Equipment Basics
To the
Astronomy Equipment Basics
Mike Powell
What is astronomy
• Astronomy is the science of space beyond
Earth’s atmosphere. The name is derived
from the Greek root “astron” for star, and
“nomos” for arrangement or law.
• Astronomy is concerned with celestial
objects and phenomena – like stars, planets,
comets and galaxies – as well as the largescale properties of the Universe, also known
as “The Big Picture”.
Basic Equipment for Astronomy
Best tool for beginners
Both eyes and right side up
Wide field of view
Low magnification
Relatively inexpensive
More stable views
Adjustable magnification
Narrow field of view
Larger aperture
Wide range of costs
Ability to use for photography
• Main function of a telescope
is to gather light to a single
point, which can then be
• Calculate magnification:
Divide the objective’s focal
length by the focal length of
the eyepiece in use
• Light gathering ability:
Aperture affects the
brightness of images, and the
faintest objects you can see
• Usable magnification is
generally about 2 times the
diameter of the objective as
measured in mm or 50 times
the measurement in inches
• Light is gathered by the
objective - usually a lens or
• The length from the
objective to the focus point
is called the focal length
• Finder scope is a smaller
scope mounted on the main
tube to help you aim at
objects in the sky
Basic Telescope Designs
• Uses a lens to gather the
light to a point
• Most rugged design - easy to
care for
• Gives the sharpest views especially of planets and the
• Most expensive for any
given aperture
• Usually the tube is quite
long, although short tube
designs are now available
• Inexpensive models suffer
from chromatic aberration
Basic Telescope Designs
• Uses a mirror to gather the
light to a point
• Open tube collects dust,
mirror eventually tarnishes
• Requires periodic alignment
(collimating) of the mirrors
• Least expensive for any
given aperture
• Available in both long and
short tube design
• Generally no chromatic
• Most “bang for the buck”
Basic Telescope Designs
Schmidt-Cassegrain, Maksutov
• Uses mirror and lens to
gather the light to a point.
• Sharp views, Maksutov are
almost as good as refractors.
• Closed tube protects optics.
• Moderate cost for any given
• Tube is shortest for any
given aperture.
• Most portable for any given
Telescope Mounts
Altitude-Azimuth (Alt-Az)
• Simple, easy to use
• Inexpensive
• Most portable
• Easy to keep objects in the
field of view
• More difficult to setup
• Usually heavy
Dobsonian (Dob)
• Very easy to use
• Least expensive
• Very stable
Most important: Stability!
Many New mounts
are motorized,
Telescope Accessories
• Eyepieces - many designs,
some costing hundreds of
• Barlow lens - increases
magnification from 2x to 3x
• Filters - for enhanced views
of the planets and moon
• Cameras – for
photographing objects
• Red light flashlight preserves night vision
• Planisphere /Atlas or
Computer Software - helps
you to find your way around
the sky
• An eyepiece, or ocular lens, is a type of lens that is
attached to a variety of optical devices such as telescopes
and microscopes.
• It is so named because it is usually the lens that is closest
to the eye when someone looks through the device.
• The objective lens or mirror collects light and brings it to
focus creating an image. The eyepiece is placed at the focal
point of the objective to magnify this image.
• The amount of magnification depends on the focal length
of the eyepiece.
Some Eyepiece Designs
Color Filters are one of the most popular on every
one's astronomy list. They serve both photographic and
visual purposes and can often be combined "stacked"
with other filters to produce higher results.
While all color filters serve specific purposes, you may
find that certain colors, or stacking two or more filters
improves the view for you. By purchasing Color Filter
Sets, you can experiment and find the right
combination for your needs.
Camera setups
• Web Cameras
• Web Cams (the type used to video conference on the internet) make a
good entry point and are useful for Moon and Planetary use. These
little cameras are normally used to capture several 'still' images and are
then 'stacked' to produce a final image. A webcam adapter lets you
attach the camera to the eyepiece holder on the telescope.
• Digital Cameras with integral lenses
• Ordinary digital cameras can be used with your telescope. Nice thing is
it they can be used for other photography too. The most simple form is
'A-focal' or pointing the camera into the eyepiece to take a photo.
There are several types of mounting attachments available to
physically attach the camera to the telescope.
• Digital SLR Cameras
• Digital SLR Cameras are ideal for astrophotography. 'Prime Focus' is
the method involved where the camera body is attached to the
telescope with an adapter ring. These cameras are suitable for deep sky
and longer exposure photography.
• Dedicated Astro-cameras
• Dedicated Astro-cameras come in all shapes and sizes . . . and price
bands! Advanced cameras coupled to the right telescope configuration
can take images that rank as world class.
• Sky and Telescope
• Astronomy
Introductory Books
• Exploring the Night Sky, Terence
Dickinson (kids)
• Nightwatch, 3rd Ed., Terence
• Turn Left at Orion, 3rd Ed.,
Consolmagno & Davis
• The Binocular Stargazer, Leslie Peltier
• Exploring the Night Sky with
Binoculars, David Chandler
Computer Software
Starry Night Backyard/Pro
SkyMap Pro
DeepSky2000 (Software I Use)
HNSky (Free, I use as well)
Astronomy Clubs
Meetings, Star Parties
Large, club-owned scopes
Thank You
Clear Sky’s!
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