If you’re someone who has an enquiring mind then you may well find yourself looking up at the stars frequently. Indeed, there really is no better way to indulge the inner existentialist within you than by scanning the night sky and pondering over questions which have fascinated humans for thousands of years.
Of course, your naked eye, or evena good pair of binoculars, can enable you to scrutinise the cosmos and learn more about the secrets of the universe. However, if you want to explore the heavens in detail and find out what’s really ‘out there’ then you need to invest in a high-quality telescope.
Buying a Telescope
Of course, a telescope is not the kind of thing you buy every week; therefore you will need to weigh up a few things before you make any concrete decisions. For instance, you will have to be clear in your mind about how much you can (realistically) afford to spend. Moreover, you will also need to know exactly what you’ll want to use your telescope for, and where you will be using it. Therefore, it is integral that work out a clear budget, determine what your goals are, and ensure you have access to a suitable observation spot, long before you start shopping around.
Of course, only you (and your partner) will be able to conclude what is – and isn’t – an acceptable amount to spend on a new telescope. However, when it comes to determining your goals and finding the best observation points, we here at Sherwoods can provide you with some invaluable advice.
In general, there are two main areas of interest for telescope users – deep sky and the planets. If you are keen on observing planets then you will need to be looking at buying telescopes that are able to provide excellent views at high magnification. However, if your main concern is that of deep-sky objects then large aperture will be more of a consideration than magnification.
Suitable Observation Point
While most astronomical telescopes will in practice show you both kinds of object, they will be influenced greatly by where you will be doing your stargazing. Although it is quite possible to observe the moon and other planets in densely populated areas, deep sky viewing is generally not suited to places where light pollution is an issue. However, it is worth remembering that not all remote areas guarantee star gazing success. Indeed, even the light free environs of the countryside can prove fruitless for planet viewing if there are trees blocking your view of the southern horizon.
With seven decades’ experience, we here at Sherwoods are able to provide you with unrivalled specialisation in both our products and our advice. So, if you’re looking to by a telescope which will suit your budget, goals and needs perfectly, we really should be your first and only port of call.
Explore our pages further or call 01527 857500 to find out more.
Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by a small number of customers as their SLT / SE scopes are showing ‘Boot Load Error’ on the handset when turning on the scope. My advice, don’t panic ! It can be hugely frustrating I agree, but can be easily rectified by a quick download from the Celestron website http://bit.ly/WE9MCB. Click the link and save the downloaded Zip file, then simply unzip into a folder connect the handset data cable that was supplied with your scope (if you don’t have one we can supply one for you), turn on the scope (you may need to hold the ‘menu’ & ‘Logo’ buttons together whilst doing this) and run the program called CFM that you have just unzipped. The program then scans your serial ports looking for the scope and guides you through the rest of the process to re-install the handset firmware. The only snag maybe that you don’t have a serial port on your PC, if you don’t have one we can supply a USB – Serial port adapter to you. The whole process takes about 5 minutes and you shoud then be back up and running.
If you get into problems remember we are only a phone call away.
If you were lucky enough to receive a telescope as a gift for Christmas then now is the time to really enjoy it. Indeed, now that everything is back to normal and your weekends are once again free from the need to shop or decorate, you can finally spend some quality time getting to know all about your wonderful new gift.
Moreover, this time of year is a great period to be looking up at the stars. To be sure, the long nights which are part and parcel of a UK winter provide stargazers with plentiful opportunities to wrap up warm and enjoy a few hours of exploring the awesome splendour of space.
If this is your first telescope then you may well be a little uncertain about how to get the best star gazing experience from it. Fortunately, this can be easily rectified as there are some great little tips and techniques which can help you to quickly get the most out of your new telescope.
Below are some of the most notable of these tips and techniques:
Always put your telescope outside at least half an hour before you plan on using it (and take the covers off it). Doing so will enable the optics and the air inside the tube to adjust to the temperature difference between your house and the outside world. If you don’t give it some prep time outside then your telescope’s lenses will almost certainly fog up, thereby degrading the quality of your observations.
Effective Night Vision
When looking for a place to set up your telescope outside, try and put it in the darkest area you can find (preferably as far away from house lights as you can manage). The reason for this is that your eyes will need to adjust slowly; and this will make a big difference in what you see!
Sadly, the tripods which come with most introductory telescopes are not well known for being overly stable. This means that you need to be very careful about the surface you set it up on. Wooden decking areas are to be avoided as these surfaces shake whenever there is a single movement on them. Remember, astronomical telescopes magnifying things a hundred times or more so the tiniest shake will be magnified a hundred times. When looking through your telescope, give it a few seconds to stabilise after moving it (and try to get into the habit of not touching it as you look through it).
