How Do You Transport A Telescope Safely?

Becoming lost in the night’s sky is a wonderful experience. Stargazing from your very own backyard can be fun but street lights in your neighborhood can significantly impede your views.

Sometimes, you will need to venture to more distant locations to see the stars and planets in all of their glory. 

How Do You Transport A Telescope Safely

While traveling to different regions is exciting, it means transporting your telescope. The logistics of carrying this equipment can be a little tricky and also intimidating. Firstly, telescopes can be expensive pieces of gear.

Transporting it somewhere leaves it at a greater risk of becoming damaged. And this is the last thing you want.

Therefore, you will want to transit your telescope safely. Today, we are going to talk about some useful tips and ideas to help you move your observation equipment safely from one location to the next. 

Use original packaging

If you’re fortunate enough to still have the telescope’s original packaging then this is a great option for safe transport. 

More often than not, the packaging comes with customized styrofoam cutouts. This conforms perfectly to your telescope’s shape offering a protective casing for your optical tube assembly and various components. 

Of course, many of us simply throw away the packaging after we have owned the telescope. The idea that you may need the protective packaging again doesn’t enter your mind with the sheer excitement of using your new device.

Transporting by car

You will usually transport your telescope in two main parts:

  • The tube
  • The mount

To protect the tube, consider using foam sleeping mats. For instance, you could use a 30-inch foam sleeping mat and then cut it in half. Then, double this up to make a 6-inch thicker padding to encompass your tube. 

You can insulate the parts by using thick blankets. If you place the telescope in the trunk of your car, you can use bungee cords to strap it down securely. This will stop the telescope from moving around and becoming damaged. 

Before you leave the house, you should remove the various accessories from the optical tube such as the finderscope, eyepiece, and bracket. You can then store the mount separately across the back seat of your vehicle. 

One of the biggest concerns is cracking the telescope’s mirror when in transit. However, even the thinnest telescope mirrors are very tough.

If yours is a little thicker, then it should be sturdy enough. That being said, you should still take precautions and wrap it up in a blanket to be on the safe side.

The safest place for your mirror is in the mirror cell. There is a much lower risk of accidental damage when you handle the mirror less.

Just try and leave it alone and drive slowly, especially when you approach bridges, speed bumps, and roads laden with potholes. 

Can we carry a telescope in flight?

If you’re feeling overly adventurous or you want to experience some of the best stargazing areas such as Utah’s Bryce Canyon National park or the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand, then you may need to jump on a plane.

If you want to keep your optical tube assemblies in one piece, you should never transport them as checked baggage.

Airline baggage handlers will not know how valuable or precious these items may be and will rarely handle the luggage with as much care as you would hope for.

Unless you like to play Russian Roulette with your telescope and airline baggage handlers, we strongly advise other methods.  

Checking in your tripod and mount is usually a safe enough option and the most convenient way if they are quite large.

For practicality, smaller or more compact telescopes are best for air travel. There are generally no specific rules that bar you from bringing telescopes onto airplanes.

The main obstacle and question you will come across is whether the case or bag that holds the telescope is small enough to take on as carry-on luggage. 

To make sure you’re not met with any nasty surprises at the airport, check the rules of the airline beforehand. It is worth investigating the regulations of numerous airlines before you book a ticket to find the least restrictive rules regarding carry-on luggage.

With careful preparation, you can save yourself the pain of extra costs for check-in luggage at the airport and the worry that your prized telescope will become damaged in transit.

The best option is to use a hard-sided compact case to protect your telescope. While this may not be possible with some airlines, it is a sure way of ensuring the certain parts of the telescope are as safe as they could be.

Just make sure the tube and eyepiece are covered by their respective caps. Always protect your optics!

When it comes to batteries, you must bear in mind that wet cell batteries are not allowed on flights. The only exception is if they are part of or power any medical devices. Therefore, your best option is to purchase batteries when you reach your destination. 

As with all carry-on bags, you must consider the total weight of your telescope. Weight restrictions can vary between different airlines.

If you’re catching a connecting flight, this can become a frustrating hurdle so do your research on weight restrictions before the flights.

Check your essential components

Once you arrive at your destination, you should unpack your telescope and test it. This will confirm if all the essential components are working correctly. You should check:

  • The polar alignment
  • The auto-guide corrections
  • The telescope focus
  • The mount alignment
  • The telescope’s tracking 

Hopefully, all of the telescope’s controls will operate smoothly. If so, you’re ready for a night of stargazing to remember. 

In Summary

Transporting a telescope for the first time can be daunting, worrying, and stressful. But, if you take your time and prepare properly, your telescope should be fine.

By following our above tips, you and your telescope should get to your destination in one piece. All that’s left then is to set up your telescope, sit back, and enjoy the stars as you’ve never seen them before.

Gordon Watts