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If you’re ready to take your telescope or telescope mount to the next level, Deep Space Products can help. Call (602) 820-7962 for more information on our telescope, astronomy, and astrophotography products for telescopes, including refractor and reflector telescopes. You can also reach us with any questions about our astronomy and astrophotography products for telescopes and telescope mounts through our Contact Us page.

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Questions & Answers

  • 1. What is the single most important thing I should know before purchasing a telescope?
  • Never buy a telescope based on magnification power. As a general rule, for beginner telescopes, the best magnification that will provide a usable image can be determined by multiplying the aperture of the telescope by 50. In other words, a 2 inch telescope will at best be able to provide 100x magnification and may be significantly less than this. When you see a telescope that is advertised based on it magnification, pass it by since it will always be over stated.
  • 2. What is the best piece of advice you can give a beginner thinking about purchasing a telescope?
  • Astronomy is a very interesting and enjoyable hobby but it can be a demanding and expensive hobby. NEVER buy a “department store” telescope. They are often poorly constructed and of little use. Many people have given up on the hobby after trying to use such a telescope. A good way to start in the hobby is to seek out local astronomy clubs and attend some of their meetings and star public star parties. At these gatherings you will often have the opportunity to look through different telescopes and ask questions about their use which will help you in deciding what to purchase. Start with a smaller but good quality telescope and mount and a variety of eyepieces suited to the telescope. That way you can see if you really enjoy the hobby. A telescope that gets used is the one worth having. Big telescopes provide wonderful views but can very difficult to operate and manage. A telescope that is too heavy to move and difficult to use will just end up gathering dust in the corner regardless of how good or expensive it is. An additional benefit to a smaller set up is that it can later be used as a travel or “grab-and-go” telescope if you move on to a larger less-mobile setup.
  • 3. As a beginner to astronomy, can you tell me the basic items I will need to begin viewing planets and stars?
  • As a beginner, you will need the following: 1) a good quality telescope, 2) a stable telescope mount, 3) a variety of eyepiece of different sizes, 4) reference materials such as a planisphere, introductory astronomy book(s) or planetarium program on your computer or from the internet.
  • 4. What Deep Space Products do you recommend if I already have a telescope?
  • Deep Space Products offers a variety of products for those who already own a telescope, including high quality telescope mounts and accessories as well as parts to upgrade and improve your existing telescope mount and telescope.
  • 5. What is an Alt-Azimuth telescope mount?
  • An Alt-Azimuth or Alt-Az telescope mount is a mount that separate axes for horizontal and vertical rotation. In order to track an object in the night sky with an Alt-Az mount, both axes must be moved. While and Alt-Az mount can be used for astrophotography, they are best suited for visual use because movement in both axes.
  • 6. What is an Equatorial telescope mount?
  • An Equatorial telescope mount is a mount with two rotational axes, one of which is aligned parallel to the earth’s rotation so that tracking an object in the night sky requires the continued movement of only one axis. Equatorial mounts are well suited for visual astronomy and especially well suited for astrophotography since the mount needs only to move in one axis.
  • 7. What can I expect to see in my new telescope ?
  • You will not see are things that look like the images that you see from the Hubble Space Telescope. With the exception of the planets and some stars, most objects viewed through a telescope are seen in shades of grey by the human eye. What you can see is dependant on the size and type of telescope that you use refractor, reflector or catadioptric.
  • 8. What types of telescopes are available and what are they for?
