Monday, October 15, 2012

A Quick Astronomy Question

Q: What beginner telescope would you recommend for a young adult? What field guide or book?

A:  The book I would recommend is the Pocket Sky Atlas.  This was the required field book for my Observational Astronomy class.  Also, I would suggest learning how to use a Skymap.  They can be found here, each month a new one comes out with this months events in Astronomy, and what the sky will be like on a nice clear night.

As for telescopes, there are many factors to consider.

One: What will you be using it for?  How deep into the night sky do you want to see?  I guarantee you won't have a view like the Hubble, but you would be surprised what you can find with a simple telescope.

Two: This is a big one.  Budget.  You can easily spend less than a $1,000 on a new telescope.  If I could go out and buy the telescope I wanted right now I would probably spend $500-$700.  (That would most likely include the accessories that I want)

When you look at telescopes there are several different styles to consider.   I'm partial to reflecting telescopes, but there are also refractors.  Reflecting uses mirrors, Refracting uses lenses.  Both work very well, I'm just more used to reflecting

Another option to consider is the size of the aperture.   Basically the larger the diameter of the barrel the better the view.  Of course, the larger the barrel the less likely you are going to move it a lot. is a good resource for looking into different telescopes.  They have a beginner telescopes section with prices ranging from ~$50 to ~$400.  The other thing to consider is binoculars.  A nice pair can be turned to the night sky and you can see a surprising amount.  Actually the skymap mentioned above lists what you can see with binoculars each month as well.

So the actual recommendation?  Well looking around, I found a reasonable one.  It is a 3 inch reflecting telescope.  It is a table top style, which means it is very small.  But it also comes bundled with a tripod here.  I'm not a huge fan of the table top style, but a lot of that depends on your viewing area and set up.  If you had a tripod, it would be a lot more versatile which is what sold me on it. 

To me, if you go below a three inch telescope you might as well get binoculars.  The biggest limitation to using binoculars is that if you don't have a stand for them, you have a hard time sharing the view.

Good Luck,

A personal explanation

I want to apologize for my absence lately.  I have been pretty divided.  I realize that this is rather unprofessional of me, and I am sorry.  I am human.  I had intended to write another post about science news for September.  I was asked a question recently about the most recently discovered comet "C/2012 S1 (ISON)."  I also want to follow up on the initial Higgs article with a more indepth question I was asked.

So where have I been?  Well September is a bad month.  There are two things that make it very personally depressing.  I spent the end of September with a friend.  The first week of October I experienced an increase in my mood, but was playing catch up with house and life matters.  The second week I prepared to throw a party.  Now it is the third week of October.  I have to work this weekend (just like I did all the other weekends with exception of this past one).

I also have been working on a new project.  I have a line of jewelry I make, and I started a blog for it.

I am hoping to resume writing on here true scientific posts soon.  I will most likely cover the comet question first.