Saturday, 22 December 2012


Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy With Binoculars

One misconception is that one needs to have a telescope to get started in amateur astronomy. Actually, you do not need a telescope to get started. In fact if people just rushed and buy any telescope it could even turned out to be an obstacle.
Those telescopes in department stores, wrapped in colorful boxes containing beautiful pictures of planets galaxies are just too much for a new comer to resist. Furthermore, these telescopes claimed to have amazing magnification values.
However once at home, they discovered that the telescope is next to being useless for observation. Flimsy tripod, misaligned finder scope, poor quality optics makes it difficult to locate objects in the night sky except the moon. In the end, the telescope probably ends up in the basement and the owner gave up on astronomy altogether.
 A good set of astronomical binocular will be an asset in this hobby. Binoculars give a wide field of view which makes it easy to find objects in the sky. Compared to a naked eye, binoculars with a wide aperture capture more light and the view of the night sky viewed thought a binocular is totally different to the view with the naked eye. Furthermore, most binoculars are built for comfortable use.
A point to note is when purchasing binoculars, invest in one with a tripod mount. This gives the option of mounting the binoculars onto a tripod. Once mounted, binoculars are almost the perfect instrument for astronomy. This makes it far better to any telescope of the same price range i.e. $ 100 to $300.

Step by step of how to get started in astronomy.

Step1 –
 Grab a good book on astronomy. You can search for it in Amazon by typing the words “amateur astronomer guide”. A recommended book is Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning About over 125 Celestial Objects by Philip S. Harrington. This book gives you a good introduction to astronomy and the equipment needed. The recommended book actually has a section that dwells on binoculars. Start this hobby by reading and you are building a good foundation of knowledge in astronomy.
Step2 –
 Get a star map of the night sky or better still a planisphere. A planisphere is a star chart in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot. It can be adjusted to display the visible stars for any time and date. It is an instrument to assist in learning how to recognize stars and constellations. Get one that is correct for your location.

Step3 –
With the planisphere, get outside and learn to identify some constellation. There are some constellations easily identifiable depending on the month. In winter month, the constellation Orion is the most easily recognizable. Then from there move on to others. Practice this and in no time you will be very familiar. Oh another thing, you will need a flash light with a red filter or a red LED flash light to read the planisphere in the dark. Why red light? Well just say that our eyes have a low sensitivity to red light. Thus you can look at your planisphere with a dim red light without losing your dark adaptation.

Step4 -
It is time to get a binocular. Now don’t just get any binocular from the department stores. Go to a specialty astronomy store, using the book in step 1 as a guide. It is recommended you get a decent pair of 7 x 50 binoculars. Any higher power will magnify your hand vibration. A 7 x has the right balance for hand held or tripod mount. So with your new bino, start exploring the constellation that you had been making friends with earlier in step 3.
Time to start hunting for other objects in the sky. You look for galaxies, deep sky objects and planets using your binocular. For this you will need a guide. A good guide book recommended is "Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them by Guy Consolmagno, Dan M. Davis". It is a great book for beginners to start hunting deep sky objects. Although the book is geared towards small telescopes users, it is still a good guide for binoculars users too.

Follow these 5 steps will get you started in amateur astronomy. An in no time you will can call yourself and amateur astronomer.
Also make yourself comfortable during your sky gazing session. As you will be out there in the night or early hours it will be cold. Use warm clothing and have hot drinks and light snacks ready. A hot drink makes a nice relief after watching the night sky for hours in the cold. Get a lawn chair too. It is a pain in the neck for you to keep looking up with your binocular. It will be a pleasure lying down on the lawn chair and looking up at the night sky with your binocular. Enjoying the beauty of the night sky this way is a totally unique and relaxing experience.