Stargazing With a Telescope

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9781554070275: Stargazing With a Telescope

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Buying a telescope is crucial for enhancing interest in astronomy. With so many choices, how does the beginner choose? Robin Scagell supplies the expert objective advice to making a smart purchase.

Stargazing With a Telescope is a practical guide that demystifies the process of buying a telescope. The features and benefits of the different types of viewing instruments are evaluated in straightforward terms. The color illustrations help to clarify the choices.

Equipment covered includes:

  • Binoculars: a range of choices for astronomers at any level
  • Refractors: classic telescopes that are easy to use and maintain
  • Reflectors: sophisticated instruments that allow night sky photography
  • Catadioptrics: compact telescopes that are gaining popularity.

The book provides brand names and model numbers and the general advice applies to all brands, not just those covered. Lens size, focal lengths, focal ratios and much more is explained with clear diagrams and non-scientific text. Also covered are suitable accessories such as eyepieces, filters, mounts and supports, and suggestions for photography through the telescope, and choice of camera and film types. Useful tips are provided on setting up and using any telescope as well as a review of objects to look at with different sizes of telescope.

There is also valuable advice on how to instantly spot misleading labels on low-end telescopes. These are often bought for young, aspiring astronomers who quickly become discouraged with the telescope's poor performance.

Stargazing With a Telescope is a must for newcomers to astronomy whatever their age.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Robin Scagell, formerly the Vice-President of the Society for Popular Astronomy, is the author of six astronomy books.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

This book is for anyone who always wanted an astronomical telescope I but was never sure how to go about it, or maybe who has one already and doesn't know how to put it to best use. It is written for the beginner to astronomy, and for that reason I have tried not to make assumptions about what you might know already. With the help of this book you should be able to make sense of the ads you find in the astronomy magazines, and know what all the bits and pieces are for. I hope I can guide you through some of the pitfalls that may result in making a wrong choice. There are some things I can't cover, particularly regarding the quality of instruments from particular manufacturers, but I hope I have given enough detail for you to make up your own mind.

When it comes down to it, telescopes are very individual things. The optics are usually hand-finished, and they must be aligned accurately within the tube -- which leaves plenty of room for things to go wrong. If you get a bad telescope, you should expect it to be replaced -- but you will have to know what you are talking about. Even the best telescope manufacturers tell stories of customers who insisted that the instrument they had bought was no good, even though in reality it might have been of excellent quality. Few people know what to expect to start with and there is no driving test for telescopes! I hope this book will give you a good start and the confidence to know what you are seeing.

There are other books that take things a stage further, either regarding telescopes or astronomy, so I hope that once you have found your feet with this book you will be able to progress further. I recommend Philip S. Harrington's Star Ware (John Wiley) for learning more about telescopes and accessories and Norton's StarAtlas and Reference Handbook, edited by Ian Ridpath (Pi Press), for more general observing methods. If you would like a basic introduction to astronomy as well as star maps and a constellation guide, modesty does not prevent my mentioning my own Night Sky Atlas (Firefly).

When I wrote the first edition of this book, GO TO telescopes were new on the market. Now they are an established part of the scene, while other instrument designs have been developed. There is more choice than ever before, to the extent that not only the beginner but also more experienced telescope users find it hard to keep up with what's new. So that the book does not go out of date, I have created a dedicated web-site to accompany the book -- www.stargazing.org.uk. There, you can find out about new instruments on the market, more comments on those in this edition, and even let me know your own views.

Because this book is intended for a worldwide market, over a period of time, I've had to give just an indication of prices. That's why you will find references to costs in terms of other purchases -- such things as a TV set, hi-fl or car. This may be indirect, but it has its advantages. First, it is independent of your local market conditions. In general, the relative costs of such goods are the same wherever you are. Second, it doesn't date very much. And third, it puts into context the cost of a hobby like astronomy compared with other household goods. It would be even more telling to compare it with the costs of some other leisure items, such as sports goods, but comparatively few people are aware of the price of skis, golf clubs or ice hockey gear, for example.

Actually, you can enjoy astronomy at minimal expense, even if your skies are poor. We tend to see the photos taken by people with large telescopes, expensive equipment and access to ideal observing sites, but you can get a great deal of enjoyment from observing outside your back door with a small telescope or even binoculars. The important thing is to get out there and use your eyes, and to do your best with what's available. It costs very little to make friends with the Universe.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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