How To Use A Telescope

If you are new to astronomy and are clueless as to how to use your telescope, rest assured, you are not alone. However, it’s really not that difficult learning how to use a telescope. It just takes a few adjustments and knowing what equipment your telescope has. You must be familiar with the pieces of the telescope and how each of them work. The rest is easy.

The first thing you will need to know in learning how to use a telescope is does your telescope have a polar axis or not. A polar axis is intended to track. A telescope without a polar axis is merely a point and look, or what is called Alt-Az. Alt means altitude and Az means azimuth, where Alt is the distance above the horizon, and Az is the direction in a circle around the horizon. If you have an Alt-Az mount, just skip the polar alignment step.

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If you have a polar axis meaning that your telescope is intended to track the stars, then find north, and make sure the polar axis is approximately lined up in that direction. It does not have to be too accurate, but make sure it is pointing pretty close to north. If you are not sure where north is, either use a magnetic compass, or try to find Polaris, the North Star.

Now you are ready to align the finder scope. You will have to find a way to align your finder scope so that it is in line and points to the same thing you see in the eyepiece. Then you can use it to find objects of interest. This probably is the hardest part when learning how to use a telescope.

The best way to do this is to find the lowest power eyepiece you have, and use it to find a bright planet like Jupiter, or even the moon. Once you get Jupiter centered in the eyepiece of your telescope, and if your telescope tracks, lock down the drive to follow the planet so it will stay centered in the eyepiece. If your telescope does not track, then just re-center the planet in the eyepiece from time to time.
Now, look at the finder scope. It should have somewhere on the mount at least one set of three thumb screws holding the finder scope in place. Gently loosen the screws on the finder scope and look through its eyepiece. You should see a cross hair or “X”. Align the planet on the cross hair by alternately adjusting the screws until it stays centered. When it is, try to tighten the screws so it holds the finder scope securely. Now your finder scope is aligned with the telescope eyepiece, and you should be able to use it to find other objects of interest.

Now you’re all ready. Learning how to use a telescope involves more trial and error than anything. Fool around with the eyepiece and adjuster a little bit and you will be well on your way to star gazing with ease!