The invention of the telescope is certainly one of the best things that ever happened. Telescopes allow us to observe the remarkable objects around and beyond our planet, making as more appreciative of the sights we’re able to see. I’m sure you’re ready for this, so let’s begin!
Like camera lenses, telescopes are also classified according to their ability. There are two terms we must understand with telescopes—the aperture and the optical quality. The aperture of a telescope refers to the diameter of its objective lens, which tells you how much light your telescope can gather and the highest resolution it can reach. On the other hand, the optical quality pertains to the telescope’s ability to transmit an unaltered picture.
Why do we have to know these? Because the objects you can see with your telescope will depend on the aperture and optical quality of the telescope.
Telescopes can be small, medium, or large. To start off, small and cheap telescopes can either have 70-80 mm Newtonian reflector or a 50-80mm refractor. This type costs about $50-$150 and has a low-grade optical quality. Meanwhile, medium telescopes priced at $200-$500 usually have a 150mm Newtonian reflector, an 80-100mm refractor, or a 90-130mm Maksutov Cassegrain which has an average optical quality. Lastly, large telescopes that cost $600 and higher have a 200-300mm reflector, a 120-150mm refractor, or a 200-250mm Schmidt-Cassegrain that has a high optical quality. Observing deep sky objects would require an aperture of 200mm or more from a telescope.
Now that you know those three, let’s move on to the amazing sky objects. Put your ready-to-learn face on!
The best target for first-timers is the moon. Its radiance is so inspiring even at low magnifications! Although you won’t get a clear and sharp image of the moon’s surface with a small telescope, it’s enough to have an idea of what the moon looks like. If you use a bigger telescope with a higher quality, you’ll be able to zoom in and see the rills, craters, and mountains to behold. Now that’s a sight your spotting scope nor your binoculars can’t give you!
You could also observe the sun with your telescope, providing you have a full aperture filter such as an H-alpha or a daylight filter. In the case of the sun, because it’s power is just too blinding, a telescope with a small aperture but a high optical quality is better. You’ll be able to see the sun and its famous sunspots with the help of the filter.
Who wouldn’t want to gaze upon the magnificence of the planets? Of course, with your powerful telescope, you’ll be able to observe the eight planets in our solar system. However, you’ll only be able to appreciate Mars (mostly during opposition), Jupiter, and Saturn because they reveal themselves more than the rest.
These three are the planets that will put on a show for you. Jupiter can show its cloud bands and Mars can show its clouds and dust storms. Pretty amazing, huh? Jupiter boasts of its four Galilean moons too. These moons rotate around the planet, transiting and casting a shadow over the planet from time to time. Check out the animation we’ve presented here.
You’ll be able to see the moons of Saturn too. And if you use a medium telescope, Mercury and Venus will show their phases. Venus, depending on her mood, can even display indications of cloud details. Meanwhile, Neptune and Uranus will appear like tiny greenish or bluish disks through your telescope—no matter how large it is.
Note that to see the fine details of the planet, your telescope should have enough aperture and quality optics. In addition, it should be collimated properly and if the aperture is large, it should be cooled the right way.
However, atmospheric turbulence can still affect the way you see these breathtaking objects. This might make the image somewhat dance and become blurry. It’s then best to observe when the night sky is clear.
Nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies fall under this category. They are the objects past our solar system. When observing the deep sky objects, you don’t need a telescope with high magnifications. The aperture, though, should be of quality because you need all the light you can gather to observe them. The ability to view DSO can also be affected by sky darkness. For instance, if you’re in the middle of a polluted city, it’s better to forget the whole observing thing. Examples of the deep sky objects you can observe with a telescope are The Swan Nebula, The Virgo Cluster, The Hercules Cluster, The Messier 26 Open Cluster, The NGC 7662 Planetary Nebula, The Pinwheel Galaxy, The Andromeda Galaxy, and The Milky Way Galaxy. Still, if you’re a beginner, it’ll be difficult for you to see the details of the DSO. They don’t usually show color unlike what we see in pictures, so it’s best to aim for the brightest stars in open clusters and the most colorful planetary nebulae.
Through your telescope, you can see individual stars that are situated close to each other, these are called double stars. There are pairs that can be observed with your small telescope but some tight pairs require a more quality telescope. Two of the pairs you can observe are Beta Monoceri and Albireo.
The tiny icy objects out of our solar system called comets can also be observed when they get close to the Sun and show themselves. We can see their coma, the nebulous envelope, and the nucleus first but as it moves closer to the Sun, they transform into a brighter and bigger sky object which can develop a spectacular tail of gas and dust.
On the other hand, rocky objects in the inner solar system called asteroids can also be observed through a telescope but the largest asteroids will only appear as stars. They are interesting to observe because their movement, when compared to background stars, can be noticed after a few hours.