By Steve Dodson, Stargazer Steve
If you would like to introduce Stargazing as an activity for your guests, don't wait for a telescope! There are much more important things to have first, and your budget can be small.
I hope I will be able to help many of you introduce Telescope Making as a related and highly - rewarding activity in the summer. The telescopes you can make with your guests will be much more effective than any telescope you might buy. The recommendations below will greatly increase your guests' enjoyment and your satisfaction when you do get (or make) telescopes.
Find Sky News Magazine on your nearest newsstand, or subscribe at http://www.skynewsmagazine.com. This is an excellent all-Canadian publication which is probably the most readable introduction to Astronomy, Stargazing, and the latest news about the Universe! You will find very helpful star charts and details of upcoming Sky Events - indispensable information.
Buy a Red L.E.D. flashlight or "redden" your own flashlight. Red light is very "eye and sky friendly", letting you use star charts without damaging your dark adaptation. Direct white light instantly destroys your ability to see faint sky treasures such as the Milky Way. It takes about a half-hour to regain your dark adaptation after exposure to light that is not a deep red colour.
You can redden your own flashlight by taping several layers of red cellophane over the lens. Red felt works too. Canadian Tire has red tail-light repair tape which is very handy. Use two layers.
Buy the book "Nightwatch" by Terence Dickinson. It is the best introduction to a lifetime of rewarding sky-watching! This is a beautifully illustrated and enjoyable book that you'll enjoy in your arm chair and outdoors with your red flashlight. It also has more detailed star charts to guide binocular and telescopic observation.
Buy Binoculars! Both 7 x 35 and 10 x 50 models are excellent for Astronomy. The lighter 7 x 35's are also great for hiking and daytime nature watching. Resist the temptation to buy more powerful binoculars, as they are not nearly as convenient to use! Buy mid-priced binoculars, neither the cheapest nor the most expensive available.
Limitless vistas are accessible to a stargazer who is also equipped with items 1, 2, and 3 above! For instance, would you believe you can see galaxies 15 million light years away with either of the models mentioned above? Indeed you can!
Get "Starry Night" Software from http://www.starrynight.com or from me. One program CD works for MAC or PC, and provides an intuitively accessible gold mine of information adapted to your own location. It will help you find almost anything in the Sky an intuitively available form. If you see something in the Sky and want to know what it is, you can almost always find it in Starry Night. Then your cursor arrow will bring up an identifying label!
I used Starry Night to check my predictions of planetary visibility for this article! If you equip yourself as above, you will have spent less than $300.00 and you will be able to make the Universe an open book to your eyes and your mind. Even more important than these items is something that won't cost you a penny - simply remembering to always look up!
This article was taken from page 20 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Spring 2004 Issue