Telescopes are VERY difficult to use to any satisfaction, and not that much more exciting to use unless you spend lots of money and also know what you are doing.
Your money would be better spent with some nice binoculars. You can see lots more with a good pair of binoculars and will have spent far less in the long run.
The telescopes that are in the average person's budget are just no good for casual stargazing.
Trust me, been there, done that.
My dad has a pretty thorough knowledge of the sky, having finished his teaching degree w/a focus in earth sciences and astronomy. He shares his findings with us freely, and the binoculars are awesome.
We sat out on our front porch last year and looked up there, and could see the beautiful double star named Albireo at the tip of the swan or Cygnus constellation. One is a turquoise blue and the other a pale gold.
Here is a pic from another site:
Also got to see the Whirlpool Galaxy w/his binoculars. If you like, I could ask him what power they are to give you a guide.
Liz how true about telescopes being hard to use. We bought one, very nice Meade, computerized and a bunch of lens/filters, you name it. It takes me 1/2 hr to set up and that is after TONS of practice! If you dont get one that auto tracks, its a waste. and again, setting it up is a pain. Imagine holding the head of a pin over a planet/star , now follow it LOL I have seen some awesome things, but what a hassle. Its not for someone that is easily discouraged ( mine sat unused for over a year I was so annoyed).
I look for it every night when I take a stroll with the dogs into the pastures. Our Mars is a golden amber in color with a hint of red...it's beautiful!!! Liz is right about the telescope thing. I have one and it sits upstairs unused. It was very difficult for me to learn to use...I think I'll ask Santa for some binoculars for Christmas this year!!
Yep, Mars. I agree that a scope can be tough to use and a hassle to maintain. If you don't have a scope, there may be a star-gazing club in your area. Those folks are well-known for having great get togethers and being very generous with their scopes, especially with kids. They usually have all the really fancy gadgets too.
This is Larry and I'm an amateur astronomer as well as a teacher at the local observatory.
I agree, the star you're looking at is Mars. Just to the left of it is a wonderful star cluster called The Pleiades. Point your binoculars at that--it's breathtaking.
If you are at all interested in buying a telescope (and I have to respectfully disagree with Nootka here), if you buy the right one and have the right sort of guidebook or someone to guide you, they aren't all that difficult to use. If you buy one from Walmart or Costco/Sam's Club you are getting something that is difficult AND frustrating to use.
I bought Brianna a small telescope a couple of years ago that >I< love and use often.
It only cost $139.00 and is far superior to the ones that are sold at the superstores.
Let me send you to a site that is chock full of information for beginners. It is a lilbeginnings version of an astronomy site--much larger (believe it or not) and with a wealth of folks who would be willing to help you. The addie is http://www.cloudynights.com. They love beginners and are willing to answer just about any question. They even have a beginner's forum. I am there nearly as frequently as MA is on this site so you just might bump into me. Look for miniventures (how odd
That said, binoculars are a wonderful introduction to astronomy and star gazing. If you buy a pair, don't get any larger than 10 X 50's. Any bigger than that and they'll be difficult to hold steady without a tripod. Mine are perfectly adequate and they are 8 X 40's. I use them a lot! A great book to go along with your binoculars is StarWatch by Phil Harrington.
Liz that's an awfully nice photo of Albireo. It's one of my favorite things to show beginner's
Who knew that such a simple question would lead to all this fabulous information from you guys?!
Larry, thank you so much for that great link! It's a miserable rainy day here, so I think I'll cuddle up to that site with a hot cup of coffee and just go exploring.
Rooting around in here the other day, I came across my old binoculars which are 8 x 25. I got them from a friend of mine whose late husband used them primarily for bird watching. Wouldn't you know it, our fabulous clear nights have come to a temporary end with at least two or three days of cloudy weather coming up. Oh well, I'll be ready when it clears up again.
I'll be checking it out too. I'm a raw beginner....don't even know what a majority of the names for some of the things I see up there are, but I can tell you that I HAVE seen The Pleiades and always squint my eyes so that I can see them better. Seems like if you're looking at them with a regular open eye, you can't see the way they are clustered individually. It's awesome!!
I have always heard it called "Plee-uh-deez" for pronunciation.
It is called "Subaru" by the Japanese, and if you look at the cars driving around, you will see a simplistic likeness of the Seven Sisters constellation.
One thing I find so enchanting about the night sky is the endless mythology and lore surrounding them.
And THEN there is the scientific fact portion.....and on to the unknown, the vast majority of it is truly beyond our puny scope, and it is a true wonderment.
In fact, I often just about trip and fall walking out to the barn on a clear winter night. There is so much to see.
I also find a great deal of comfort in watching the shifting of the constellations from season to season.
My dad, even before his most recent foray into college and finishing his degree, would take us camping when we were teenagers, and we would all lie on our backs in a parking lot or other clear area, and stare upwards and listen to him point out objects and describe them, both factually and mythologically. It was like having our own interactive planetarium!
There are some pretty good places online to find tips on skywatching and get email alerts as to unusual events. I will look and see which ones I have bookmarked. There was a recent grouping of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon as well as Spica, wasn't it? We went to a hillside and watched as the sun set and the crescent moon became more distinct, with its three colorful stars as companions.