The Study of Astronomy

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Study of Astronomy
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Astronomy trivia is so interesting because the universe is something that we are constantly learning more about. It would be impossible for any one person to learn everything there is to know about astronomy, as the nearly endless night sky provides endless opportunities for the interested person to continue learning.

An Astronomy quiz might involve the study of the planets, the stars, or other heavenly bodies such as comets and meteors. A common place for the beginning student of astronomy to learn about is the planets in our own Galaxy. They are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Formerly, Pluto was known as a planet but it has since been declassified as such.

The study of astronomy often begins with an interest in the constellations that are visible in the night sky. A constellation is a configuration of stars that astronomers have grouped together into patterns which represent certain symbols as a way of recognizing or remembering them. One of the most commonly seen constellations that is recognized the most easily is the Big Dipper.

There are many other constellations which can be easily recognized even by someone with just a passing interest in Astronomy trivia. Orion’s belt, a series of three aligned stars is one of the easiest to see. There are actually 88 official constellations, which include those that represent all the signs of the zodiac.

An interesting point for any Astronomy quiz is that the constellations as humans have identified them are only a creation based on human perception. Our eyes are unable to differentiate the vast differences in distance between many of the stars which are part of the same constellations. Some times stars in the same constellation will actually be millions of light years apart, but our inability to perceive depth in the night sky makes them appear in such a way that we can imagine them as a pattern.

Another point worth noting for someone interested in astronomy is that it has been posited by astronomers that many of the stars that we see in the night sky are no longer even there. Because of the vast distances across space that separate the stars from earth, the light from the stars takes an incredibly long amount of time to reach earth.

That period of time is such that many of those stars have likely burnt out since the time that they were actually light.
Before I begin yet more suggestions on what things to buy, here are a few points which could potentially save you some disappointments later on:

Magnification matters. To see the gap between rings of Saturn, you need at least three-hundred to four-hundred times magnification. But the thing to remember is that magnification factor is dependent upon eyepiece, and not upon the telescope itself. Therefore, telescopes known as “department store telescopes”, which advertize “magnification 500 x telescopes”, are not to be trusted.

At the same time, every telescope has its maximal useful magnification, which is dependent on the diameter of the telescope and its construction, and which basically indicates the most powerful eyepiece that can reasonably be inserted into telescope.

More magnification, and you just get fuzzier picture. For 8 inch (20 cm) diameter Schmidt-Cassegrain, maximum magnification is about 450 times. For those who wish to calculate magnification factor of an eyepiece/telescope, the combination is calculated as the focal length of the telescope divided by the focal length of the eyepiece. These numbers are usually written on eyepieces and telescopes.

You WILL see a great deal more stars than even through binoculars. So much more, in fact, that it becomes really tricky to find your bearings. Add to that different radii of different eyepieces, and you have an instant recipe for stress. Your new telescope will quickly transform into a really expensive dust collector.

You will NOT see shiny blue or red nebulae through telescope. In the best of circumstances, you will see grey clouds with hints of structure. This is true for both emission and reflection nebulae. Even brightest ones, such as Dumbell Nebula or Ring Nebula have color only on photographs. Galaxies are even worse. They are large and scattered and really hard to see. Especially from light polluted areas.

This is due to the fact, that color receptors in our eyes are much less sensitive than the receptors that detect light (i.e. black and white). To view colors, you’ll need to collect lots more photons to your eyes, and for that you would need telescope the size of the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Not your average beginners telescope, by any standard.

Developing from the bottom up

The Study of Astronomy
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Astronomy gear is similar to house building – you will need a reliable foundation if you don’t want your skyrise apartment to collapse or be wobbly in the lightest wind. And the foundation of the telescope is called mount with tripod. The tripod holds all of the gear on it; for that reason, it must be sturdy and quite heavy.

Experienced users, who have a permanent arrangement built for their telescope, prefer to replace the tripod with a solid concrete pier. This is how robust and firm an ideal tripod should be. In any case, you will wish to have the tripod that doesn’t vibrate very long after you tap it or stumble on it. Because, believe me, you will stumble on tripod.

