Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Friday, November 18, 2016

stargazing gear

Here's another something that we will be doing more of in the near future: stargazing! Darker skies. Fewer people. No passenger jets or news choppers constantly whizzing around above us.

Like any hobby, stargazing can get pricey. There is a great intro to astronomy gear of all kinds at

A few snips:
"If you're just getting started in astronomy, the best thing to do is to first spend some time under the stars with just your eyes and get acquainted with the brighter stars and constellations," says skywatching columnist Joe Rao.
A good astronomy app can really help you get oriented. Check out our Mobile Stargazing page to understand what they can do. Reading books, watching documentaries, or listening to podcasts on how the cosmos works can whet your appetite for seeing these phenomena for yourself.
At some point, you'll probably want to go deeper than your unassisted eye can take you. The next step may be binoculars or a telescope.
Choosing a quality telescope is like picking the right vehicle to drive. Do you need a compact instrument to zip around to observing sites easily? Or a big truck to haul in loads of photons from distant galaxies? Do you want to investigate planets in our own star system? Or cities of stars far away?
Beginning skywatchers will need to choose between four kinds of telescopesreflectorsrefractorshybrid and Dobsonian.'s Best Telescopes for the Money can help.  Be aware that a new breed of telescopes has come to market, which are driven entirely from your mobile device. Amateur astronomy is about to get very interesting!
The Celestron SkyProdigy 130 is a fine example of a mid-market reflector. It sports an onboard computer to make your sky-sailing easy and fun. It aligns itself on the sky in under 4 minutes, so you don't really have to know star names to get up and running. The 5-inch (130mm) aperture is big enough to capture galaxies.
Orion's SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope is a wonderful mid-price Dobsonian, best suited to those who like to drive around the sky manually. This big "light bucket" really hauls in the photons from the depths of the cosmos.
The Levenhuk SkyMatic 105 GT Mak-Cas is a great hybrid ("catadioptric"), using both lenses and mirrors to make a compact, highly portable telescope. It's SynScan computer can get you to nearly 43,000 objects under very dark skies. As an added bonus, you can use the scope to spot daylight sights – like animals or sporting events – as well.
Celestron's AstroFi 90 WiFi is a classic refractor with a digital twist: You run it entirely from your smartphone or tablet. You won't need access to a network; the AstroFi scope is a network and will work even where your cellular networks don't. The 3.5-inch (90 mm) aperture and hassle-free sealed optical tube is a good choice for planet-watching.
Just make sure to buy an "image-erecting" prism diagonal (like Orion's "Correct Image" diagonal) to make sure your images are right-side up and not reversed editors have come up with a list of some of the best telescopes for beginners.
Whichever you chose, please do yourself a favor and don't buy a cheap scope from a department store. Poor optics and flimsy hardware will turn you off to the beauty and majesty of the sky before you've really seen it.
Binoculars can work in a pinch:

Astronomy Binoculars
If you want to start small and portable – or feel intimidated by the idea of lugging around a big telescope – good skywatching binoculars can help. For not much money and comparatively little weight binoculars can reveal night-sky sights unavailable to the naked eye.  And, of course, you can use binoculars in daylight for birding, sports, people-watching, nautical navigation and more.
Most astronomy binoculars use "porro prisms" rather than the "roof prisms" common to smaller sports optics. To pick the best binoculars for your particular needs, try's handy binocular buyer's guide: How to Choose Binoculars for Astronomy and Skywatching
One of my favorite binoculars is the relatively small Oberwerk Mariner 8x40 (the numbers show you magnification). It has an extremely sharp focus, boasts great light-transmission properties and draws in a wide field. At just 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) in length, the rugged pair of binoculars makes for a good "grab-and-go" option. I use them at the telescope to spot interesting swaths of sky that I may want to investigate in fine detail.
You may not need a telescope at all if you go with "large" binoculars, like the Celestron SkyMaster 25x100. You will need a tripod, and perhaps a counterweighted arm to manage these in comfort. The eyepieces of these binoculars each focus separately – it's like working two telescopes sitting side by side. Some people find this too much to deal with. You may want to look into binoculars that use a center focus knob, like Orion's 20x80 Astronomy model.
You can find out which binoculars we recommend for stargazing in our guide: Best Astronomy Binoculars (Editors' Choice)
And there are apps and accessories you should consider: A cloaking device? A Dew Zapper? A chair? Portable power? A chair!

Just get out there and look out!

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