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Telescopes

¨  Will I see galaxies and nebulae with a focal length of 700m and these eyepieces?
¨  Where do I locate Jupiter and Venus in the night sky?
¨  Is the Meade ETX-70 telescope good?
¨  Free software programs to run Bushnell telescope
¨
  Should I put money into a new telescope or new eyepieces?
¨
  Can you control an Autostar telescope with a laptop?
¨  How can I improve a telescope's focal length?
¨
  Power of eyepieces
¨
  Are there any 1mm, 2mm or 3mm eyepieces?
¨
  Mars looked fuzzy in my telescope. Should I return it?
¨  How do the coordinates work on an equatorial mount?
¨  Websites with pictures of planets taken with beginner or intermediate telescopes

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QUESTION:
Can I see galaxies and nebulaes with a focal length of 700mm with theses eyepieces: 20mm, 18mm, 5mm, 4mm, 2x and 3x Barlow lenses.  Where is a good place to start to find the nearest galaxy or nebulae?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on August 28, 2005:
One of the best target lists to start out with is the "Messier" catalog.  It started out as a listing of night-sky objects that comet hunter Charles Messier put together to eliminate any confusion between these bright deep-sky objects and potential comets he was hunting for.  The list contains stellar clusters, galaxies and nebulas.  They are all fairly bright and will be visible with a modest sized telescope of around 4.5" or so (even smaller is fine).  You can see a good listing of the Messier Catalog at http://www.seds.org/messier/ . Some of my favorites include "M42" which is the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy or "M31".

Various Messier objects are viewable at different times throughout the year, but in the springtime in the Northern Hemisphere they are all visible throughout the night.  Amateurs around the world are inspired to participate in the "Messier Marathon" and trying to find all of them in one night.

For deep-sky objects I strongly recommend as wide of an eyepiece view as possible, especially while hunting them down.  So, start with the 20mm and if you find what you're looking for work your way up.  Don't worry about using the Barlow.  It will make the image too magnified not to mention nearly impossible to use to find the objects in the first place.

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QUESTION:
Can you help me locate Jupiter and Venus in my night sky?  I can't get my Autostar telescope to track to objects like it's supposed to.  I tried to find the Moon and the Andromeda Galaxy with it and it didn't work properly.

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 25 August 2005:
Your problems from your telescope tracking may be the result of incorrectly setting it up to start with.  That can be a bit tricky for new users.  Ensure that you're starting from the right place based on what your manual says.  Look up "autostar help" on Google and you'll come back with good hits with information you probably need.

Both Jupiter and Venus are visible in the western sky shortly after sunset.  You won't need self-tracking or anything fancy on your telescope.  Venus is the extremely bright 'star-like' object you'll see in the orange sky of the setting Sun and Jupiter is just to the left and a little up from that. Enjoy!

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QUESTION:
I am about to buy a Meade ETX-70 Astro Telescope with Autostar Hand Controller.  It has a focal length of 350mm.  It costs $300.00.  Should I buy the telescope?  Is it a good telescope?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 18 August 2005:
There is no "right" answer to this particular question.  Sometimes it's easy to say "NO!" about some telescope purchase questions (like saying "NO" to nearly any telescope you'll find in your local department store), but in this case Meade is a well known brand name and is known for decent quality in their commercially mass-produced telescopes.

My suggestion here would be to:

1. Check out prices on various retailers websites online, such as http://www.optcorp.com/ or http://www.astronomics.com/ and see what they are asking for that particular telescope

2. Then visit http://www.scopereviews.com/ or http://www.cloudynights.com/ to get some user reviews.  More websites can be found at: http://astronomylinks.com/telescopes/reviews/

3. Lastly, the ETX line has many user websites dedicated to it, so visiting some of those would be very helpful as well.  Visit http://astronomylinks.com/telescopes/specific_models/meade/ for a list of those.

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QUESTION:
Do you know of any free software programs that will let me control a Bushnell telescope from my computer?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 17 August 2005:
You're probably going to want to refer to any manual you've gotten from Bushnell or their technical support.  There are quite a few 'free' or shareware plantarium programs that offer telescope control, but they may not work with many different telescopes on the market.  Various Google searches seem to return results you may be interested in:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=free+telescope+control+software

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=free+planetarium+software

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QUESTION:
Should I put more money into a new telescope or into new eyepieces?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 15 August 2005:
Good question!  The best idea, in my opinion, is to buy the best possible telescope you can afford and add eyepieces as you go.  The most important part of the whole system is the telescope itself.  The eyepieces are generally interchangeable and can be added for much less money at a time.  You can't improve a telescope much after you purchase it.

