Since I work with the public on a regular basis, I get asked questions about telescopes all the time. The following are the most common questions I get.
What is the Magnification Power?
Most people ask this question not knowing that magnification power is actually the LEAST important aspect. Most telescopes are designed to operate at a low power, and increasing magnification can sacrifice sharpness on detail. We typically only use higher magnification on solar system objects if the air is steady enough.
Do I Need an Expensive Telescope?
No, you don’t.
Good beginner telescopes will minimally set you back a couple hundred bucks. If your budget is less than $100, I say invest in a pair of binoculars. The money starts adding up when you go for more advanced telescopes and the accessories that enhance the viewing experiences.
Why Can’t I see Anything?
Are the dust caps off? Are you looking through the eyepiece properly?
If so, chances are the object is out of view. Let me fix it!
How Did you Find That?
It’s simple… I know where it is!
Oh wait… you mean what can help you find it? Unless it’s something bright enough to be eyeballed, learn the constellations and which stars the deep sky objects are near.
Can You View the Sun Through Your Telescope?
Yes and No.
Telescopes actually focus and magnify incoming light, and will blind you in less than a second if your eye is not properly protected by solar filters. But if you do have them, usually installed to the front of the tube, then looking at the sun through the telescope will be safe for your eyes and cameras.
“Why Are You Only Looking At the Moon?”
A man asked me that one night out of disappointment at Griffith Observatory while I was showing a full moon to the public under a light polluted Los Angeles sky! He then followed up with “Why wouldn’t you use this telescope to look at galaxies?”
The moon often washes out deep sky objects such as galaxies in the night sky, and a full moon is usually when astronomers leave the telescopes inside.
Why Aren’t You Looking At the Moon?
Because it’s not out right now!
Can You Point to the Lunar Lander?
No. The moon is too far away and no earth based telescopes can resolve features that small.
However, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a satellite that can dip as low as 31 miles above the Moon’s surface, has a telescope that can easily resolve the landing sites in good detail! Some of the sites still have tracks left behind their rovers!
Go look it up!
Can You Show Me a Planet?
Here are my three possible answers:
- Sure, it’s not a problem.
- None of them are visible in the sky right now.
- Well… there’s Uranus and Neptune, but they’re very far and dim.
Why is This <Deep Sky Object> so Dim?
If it isn’t already washed out by moonlight or light pollution, there are three possible scenarios:
- You’re viewing with a small telescope, which doesn’t allow as much light as larger telescopes.
- You’re viewing at a high magnification, which allows less light and thus it isn’t as easy to see.
- The object is merely too dim and/or too far away, and can only be easily seen through astro-photography.