Tripod normally holds the mount. Mount is the gadget that moves the telescope’s optical tube. It has to move it smoothly. If you want to see a crater on the Moon, that is currently at the edge of your field of view, and, because of poor mount mechanism, you jerk the telescope half way across the sky, the desire to discover secrets of the night skies will dwindle very quickly. The mount also needs to be firm. If you point it to a particular star, you don’t want your telescope turning to the lawn all by itself.

Mount construction can be Alt-Azimuth or equatorial. Alt-azimuth mount moves just as you’d expect it to: left-right and up-down. This is excellent for terrestrial watching. The problem is that stars in the sky move in a type of semi-circular motion. Which means that you will need to manoeuvre both axes of the telescope in order to follow the sky. Not a large problem for visual observations.

Also, this means that while you follow one star in the telescope, the field of view revolves around it. Again, this is not a big drawback for visual observation, but rather big obstacle for long exposure astrophotography. To track rotation of the night sky, you will need Equatorial mount. It also has two axes that are called “declination” and “right ascension”. This type of mount is much more complex to set up, and it needs to be aligned towards the north with great precision.

But once it is aligned, it means that you can track celestial objects in the sky by moving only one axis and the star field will not turn around in the eyepiece, rather the entire telescope moves with it. When you buy the first telescope, I would suggest a good Alt-azimuth mount.

It really is less difficult to work with, and when you get a heavy gear hooked up to PCs and digital cameras later on, it can still be used to get a short look-see of some engaging thing on the other side of the sky. Mount and tripod will be the root of a telescope. My advice – invest more in them than in optical tube. Later on, when you decide that you want more power, purchase just a new optical tube – the trusty old mount will hold it.

Optical tube – a bucket which collects distant light

In principle, the bigger the telescope size, the more light it collects, the more brilliant the images, the more you see. In practice, all the artificial lightning at night means that with bigger telescope, you only gather more of a terrestrial light pollution. From towns, you will be doomed to bright objects anyway, therefore, for the first scope, choose quality of optics rather than the quantity of diameter.

There are three major kinds of telescopes: Refractor, reflector and catadioptric. Each has its own pluses and minuses. For a first telescope, a good refractor is perhaps the best choice, which can help you if you think that you might sometime progress to astrophotography. This refractor can then be used for guiding camera, which will keep your imaging telescope and camera super steady for deep space photos.

Eyepieces – where the stars meet the eye

To see details of crater Clavius on the Moon, you will need the maximum amount of magnification that your telescope can muster. This means short focal length eyepiece. However, with that magnification you’d miss Great Andromeda galaxy completely – you need less magnification, and also as wide field of view as possible. This means long focal length eyepiece developed to show ultra-wide field.

Eyepieces come in all varieties and measures. There are some that are over one pound in weight, but most are more manageable. An essential property of the eyepiece is the barrel dimension, or the diameter of the tube that fits the telescope. Two sizes dominate now: 1 1/4 inch, which is the most popular dimension, and 2 inch, which is commonly found on bigger telescopes. Additionally, there is the.925 inch size. This is the size found on a number of department store telescopes and both such telescope and eyepiece should be avoided.

Most small telescopes may be bought in tripod-mount-optical tube packages. Typically, they include a few eyepieces – one with short focal length for high magnifications and one with longer focal length for wide field views.

In the end, below are a few purchasing pointers in a nutshell:

Good tripod and mount are definitely more important than optical tube. Telescopes magnify things. Not only things we’re trying to watch. They also magnify vibrations of the telescope if you move it. And when you are searching for the little spots of light in a tiny, dim circle, having them leap around like mad fireflies can entirely spoil your experience.

Start off small, plan large – don’t go for the biggest and most complicated telescope that you can afford. Buy a small scope of good visual quality. When you progress in amateur astronomy, this may consequently be used as a guide scope for astrophotography, or as secondary scope or (properly filtered) as solar scope. Also, small telescope can be smoothly positioned, repositioned and stored almost totally assembled, which happens to be excellent plus if you only want to see one thing quickly.

If you are purchasing separate eyepieces, decide upon 2-3 that could cover almost all of the telescopes magnification range.

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