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How to use your telescope the right way

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By Mike Lynch
Here are some tips for using that new scope that may not be in the instructions along with some great "first light" targets in the Northwest sky.
Telescope tips
1. Let it cool off: In colder weather you must put your telescope and all the eyepieces outside for 30 to 45 minutes before you use it so the optics acclimatize.
2. Not all clear nights are created equal: High winds in the upper atmosphere and/or near the ground cause bad viewing conditions. Except for the moon most other targets, like planets, nebulae and galaxies, are susceptible. One sign of bad seeing is that the stars will be really be twinkling more than usual. A great website to check on conditions for your location is called Clear Sky Clock at
3. Make sure your finder scope or device is synced with your main scope: Check the directions that came with your scope. Most come with small telescopes that ride piggyback on the main scope.
Some have other finding tools like lasers. Center your main scope first on a bright prominent object on the horizon like a radio tower or a lit-up flag. Next, center the finder scope or device on that same object.
4. Take your time: Take long continuous looks, at least five to 10 minutes at a time. You need to get used to the light level in your eyepiece field and wait for calm patches in the atmosphere. Use your lowest power magnification eyepiece first and work your way up to higher powered eyepieces.
Best targets
1. We have a new crescent moon in the early evening western sky this week. You will be able see a lot of details like craters and mountains and the longer shadows. Your best views will be around what's known as the terminator, the line between the sunlit and darkened part of the moon.
2. Currently Jupiter is the brightest starlike object in the southeastern sky. You should be able to resolve the disk and easily see up to four of Jupiter's brighter moons. If it's clear enough you may also see some cloud bands and even the great Red Spot.
3. The Pleiades star cluster is easily seen with the naked eye in the mid- to high-southeastern sky. Through even a small telescope you can see dozens of very young stars more than 400 light-years away.
4. The Perseus double star cluster is nearly visible to the naked eye. Aim your scope very high between the Cassiopeia and Perseus as you see on the diagram. You'll see two distinct clusters of stars side by side, both 7,000 light-years away.
5. The Orion Nebula, with the naked eye, is the fuzzy middle star of the three that make up the sword of Orion the Hunter. Through a scope you'll see a glob of gas with a bit of a greenish tint, a giant cloud of hydrogen gas. Within it you should be able to see four faint stars arranged in a trapezoid.
They are very young stars, some less than 50,000 years old, that are producing so much ultraviolet radiation they're causing the surrounding nebula to glow.
6. The Andromeda Galaxy, next-door neighbor to the Milky Way is nearly overhead in the constellation Andromeda the Princess.
Mike Lynch is an astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis and is author of "Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations." Check his website,
The Everett Astronomical Society:
Story tags » Star Gazing

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