Avoid Full Moons
It is best to avoid observing the night sky during a full moon. Indeed, the light from a full moon will simply ‘wash out’ a lot of things which are normally easy to see. The best nights are those with thin slivers of moon as they provide you with clear dark skies as well as wonderful crater shadows on the moon itself.
So there you have it – now all you have to do is enjoy!
Christmas is a time for giving, and with the big day rapidly approaching you need to make sure you’ve got everyone ticked off the list. If you’ve got a bird watcher in your life you can’t go wrong by giving them a new pair of binoculars, but of course, it’s never as simple as it first appears. You need to choose wisely to ensure the recipient’s eyes light up on Christmas morning, so just how can you go about doing that? Here are a few top tips to help you out:
• Magnification is key. When focusing on a single object, which the recipient generally will be in this case (they might be watching a bird in flight or roosting, for example), magnification is incredibly important and can make all the difference to the overall performance.
• Consider the field of view. A wide field of view may not be as important in bird watching as the magnification, but you still need to make sure you’re getting a quality pair that can offer a decent view.
• Consider the objective lens diameter, light transmission and exit pupil measurement. These features will be important if the user is planning on doing a spot of bird watching in low light conditions such as sunrise or sunset, with them working in combination to improve brightness and clarity.
• Does the recipient wear glasses? This will often have an effect on the style you eventually go for, and you’ll need to check the eye relief—the distance the eye can be from the eyepiece whilst still having the full field of view—with someone that wears glasses needing an eye relief of more than 14mm (or 17mm if they wear thick pairs).
• Consider the size and weight. If the binoculars will be carried around for long distances you’ll need to make sure you’re getting a fairly light, portable pair, although remember that compact options will have smaller objective lens and exit pupil measurements which means they won’t perform quite so well in low light conditions.
• Quality and price. These will of course be major considerations, and whilst you don’t want to spend a fortune you need to make sure you’re getting a quality pair that’s built to last. That’s why careful research will always be important, so why not take a look around?
Find the bird watching equipment you’re after
Here at Sherwoods we’ve got all the products you could need to ensure you find the right gift, covering everything from scopes to night vision to give the bird watcher in your life exactly what they’re looking for. We can offer help and advice to ensure you choose wisely and with great prices you won’t have to spend a fortune, and because we only stock the best products from leading manufacturers you can be confident in getting a quality result. Choosing the right bird watching binoculars can be easier than you think, and with a bit of time and attention (and some help from the experts) you’ll find the perfect gift this Christmas.
There are some things that deserve to be explored, and the night sky is definitely one of them. If you’ve ever gazed up at the stars and thought you wanted to take a closer look, what’s stopping you? With a keen interest, the right equipment and the right location (you ideally need to be away from city lights if you want to get the best view) you can be a backyard astronomer with ease, and it isn’t hard to see the appeal of this hobby.
The beauty of the night sky
The night sky is a fascinating thing. People spend years studying it and we still only know a small part of what’s actually out there, and that mystery only adds to the appeal. At the simplest level you’ll witness stunning constellations and could go on from that to view planets and even whole galaxies light years away—what you’ll see is only limited by the abilities of your equipment. Gazing up at the night sky can be an awe-inspiring event for those that really think about it, having the power to make us feel incredibly small, and there’s something truly magical about looking up at it in all its glory.
Stay on top of new discoveries
In the world of astronomy new discoveries are happing all the time, and there’s no reason you can’t be a part of it. Over the last couple of decades the cost of stargazing equipment has dropped dramatically, and now it’s perfectly possible to have your very own mini-observatory without spending a fortune in the process. The equipment has become affordable so people can now buy products once reserved for professional observatories, giving amateurs the opportunity to do scientific observations and be a part of this exciting industry—yes, a lot of amateur astronomers are actually contributing to science, and you could easily be one of them.
Get the telescopes you need
Of course, the only way you can make the most of your passion is if you’ve got the equipment to suit, and that’s where we can help. Here at Sherwoods Photographic we’ve got a fantastic range of all the astronomical telescopes and accessories you could ever need, covering all ages and abilities from the novice right up to the experienced astronomer, ensuring everyone can enjoy this most fascinating of sciences for themselves.
And, we don’t expect you to spend a fortune for this kind of equipment either. When you come to us you won’t need to pay over the odds to get the products you need with quality and value being of primary importance, and because we specialise in binoculars and scopes of all kinds you can be confident in finding the products to suit. Whether you’re viewing it as a hobby or are starting to take it a bit more seriously you’ll need the equipment that can help you make the most of the night sky, so take a look around and you’ll soon have the tools you need to be a backyard astronomer extraordinaire.
