Looking at comets with a telescope is a lot easier than you might think. Granted there are some things that need to be avoided for the best experience, but it is nothing that even a beginner won’t pick up the first few times around. Here are some tips to get you started with looking at comets with a telescope.
Many telescopes have the power to see comets in varying detail, but not a lot can keep up with them. This is not because the comets are fast, but because the actual telescope is not built for following objects through the sky. This can be due to low build quality, bad controls, or even a great telescope but bad mount. With so many variables that go into tracking a comet, the last thing you want is to do everything right but buy a bad scope.
Take great care when purchasing a telescope, and make sure that it has good tracking controls on it. Little things like the slow motion feature will make your comet chasing go a lot smoother in the long run. You should also invest in a telescope that has a good amount of natural light gathering. The more light it can gather on its own, the better the image will look. This also means less time adjusting and more time marveling at the comet moving through the sky. No one wants to spend their night adjusting every few seconds, especially when you’re not sure if you will ever get this opportunity again.
Things to Avoid
This is a little known fact, but not a lot of beginning astronomers know this. Peering out your window to look at a comet is not a good practice, and for several reasons. The different temperatures in your house will interfere with the lens in your telescope. A good example is how peering out the window to look at a comet will end up giving you blurred images from an otherwise excellent scope. This is why a lot of professionals set up their equipment outside and leave it to sit for a couple of minutes along with their eyepieces. By letting the equipment get used to the weather, it is ready to give them the best image possible. Different temperatures will affect glass, just like your car windshield or your eyeglasses.
Telescope mounts are built to be sturdy with natural vibration dampening. But some objects like wood are really bad and won’t give you the best experience. Try to avoid setting your telescope on a wood surface, and instead settle for a solid surface like the ground. The less movement to bother the scope while you are moving it, the more accurate your comet chasing will be.
That last tip about avoiding wooden bases comes into play with things like the finder scope. A finder scope is essential and only functional if it is aligned correctly. Having to constantly realign your finder scope is not a fun way to spend a night, so you can either invest in a higher quality telescope or try to avoid surfaces or areas that will constantly bump into your scope as you are trying to use it.
And the last thing to avoid is actually kind of funny, since it is something that even the experts do by mistake every so often. Not looking high enough and setting your telescope to max to begin with is going to set you up for disappointment. How will you find anything in the sky if you are zooming in 1000% to a crater on the moon that you were looking at last? Zoom out, preferably on the lowest setting, and then look up and around. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to spot things when you start out this way.
Join a Group for Better Knowledge
Joining a comet chasing group will provide you with not only a mentor, but several mentors of all ages and professional ranges. Besides keeping you up to date with the known comets list, they are usually the first ones to find out about unknown comets in the galaxy. This can be pretty exciting information to know firsthand, even long before the rest of the world knows it. You can expect to make a lot of friends and gain a lot of valuable information by joining a group, and it is all available for free. Make sure to look in your area for comet chasing groups and you’ll be surprised with just how many there are.
Everyone should experience comet chasing at least once in their lives. The tips to get started with comet chasing are easy and should be grasped by even kids on their first time out. With the right telescope and education anyone can enjoy comet chasing and the various entertainment benefits it provides.