How To Use a Telescope

It's exciting to see a planet as if you were hovering over it. But first prepare to handle delicate equipment, read the weather, know what you're looking for in the sky, and develop the patience to wait for the stars to align.


  • TIP: Magnification is not as important as gathering light from far away objects.
  • Step 1: Increase the magnification, noting that some stars disappear, some drift by, and bright objects become opaque disks. Refocus slightly using the screws to improve details.
  • Step 2: Move your setup manually as you view the stars, over time, to adapt to the earth's changing orbit.
  • Step 3: Break down and pack up your gear carefully where you are and carry it in protective cases. Don't risk damaging your equipment.
  • FACT: The telescope was introduced in 1608 in the Netherlands. Galileo developed his the following year.
  • Step 4: Adjust the eyepiece using the three thumb screws to loosen the finder while you view the crosshairs to set the polar axis. Add sun or moon filters to better protect your eyes.
  • TIP: You can sometimes see better by looking to the side of the object instead of straight at it, where color-sensitive cones in the center of your vision may lose the object.
  • Step 5: Select a telescope with a large-diameter lens and mirror, and find a clear line of sight just after sundown. Install one of the lowest power eyepiece lenses, with a high end of 20 or 25 millimeters, for the widest field and brightest image. Point the telescope north.
  • TIP: To calculate the power of the lens, divide the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece.
  • Step 6: Tighten the telescope tube and stabilize the legs. Look through the telescope without the eyepiece and note the circle of light, which is a mirror image reflected at 90 degrees.
  • Step 7: Practice finding objects or star clusters to get comfortable with the instrument without worrying about clarity at first. Align the finder and look for a familiar object, such as the moon. Then lock down the drive mechanism to center the image.
  • Step 8: Plan for for a cloud-free day, just after sundown or before sunup, to best see the stars. Utilize an area away from populations and smog and set up before it's too dark to see what you're doing.

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