  • There are three general categories of telescope available, refractors (dioptrics), reflectors (catoptrics), and catadioptrics. Refractors use lenses to collect light and magnify the view. Reflectors use mirrors to collect light and magnify the view. Catadioptrics use a combination of mirrors and optics. Within each of these three categories are many different types of telescopes that use different configurations and shapes of lenses and mirrors. While most telescopes may be used for a variety of viewing, be it lunar, planetary, or deep sky, some telescopes are better for certain objects than others but only in general terms and person preference plays a large role in what type of telescope a particular user feels is best for a particular purpose. For example, in general, refractors are often favored for viewing solar system objects like the moon and planets whereas reflectors and catadioptrics are often favored for viewing deep sky objects like nebulas and galaxies. However, all three types are usable for nearly any purpose depending on the size of the telescope. Larger telescopes gather more light and are thus better suited for viewing very faint and distant objects whereas viewing the moon or planets can easily be done using a much smaller telescope since those objects are very bright and relatively close. There are literally books written on the different types of telescopes and their uses and for a detailed explanation of the different types of telescopes and their uses it may be best to consult some of those publications.
  • 9. What does a mount do for my telescope?
  • A telescope mount provides a stable platform to hold your telescope. Without a stable telescope mount it is very difficult to see much of anything through and astronomical telescope. If you have ever held a pair of binoculars (or a small telescope) and tried to look at something a long way off, you will probably remember how difficult it was to hold the binoculars still on the object. The mount may also help in locating objects in the night sky through the use of manual locating devices called “setting circles” or electronic devices called “digital setting circles” or even computers and motor drives called “GOTO” systems that do most of the object finding and pointing work for you.
  • 10. What is the best mount?
  • The best mount is dependent on what type of observing you want to do and what level of skill you have. Manual, non-motorized mounts are best for visual observing only (however, these types of mounts were used for many years for astrophotography as well). Modern astrophotography generally requires a motorized mount which may have only tracking motors or may have a GOTO locating system. Alt/Azimuth mounts are better for visual observing but may also be used for astrophotography. German equatorial mounts are some of the best for both visual observing and astrophotography use.
  • 11. Do I need specific eyepieces for my telescope?
  • Not necessarily. Telescope eyepieces come in two barrels sizes, 1.25 inches and 2 inches in diameter (there are smaller diameter eyepiece but these and the telescopes they come with are to be avoided as they are generally of poor quality). The 1.25 inch eyepieces are the most common and the ones used in most beginner telescopes.
  • 12. What accessories will a beginner need for their telescope?
  • A sturdy mount, a set of eyepieces of various sizes and possibly some filters. In addition, a planisphere and a basic book on finding your way in the night sky are invaluable.
  • 13. What are Digital Setting Circles?
  • Digital Setting Circles or “DSC” are a type of computer that can be used to help located objects in the night sky.
  • 14. Should I buy a telescope based on power?
  • No. Most telescopes that are advertized on the basis of their “power” are inexpensive telescopes that work poorly and have exaggerated magnification capabilities. The “power” of a telescope is dependent mostly on the eyepieces used with it since the magnification is different with each different eyepiece used. With better quality telescopes, the “power” or magnification of the telescope is rarely discussed and when it is discussed, it is only as an expression of the maximum usable magnification that the telescope can achieve with the correct eyepiece.
  • 15. Should I get a refractor or a reflector?
  • In many regards this can be a matter of personal choice. If you are most interested in viewing the moon and planets, then a small refractor may be a good choice to start with. If you are interested in viewing deep sky objects like nebula and galaxies, a larger refractor or a reflector may be the best choice but reflectors tend to cost less per inch of diameter than refractors. A small catadiotric can be a good all-around choice but anything above about 5-inches in diameter will begin to get expensive.
  • 16. Should I get a computerized “GOTO” telescope?
  • A GOTO telescope is one in which a computer can operate many of the functions of finding objects in the night sky. For those of us who simply do not have the time to learn the night sky in detail, a GOTO telescope or telescope mount is an excellent way to be able to view and enjoy night sky objects without the substantial amount of time necessary to learn how to find these objects without the aid of a computer. However, other options are available. There are digital setting circles (“DSC”) that can help a user to find objects in a way that may even be easier than a GOTO mount. The only difference is that user must change the position of the mount by hand rather than having motors move the mount. Many mounts also have manual setting circles that can be used in conjunction with references and computer programs to find objects in the night sky. In most respects, the decision on whether or not to be a GOTO telescope should be based on the amount of time you have to dedicate to the hobby and the amount of money you wish to spend. GOTO telescopes are frequently, but not always, among the most expensive telescope options available.
