.
Finally, when it comes to cleaning the lenses, use a blow brush to clear away any sand or salt which can scratch the glass before wiping them with a soft cloth.
Whether you are new to astronomy or a long time enthusiast, using telescopes to search the skies is a fascinating and at times exciting experience. The word astronomy means ‘law of the stars’ and we have our forefathers in ancient times to thank for plotting out the early maps of the skies.
Of course, these people did not have anything more than the naked eye to chart the stars, but the early work they did without the aid of telescopes was later picked up by astronomers who did have the means to see the stars and planets in more detail. If you are new to astronomy and you want to familiarise yourself with the constellations, using a star map is one of the best ways to do this.
Once you have an idea of what you are looking for and it‘s location in the sky, a good pair of binoculars will allow you to see our neighbours in the solar system. If possible, try and find a spot which is free from street lighting and other illuminations as this will allow you to see the stars without it being tainted by light pollution.
Many astronomical societies who are based in towns and cities will often travel out to isolated rural areas in order to make the most of the inky blackness of the skies above, and if you have never had the experience of looking through binoculars or a telescope in this environment, you really will notice the difference when you try it.
One thing the keen ornithologist cannot do without is a good pair of binoculars, and this is why many birdwatchers turn to Sherwoods Photographic when they need high quality binoculars and other accessories. If you are looking for equipment which will help you get the best experience from your hobby, then you are in the right place because here at Sherwoods we stock just about everything you need to see that rare bird when it turns up in your area.
It’s not just birdwatchers who buy their equipment from us, so if you are interested in watching the night time habits of badgers or other nocturnal animals you will find a great range of night vision equipment here as well. Moving away from birds and other animals, there are many uses for night vision equipment.
For example, security guards who need to see what is happening during the night at the premises they are protecting would find their job more or less impossible without these products, as would the police and the armed forces. British soldiers use night vision equipment on their patrols in Afghanistan and they point out that this is one of the most important pieces of kit they have as it allows them to pinpoint potential targets more accurately.
Whatever your reasons for using this kit – for viewing nocturnal animals or for security purposes – you will find a great selection here on the Sherwoods website, as well as a fantastic range of bird watching binoculars.