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Posted by Daniel Johnson on August 14, 2003 02:31:23 UTC

If you tried looking at stars and they looked like, well, stars, be assured that this is normal. A single star looks like a point of light, no matter how much one magnifies it. Telescopes allow one of two things to happen:
1) Dim objects are made brighter. This allows you to see dimmer stars than would otherwise be possible. It also allows one to see various "faint fuzzies"--i.e. galaxies and nebulae made of gas or dust or a mass of dim stars close together. Unfortunately, the light pollution from San Fransisco will wash out most of the faint fuzzies. Those that you can see may look best at low power, expecially away from city lights. Low magnification allows the dim light to be concentrated into a more compact area, hence a brighter area. Use a 24mm to 32mm (or even 40mm) eyepiece with the ETX for this.
2) Objects that seem small with the naked eye can be made to appear larger or sharper in detail. This takes higher magnification--for the ETX, an eyepiece of 12 to 18mm is good for higher power.
Bright objects such as the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn will show much more detail through a scope such as the ETX-90. The Moon in particular will knock your socks off. Jupiter and Saturn will look like tiny little planets, but with some detail visible, and the never-ending dance of Jupiter's four brightest moons is always fascinating. They will appear like four points of light in a line, and their positions will shift markedly from night to night next to Jupiter. Even within an hour, careful observation will show motion of those moons. Mars, over the next month or two, will be as good as it ever gets--which isn't nearly as good as Jupiter or Saturn, but worth a look.
One star that's worth a look is Albireo. Did you get the ETX with Autostar? If so, when you get the computerized gizmo to work, scroll to Star, Named, Albireo, Go To. You'll discover that it is in fact two stars close together (too close to see separately with the naked eye). Furthermore, the two are of very different color, one golden and the other blue. With practice you'll come to appreciate the color variations in stars, but Albireo makes it easy to see color.

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