  • 17. Why is aperture so important?
  • Aperture determines the light gathering capability of a telescope. A larger aperture gathers more light making it possible to see objects that are more faint in the night sky. When comparing the same type of telescopes (e.g., refractors or reflectors), a 4-inch refractor has 1.8 times the light gathering capability as a 3-inch refractor while a 6-inch refractor has 4 times the light gathering capacity as the 3-inch. A 10-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain has 4 times the light gather capability of a 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain (given that the proportional size of the secondary mirror of both telescopes is the same).
  • 18. How do I adjust the finder scope?
  • The finder scope is generally adjusted using thumb screws mounted around the finder scope. The various thumb screws must be used to adjust the position of the finder scope so that it points in the same direction as the telescope. Red-dot finders or zero-power finders usually have two different adjustment screws to move the front or back of the finder to the left or right and up and down in order to aim it in the same direction as the telescope. The easiest way to adjust either type of finder is to view stationary object during the day light that is as far away as possible (a mile or more is preferable). Once the telescope is centered on the object, then adjust the finder so that it is also centered on the object.
  • 19. I have a manual (non-computerized) telescope. Do I need to adjust my telescope’s mount before I begin to observe?
  • Depending on the type of telescope mount you have, different adjustments may be necessary. A telescope mounted on a simple tripod and used for scanning the night sky may require no adjustment at all. A telescope with digital setting circles or a GOTO system will require some adjustment so that the mount points properly. A telescope and mount that are going to be used for astrophotography may require extensive adjustment such as alignment to the celestial pole in order to function properly.
  • 20. I will be observing at home. Where should I set up my telescope?
  • The best location is the darkest spot you can find with as much unobstructed view of the sky as possible. Most important is to be set up someplace where there are no close white lights shining that will ruin your night vision.
  • 21. Do I need to buy an eyepiece?
  • Yes. In fact, you need to by several. You should have a variety of low and high-power eyepieces. In general, three to six different eyepieces are what most people use and many are available in sets with a useful range of focal lengths from 3mm to 40 mm. Over time most observers tend to settle on just a few that they use the most because of their quality or usefulness.
  • 22. What does the number on the eyepiece mean?
  • The number on an eyepiece is the measurement of the eyepiece’s focal length. Using this number and the focal length of the telescope, it is possible to calculate the magnification of the telescope and eyepiece combination.
  • 23. How do I know what the magnification of the eyepiece will be?
  • The magnification of an eyepiece depends on both the focal length of the eyepiece and the focal length of the telescope in which it is used. To determine the magnification of an eyepiece and telescope combination you simply divide the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece. For example, in a 2,500 mm focal length telescope, a 25 mm eyepiece produces a magnification of 100x.
  • 24. Why should I start with a low magnification eyepiece?
  • The lower the magnification of the eyepiece and telescope combination, the wider the field of view when looking through the telescope. Conversely, the higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view. When initially searching for an object in the night sky, it is usually easiest to use a lower magnification eyepiece that allows you to see more of the sky at once.
  • 25. How do I use a high magnification eyepiece?
  • A high magnification eyepiece is best used once the object you are looking for has been centered in the field of view with a lower magnification eyepiece. That way, when the higher magnification eyepiece is placed in the telescope, the object will still be within the narrower field of view of the higher magnification eyepiece.
  • 26. Why do things seem to get darker as I increase magnification?
  • As the magnification increases, the image brightness decreases due to the basic laws of optics. The smaller the telescope, the faster this occurs while increasing magnification.
  • 27. How much magnification should I use?
  • The magnification used is dependent on the quality of the telescope being used, the object being viewed, sky conditions and many other factors. As usual, the answer to the question is “it depends.” Generally speaking, you can use whatever magnification produces a usable view through the telescope.
