Things to See with Your Telescope

The night sky is full of fascinating things to look at with your telescope. The moon, the stars… even things like distant nebulae, comets and asteroids if your telescope is powerful enough.

The first thing to mention, though, is the one thing you should NEVER look at – never use a telescope (or any other kind of viewing device, your eyes included) to look directly at the sun. That way lies much pain, and probable damage to the delicate photosensitive cells at the back of the eye.

Now that the warning is out of the way, we can move on to the fun stuff. So what can be seen o n a good, clear night? For a start, the moon is probably one of the most amazing objects in the night sky. Our closest neighbor has a variety of fascinating landmarks to look for – the craters, the various seas, and the lunar highlands. Check out Tycho, the massive crater on the bottom of the moon, created when a massive asteroid slammed into the satellite several millennia ago.

When you have finished looking at the moon, track down Jupiter – the largest planet in our Solar System, and one of the easiest to find from Earth. Even in weaker telescopes (30x +) it is possible to discern four satellite moons orbiting the planet – these are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, the four moons first observed by Galileo in 1609 and named the Galilean Moons in his honor. At greater magnifications it is possible to make out Jupiter’s colorations, striations caused by the swirling gases in her atmosphere, and even (at super-high magnification) the Great Red Spot, a permanent, swirling storm that is perpetually raging.

After Jupiter, use your star chart to look for Saturn. Many amateur (and professional) astronomers say that the ringed planet is the most beautiful thing in the night sky, and you may well be inclined to believe them. If you are particularly lucky, you may spot a break in the two most visible ring sets known as the Cassini Division – this is a fairly uncommon sight, so witnessing it is a big plus!

Lastly, try and look for Venus. Normally appearing at the end of the night, just before the dawning of the sun, or at the very start of the night as the sun disappears over the horizon, Venus is clearly visible with the naked eye. As an interior planet, she appears like the moon – in phases, waxing and waning depending on her orbit.

If you manage to spot all of these in a single night, consider yourself very, very fortunate indeed.

Related Information

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