Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Smaller Telescope, Pt. III - Resouces

A few of my resources, and perhaps the least I need many times.
As mentioned in part II, this part we are going to look at how some of the resources available for binocular astronomy can be applied to the smaller telescope. 
Elsewhere in this blog, I've mentioned Garrett Serviss and his pioneering "Astronomy With An Opera Glass", perhaps the first book written on the subject of small instrument astronomy. Not only was it pioneering, but it was also practical; Serviss spent very little time reflecting on the instruments themselves, instead choosing to concentrate on observations. Many of the books on binocular astronomy today are split between both, covering the tools and the trade, if you will. But Serviss' book laid out the format that many still follow. For the smaller telescope enthusiast, the technical aspects of working with binoculars are of no use. Instead, you need to look at the observing section. 
There are, of course, still plenty of star guides that will be of use. 
In my personal library, one of the best books to guide us along is the late Sir Patrick Moore's "Exploring The Night Sky With Binoculars". Once you get past the first two chapters, which, not surprisingly, deal with the instruments, you find page upon page of targets to choose from. Chapter three, for instance, deals with many of the basics of stargazing, covering subjects such as the Greek alphabet (which is crucial in the identification of stars, as well as explaining how color is an indicator of temperature. After that comes chapters covering a variety of targets, from individual stars to clusters, nebulae, constellations and even some of the brighter galaxies. Near the end of the book he covers observing the Moon.
Another handy book is "Binocular Stargazing" by Mike Reynolds. I will admit, I've had a personal hand in the creation of this book; I helped to do some of the illustrations. But like Moore's book, it covers the equipment aspects first, and then dives into observations. After covering lunar and solar observing, the book then goes into how one can use binoculars for observing some of our planetary neighborhood. There are sections that cover the sky by season as well. One feature I like about this book are that many of the finder charts are drawn within circles, fairly close to what one should see when looking through binoculars or a telescope.Or
There is a book that deals with the Moon alone, and covers both binocular and telescopic observations. Originally written in the 1960's, Ernest Cherrington, Jr.'s "Exploring the Moon Through Binoculars and Small Telescopes" covers the lunar surface features in a bit more detail than the previously mentioned books, and therefore is of more utility. While no longer in print, the splendid Dover edition can still be found in abundance.
You will need star charts as well. There are perhaps dozens, if not hundreds, of sources here. Many of the basic books by Sir Patrick Moore, Ian Ridpath, Wil Tirion et al are more than sufficient, but there is an online source that I've found so useful, I've printed them off and had them laminated. These are Tashimi Taki's star charts, found here. These charts have proven invaluable to me. While they do cover deep sky objects down to 11th magnitude, the stars go down to magnitude 6.5, allowing them to serve as guides in the pursuit of more distant quarry.
This is just a start, and here based upon personal experience. Just remember that when deling with smaller telescopes that they will not reveal the heavens like much larger instruments. But they will open your eyes, are easy to use, and are a great starting place.
Next time, we will look at some of my instruments as case studies, as well as discuss what can be had, what to look for, and what to avoid.

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