The UK may be equally worried about torrential rain and the cold snap, but let’s say for arguments’ sake a few weeks of winter wonderland style snowfall are on their way. Think more along the lines of Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman’ than the grey slush of commuter nightmares!
1. Don’t rely on the auto-setting!
For reasons that shall remain known only to the Snow Queen herself, winter hates the auto-setting on your camera. The snow will do everything in its power to make your images exceptionally dark or glaringly bright (somehow both of these show little to no definition concerning your subject, making that snowman or your joyfully frolicking dog appear as nothing more than a shadowy smear or bright smudge!)
2. Learn to set your own white balance to avoid blue snow!
The white balance setting basically tells the camera how white the white of each image should be. In the face of a gorgeous snowy scene, most cameras will overcompensate for all the white by making the images too blue. To select the right white balance, you can usually look under the format settings of the camera and select “Daylight” or some variation on “Snow”. This will lock the white balance to minimise blue tones and keep the brilliant white of the snow nice and true. (It’s also a great way to make sunsets pop super red!)
3. Argh! Dark Pictures!
The dark is exactly what you want when you’re trying out your new night vision binoculars or one of our latest astronomical telescopes, but on a festive afternoon taking photos of the icing on your garden, you don’t want dark photos!
The light meters on most cameras automatically average around 18% grey. But with so much white in the frame, your camera is tricked into making the image much darker than necessary. Manually increasing the exposure value or selecting a specialist setting (e.g. ‘Snow Scene’ or ‘Snowy Landscape’) means you can brighten up white-heavy shots.
4. Get up early
You may have been up all night with your astronomy telescopes, but if you can soldier on until dawn you’ll see fresh snowfall at its most photogenic. The sunlight is softer, colours more vivid and the snow less trodden. The long shadows of dawn and soft light of the sunrise minimise the risk of blue tones (which become more of an issue closer to midday)
5. Avoid the snow!
There are plenty of colours in a snow-filled landscape – frost on a rich brown pinecone, fresh snowfall on a red letter box, etc – so consider avoiding the issues of snowy photography by focussing on colourful objects. A great tip is to use the fill flash of your camera to help the automatic metering be a little more accurate.
A huge part of successful winter photography is about trial and error. It can be a great idea to avoid auto settings entirely and really get a feel for how your camera works (and few conditions present more of a challenge than snow!)
It’s a cruel fact of the life of the astronomer and those in related disciplines that there’s more chance of being struck by lightning than of actually becoming an astronaut and travelling even remotely close to the stars and celestial marvels studied in the skies above.
But setting aside those little reveries when you gaze up at the night sky coming over all emotional and star struck, what does it really take to be a space man? A 2012 poll on LinkedIn ranked astronaut at no.5 on a list of dream jobs. So, should you have applied?
For one, most astronaut bios read like Tony Stark’s education and achievements! They almost always begin with a childhood obsession with all things celestial – watching the 1969 moon mission launch through their binoculars from their parents’ yard, decorating their bedroom ceiling with the constellations as seen through their astronomical telescopes, etc.
Canadian Astronaut, Jeremy Hansen, is a space newbie at age 36, having only joined the space programme in 2009 after a career flying fighter jets. He says there is no perfect recipe for what makes an astronaut, but nerves of steel and ‘operational skills’ are a must.
“You have to be able to learn, but you don’t have to be the smartest person in the world. We need to know that if we put you in a bad situation, you can handle the stress and pressure of it, and not freak out when things get tough. I flew fighter pilots but there are so many ways to get experience like that.”
Most astronauts have a speciality – communications, mechanical engineering, astrophysicist, biologist, etc. There are three typical categories that each astronaut falls into – payload specialist, mission specialist and pilot/commander.
Payload specialists are responsible for a highly tailored element of a mission. They’re often found outside typical astronaut channels, and are usually specialists in a field who are then trained for space travel in order to use their specialist skills in space. For example, Charles D.Walker was an American engineer who trained as an astronaut specifically to fly on three space missions in the late 1980s (he’d actually failed to gain entry to the ’78 astronaut school, so there’s always hope!)
The difference between a mission specialist and a payload specialist is that mission specialists are trained primarily as astronauts and secondly assigned a small field of operation on each mission. Most of the astronauts living on the International Space Station are mission specialists.
The commander/pilot is in charge of the mission. Depending on the size of the mission, there are numerous ranks and positions to be filled, e.g. pilot, command pilot, docking module pilot, etc. Pilots and commanders are responsible for the success of the mission and safety of the crew rather than a specific task like a payload specialist.
And here’s some great news for budding astronauts; as humankind looks to the stars and the first non-government space programmes quite literally get off the ground, the job prospects for those wanting a genuinely celestial career on the space end of their telescopes are only going to improve!