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QUESTION:
Can you control an Autostar telescope with a laptop?  If so, can you use a local telephone wire to control the telescope?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 12 August 2005:
The Meade Autostar telescope guidance system uses a proprietary (Meade-specific) hand controller.  After reviewing the description from http://meade.com/autostar/autostars.html it does appear that it can be connected to a computer and/or laptop via a Serial Connection (RS-232) using an add-on connector/cable, which is also available from Meade.

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QUESTION:
How can I improve a telescope's focal length?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 12 August 2005:
The focal length of a telescope is a function of the primary mirror or lens and where it focuses all of the light that it is collecting on to the plane of the eyepiece.  The only thing you can do to change it is add something like a Barlow lens into the light path.  Otherwise there isn't much you can do to move the focal length without re-grinding the mirror or changing to a different lens to produce a different focal length.

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QUESTION:
Can you put these eyepieces from lowest to the highest power magnification: 4mm, 25mm, 12.5mm, 9mm, 18mm plossl, 5mm plossl eyepiece?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 12 August 2005:
Regardless of the type of eyepiece (Plossl vs. Kellner, etc.) the smaller the given millimeter length the higher the magnification of the image it will produce.  So, from the lowest to highest magnification this list would be 25mm, 18mm, 12.5mm, 9mm, 5mm, 4mm.

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QUESTION:
Are there any 1mm, 2mm or 3mm eyepieces?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 12 August 2005:
I do not believe there are 1mm, 2mm or 3mm eyepieces that are commercially available.  The shortest commercially available eyepiece I've personally used is 4.8mm.  They would not be practical or usable in all but the very best skies (i.e. very stable air and the best "seeing" possible).  I would not recommend purchasing one if you did happen to find one.  They will not complement any amateur telescope in the real world.

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QUESTION:
I saw Mars in the southeast.  It looked like an "orange star".  When I looked at it through my new telescope I couldn't see it clearly with the 18mm Plossl, 5mm Plossl, 9mm, 2x Barlow, and 25mm eyepieces.  What should I do?  Should I return it?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 15 August 2005:
This is a good question because expectations are usually very high when looking through a telescope for the first time, and it never lives up to those desires.

Mars, or the other bright planets easily visible through starter telescopes such as Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, are never as good through those telescopes as they are in the pictures on the telescope's box.  Your expectations for viewing Mars should be that:

a) You'll be able to make out the distinctly pink/red/orange coloration common in Martian pictures.
b) You may be able to make out some of the polar caps depending on how large and defined they are, which is dependent on the Martian season you're looking at.
c) You might be able to clearly make out the 'phase' Mars is in as viewed from Earth (similar to Moon phases in crescent-like appearance).
d) It is possible, but unlikely you'll see the "canals" that cris-cross the planet.

The end result of this analysis is that it probably isn't a problem with the telescope, but a problem with your expectations.

However, it is POSSIBLE your light path is out-of-order and some collimation is needed.  Additionally, your view will degrade if you start to magnify the image more than the atmospheric conditions will allow (i.e. "seeing").  Adding more and more magnification will simply produce a more blurry image, and putting the Barlow into the mix will blur it even more.  Take the Barlow out, try again with the 25mm and work your way up.  That should help quite a bit.

Lastly, set your expectations a little lower - it will NOT be a Hubble picture, but you're seeing it with your own eyes, which is exciting in its own way.

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QUESTION:
How do you use coordinates to navigate around the stars and planets on an equatorial mounted telescope?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 12 August 2005:
Learning how to use coordinates in the sky can be tricky.  I would suggest you consult with any manuals that came with your telescope.  Since it's an equatorial mount you'd use what's called Right Accension/Declination or RA/Dec.  It is essentially a system based around the poles of the Earth.

The basics of it are that you would center the axis of your scope toward the northern axis point of Earth, which is right next to Polaris (aka the "North Star").  Additionally, you'll need to make sure that the telescope is set to the correct angle based on your location's latitude.  From there you simply move your telescope around to the RA/Dec coordinates it shows on that dial you see and the coordinates of what you want to look at.  It's not impossible, but it's not a 'beginner' kind of thing.

I would encourage you to star hop.  It's a good way to learn the night sky and the stars that are out, and it's a much less frustrating way for beginners to get around the night sky.

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QUESTION:
Is there a website where people show their pics of the planets they took with their beginner or intermediate telescopes?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 12 August 2005:
These pages seem OK for your purpose:

http://www.petedavis.net/astronomy.html
http://skytour.homestead.com/files/planets.html

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Last Updated:
5 October 2005
 

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