As any stargazer will know, the bigger you go, the better things get. And it now seems that amateurs are taking this ethos to the extreme by building their own behemoths in their own back gardens.
Whilst most backyard telescopes will measure somewhere between 3 and 12 inches, one American amateur has decided to go that little bit further, building his very own telescope, with the primary mirror measuring 70 inches and the casing around it measuring up to 35 feet. Whilst this doesn’t beat the record-breaking 72 inch home telescope made by Lord Reece in the 19th century, it is certainly a very worthy contender.
The sheer scale of this telescope goes someway to prove just how popular amateur stargazing is becoming, and just how far those passionate about studying the sky will go to get the perfect view of the stars.
For most, however, financial, spatial and storage constraints will mean that dreams of 70 inch mirrors will indeed remain just dreams. However, with new technology appearing on the market all the time, even very affordable astronomical telescopes will now give an extremely good view of the cosmos, and all without the cost, hassle and indeed logistical nightmares that will accompany the task of building your own.
Yet, the extremes that people are willing to go to in trying to get a better view of the cosmos remain inspiring, and those who wish to use the best telescope or any other form of modern technology to see the universe in unique ways and in all its glory should always dream big. However, knowing where to start is also important and the more you can learn about how a telescope works and what makes a certain type perfect the better, and such an approach will certainly help those who do one day want to branch out and create their own stargazing monster.
For retailers selling telescopes and binoculars, sales generally stay steady throughout the year. But every year there are specific events in the night sky which might result in extra sales, particularly of astronomical telescopes. To help you prepare for such occasions and perhaps even leverage them to your advantage, here’s a quick run-down of some of the most significant celestial events visible in UK skies over the next couple of months.
Peak of the Leonids meteor shower – 16th-17th November
Though meteor showers are of course best viewed with the naked eye due to the limiting field of view of binoculars and telescopes, they are events that provoke interest in the night sky. Those watching the meteor shower may be inspired to purchase astronomical telescopes or binoculars to view further celestial events. The annual Leonids shower is visible this year from the 6th to the 30th of November, with a peak of around 15 meteors per hour on the night of the 16th/17th. December meanwhile sees the more dramatic Geminids meteor shower, peaking on 13th/14th December.
Comet ISON – 28th November
Late November sees the closest approach of comet ISON to the sun. The comet was discovered just last year and has since caused quite a stir among skywatchers. Though early speculation suggested that it might be visible at dawn with the naked eye, this is now seen as unlikely. For astronomers though, ISON is certainly one to watch well into December.
Good views of the Andromeda Galaxy
Those with astronomical telescopes should get a good view of the Andromeda galaxy in November, with it appearing high in the sky at around 20:00 GMT. This spectacular galaxy is our nearest celestial neighbourhood and can also be seen with the naked eye, but would-be astronomers may prefer to view it through binoculars before graduating to a telescope.
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