Telescopes can be really expensive, so it’s no surprise that you’re interested in getting a little taste of their capabilities before you sell your car and your kidney to bring one home for yourself.
You need to know if it’s really going to be worth the cost.
The last thing you want is to set your pricey new bit of star snooping tech up only to realize that there’s little difference between its view, and what you see through the peepers the Lord gave you.
After all, eyes cost nothing (unless you have glasses of course).
You’re wise to be a little hesitant, but I’m here to run those fears out of town with this guide on what you can expect to see through a telescope.
We’ll talk about what you can expect stars and other heavenly bodies to look like, and we’ll even check out some astrophotography, so you know exactly what to expect when you look to the skies.
What Can I Expect When Looking Through My Telescope?
Before we take a look at a few snapshots of celestial objects as taken through a telescope, let’s discuss a few basic expectations.
Is The World Turning Upside Down?
One thing that tends to shock a lot of astronomy newbies is that, through a telescope, everything is upside down.
As disorienting as this is at first, it’s important to understand that this doesn’t mean that your telescope is broken or that you’ve set it up incorrectly.
Upside down is exactly how everything should be when you peer into a telescope.
This topsy-turvy orientation is the product of a simple mirror image.
As the light hits the front mirror on a telescope, it flips the image on its head, then beams that image to the lens(es), where you see it.
You see the same principles play out every time you look in a mirror.
You may not be best pleased with the upside down imagery of your telescope at first, but remember, in space, there is no up or down.
If the mirror image is making research a little difficult, just remember to turn any star maps upside down.
You can also invest in something known as a star diagonal.
These nifty bits of kit flip the image back around for you before it hits the eyepiece lens, but there’s a catch.
The more phases you include in the optical network, the more diluted the image will become.
In other words, for a correctly oriented image, you have to sacrifice some clarity.
My advice would be to simply get used to the upside down imagery, as this is really only ever going to be a problem for terrestrial viewing, which I’m assuming you’re not all that interested in.
My Image Isn’t Upside Down. What Have I Done Wrong?
Conversely, if your telescope doesn’t flip the image, that doesn’t mean anything’s wrong either.
Some telescopes flip the image, while others don’t; it all depends on the particular optical system employed by the scope.
A Wash Of Stars
One thing I can absolutely guarantee is that, when you take your first peek through your telescope, you are going to be taken aback by the sheer number of stars twinkling away up in the night sky.
There will be no doubt scores more than you have ever seen with your naked eyes, especially if you live in an urban area with lots of light pollution.
You’ll instantly be dumbstruck by the sheer vastness of the cosmos.
There are countless stars out there, and many of them have been invisible to you your whole life, but now, you’ll be able to see them in their millions.
To put this in perspective for you, the naked eye is capable of seeing roughly 10,000 different stars in the night sky, and that’s with optimal conditions as well.
But with a telescope, that figure jumps to a whopping 50 million stars.
So, yes, telescopes are expensive, but for that one lump sum, you effectively improve your eyesight by 5000% — not bad, huh?
I suppose I should add that this last figure also relies on optimal viewing conditions, so you’re not guaranteed a glimpse of all 50 million observable stars at any one time, but you’ll certainly see a lot more stars than normal regardless of viewing situation.
The Stellar Rainbow
When we look to the stars with nothing but our own eyes, they mostly look white.
Sure, you’ll catch the odd blue or red note here and there, but by and large, they’re white twinkly things.
When you look at stars through a telescope, on the other hand, you’ll be invited into a world of cosmic color.
The night sky will be alive with oranges, blues, and yellows — truer representations of the actual color of stars!
The more powerful the telescope, the more diverse the tonal pallet of the stars becomes.
For example, the Hubble Space Telescope (which we’ll look through in just a second via photographs), is capable of capturing an amazingly diverse array of stellar shades. It can perceive lots of pinks, purple, and even browns.
Another benefit of observing the night sky through a telescope is that you get more of an idea of the size difference from one star to another.
Now, that’s not to say you’ll definitely be able to see which stars are bigger and which stars are smaller, as the distance from planet Earth also has an impact on dimensional perspective, but you’ll have more of an idea than you would with the naked eye.
Without a telescope, you can make out very subtle differences in size, but let’s face it, all 10,000 specimens just look kind of, well… small.
The Learning Curve
Nope, the learning curve is not some wittily named astronomical object or event, it’s simply a learning curve.
Telescopes are complex devices, and it can take time to learn how to align, focus, and just generally operate them, which means the first images you see through your scope probably aren’t going to be all that great.
Telescopes don’t come ready to go straight out the box, so there’ll likely be a trial and error period where you’re trying to learn the ropes and get to grips with the tech, and this trial and error period is composed almost exclusively of dodgy, blurry images of stars.
But don’t let it get you down! Persevere, and you will get through this awkward phase.
It will involve a lot of learning, and perhaps trying out a few different eyepieces and other accessories, but you’ll get there in the end. The fruits of your labor? The stars themselves!
Astrophotography With Commercial Telescopes
The time has come. I’ve nattered away, and you have stuck it out, so now we can check out some real-life photos of celestial objects as seen through commercially available telescopes.
One last thing before we look at some jaw-dropping images, some of them may well have been subtly retouched, and more still might have been snapped using long exposures in order to capture a more complex color profile.
So, take these images with a pinch of salt, but generally speaking, this is what you can expect to see through a consumer-grade telescope.
Found at Lightstalking
Found at Galactic-hunter
Photos Taken By The Hubble Space Telescope
Found at Buzzfeed News
Found at The Atlantic
Found at Forbes
Found at Astronomynow
Now you know what to expect from your telescope, you can buy with confidence! Astronomy is one of the most satisfying and rewarding pursuits any individual can take up, so I hope this article has convinced you to pick up that telescope you’ve been ogling and get involved!
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