Before you check out one of our LTP telescopes, we suggest planning ahead so you can get the most out of your time with the device. Think about what things you’d like to observe and possibly look at some online resources to find out when that particular object is visible in the sky. For example, observing the moon may be difficult during certain times of the month, and it may be necessary to wait a couple of weeks before it comes into better view.
How to find objects in the night sky
If you are not familiar with the night sky, there are plenty of online resources you can use to help you navigate the cosmos.
Below are seasonal quick star guidest that gets you oriented quickly on the bright stars up in the evening. Print them out and study the patterns before you go out. There is a checklist of objects to observe and check off at the bottom of the page followed by simple maps.
Stellarium is a excellent free software you can download and install on your computer. This kind of program is called a “planetarium software” that will show you what is visible in the night sky. Software like this will allow you to input your location and change the time setting so you can see what will be visible in the night sky at a certain place and time. You can advance the clock to see what objects will rise up in the east and what will be setting in the west as the Earth turns on its axis during the night. Using the search bar you can simply key in the object name and the software will show you where the object can be found. This is an excellent tool for planning your observations, and getting familiar with the constellations. Other planetarium programs include Celestia and Cartes Du Ciel, which are both free to download and work on most computer operating systems. However, Stellarium is widely regarded as the most user-friendly.
If you have a tablet or smartphone, this can be an excellent device to have with you during your observations. There are a number of free planetarium apps you can install to help you find objects in the night sky. For example, Stellarium is also available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, but there are many others. Sky Safari and Distant Suns are both excellent and free to download.
Your first night with the telescope
Because many objects in the night sky are faint and difficult to see, having your vision dark-adapted is important. It may take up to 20 minutes (or more) to fully adapt your night vision. White light will ruin your dark-adapted vision. Ideally, you should use a red flashlight for viewing sky charts etc. once your vision is dark-adapted. This way, the pupils of your eyes will remain dilated and seeing faint details in the telescope will be easier.
Check the weather!
It will always be colder outside than you think. Bring a jacket! If you plan to take your LTP telescope out to a remote location, you may want to check online and see how the clouds may effect your observing session. Aviation Weather provides infrared radar data that shows exactly what the clouds will be like for your area. This will always be more accurate than what you may find on an ordinary weather app.
If you have any other questions, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or come visit us at our next club meeting at the River Ridge Observatory where you can ask questions and get answers.