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Posted by Daniel Johnson on September 29, 2003 00:20:23 UTC

You have a pair of magnificent telescopes, but it is a long learning curve to use them well. A few pointers:
First, seek out a local astronomy club and attend a few meetings. The people you will meet will teach you a lot about using your scope. Find a club near you by going to the Sky&Telescope web site, skypub.com , then click on their Resources tab and click on Clubs&Organizations.
Second, stars will always look like little points of light in any telescope. The key is knowing where to point the scope to find more interesting stuff--that, plus using the right magnification for the target you want (generally low powers for "deep sky" targets, medium to high power for planets and double stars), knowing how to align the mirrors on your scope ("collimate" them), and finding a dark observing spot. You won't see much deep sky stuff from in town. However, the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn will knock your socks off. Mars may show some detail for a few more weeks, but then it will be two more years before you see it well again.
And as for your scope giving views like those of binoculars--well, it is basically a giant monocular, but with eyepieces than can be changed to give different magnifications. Which brings us to one more point:
They eyepiece is half of the optics. Poor eyepieces give poor views. You might want to have three: one giving 6x to 8x per inch of aperture for low power, one giving twice that for medium-low power, and one giving three times that for medium-high power. Very high power should be your lowest priority. The atmosphere is seldom stable enough to use it. Also, your scope will need to cool down to the temperature of the surrounding air for at least an hour before you can use high power.
To find the magnification given by any eyepiece, divide your mirror's focal length (in mm) by the eyepiece focal length. If your scope is a 16-inch f/5, then its focal length is
16inches x 5 x 25.4mm/inch = about 2000mm. So a 10mm eyepiece gives 200 power in this example (a nice power for viewing Jupiter and Saturn, by the way).
The least expensive eyepieces worth owning are probably Plossls, made by many manufacturers. Avoid Kellner, Modified Achromat (MA), Ramsden, or Huygens eyepieces. Actually, for longer-focal-ratio scopes, the Kellner or MA eyepieces are OK, but for your f/4.5 or f/5 scope, you need higher quality. You would be amazed at how much true astronomy geeks spend on eyepieces--I have several $250 to $400 eyepieces made by TeleVue, a company that caters to the true geek. You can be happy spending a lot less.
If you ever buy a Barlow, don't buy a cheap one. Your view is only as good as the worst piece of glass in the optical train. The Celestron Ultima is a decent Barlow. A good one will turn two good eyepieces into four good eyepieces. A bad Barlow will turn two good eyepieces into two eyepieces and a piece of trash.

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