  • 28. What can your HyperTune service do for my telescope and mount?
  • The HyperTune service improves the performance of many telescope mounts but particularly mass-produced consumer telescope mounts. Frequently, these mounts do not yield peak performance right out of the box and some mounts may simply perform poorly. However, many mounts can be HyperTuned and upgraded to yield very good performance without having too many times and much for a much higher-quality mount. The mounts that benefit the most from HyperTuning are often those produced by Meade, Celestron, Orion, Skywatcher, Vixen and other similar computerized and motor driven mounts (often manufactured in China) that cost below $2000 and above $500.
  • 29. Which Hypertune option is best for a beginner?
  • There are two levels of HyperTune, the standard service and the advanced service. The HyperTune Standard service is for telescope mounts only and is the service most often needed. The HyperTune Advanced service includes HyperTuning of both the mount and certain types of telescopes (namely reflectors and catadioptrics.) Which services is need by a given customer depends on the system they are using, however, the standard service is generally the most necessary and most important.
  • 30. What is a focuser and what kind do I need?
  • A focuser is part of a telescope that either moves the eyepiece or the telescope’s mirror to adjust the sharpness of the view. Refractors and reflectors usually have focusers that are based on a rack and pinion system (i.e., operated by gears) or a Crayford focuser which functions in a similar fashion but instead of gears, it uses friction and roller bearings for movement. Catadioptric telescopes often use an internal focusing system to move the primary mirror in the telescope buy may also be combined with an external rack and pinion or Crayford focuser on the back of the telescope. In addition to the different types of focuser, there focusers with multiple speeds and focusers with electric motors for operation or even computers for control and temperature compensation to account for changes in the telescope’s length due to changes in the air temperature.
  • 31. What is an adapter and will I need one?
  • There are many types of adapters available, adapters for different sized eyepieces (1.25 or 2.0 inch typically), adapters for attaching cameras and other equipment to the telescope or the telescope mount and adapters for countless other purposes. The need for an adapter depends entirely on what the user is trying to do with their telescope.
  • 32. Do I need to purchase a base for my telescope?
  • Yes. Be it a simple tripod or a complex computer-driven telescope mount, some type of base is necessary for good night sky viewing. However, there is one general exception to this rule and that is when using binoculars to view the night sky. Many people use binoculars for astronomy and they may often just be hand-held, especially when laying on the grass and looking up.
  • 33. Do I need a digital system?
  • Not necessarily. However, a digital system, whether it is a digital setting circle (“DSC”) system or a full-blown GOTO system can make it much easier to locate objects in the night sky without having to spend long hours and many nights learning the night sky.
  • 34. What is an end cap?
  • An end cap is used to cover the end of a telescope, finder scope or eyepiece to prevent the optics from getting dirty.
  • 35. What is a black hole carbon fiber tube and why do I need it?
  • Black Hole carbon fiber tubes are replacement telescope tubes for certain brands and sizes of telescopes. The carbon fiber tube is used to replace the original metal tube of the telescope especially for telescopes that will be used for astrophotography. The benefit of a carbon fiber tube is that it is more rigid that the metal tube and does not appreciably change dimension as the temperature changes. Changes in dimension cause shifts in the focus of the telescope which then require periodic refocusing of the telescope which can be a problem during long-exposure astrophotography. In addition, carbon fiber tubes are generally about 40% lighter than the same size metal tube thus reducing the total weight of the telescope.
  • 36. What do the different colored black hole carbon fiber tubes do?
  • The different colored Black Hole Tubes are merely for appearance purposes and allow a astronomer to personalize his or her equipment.
  • 37. Can a beginner handle your do-it-yourself Hypertune option or do you recommend sending my mount in to you instead?
  • In general, I would not recommend that a beginner try to HyperTune their mount on their own since they may not have enough experience to understand the different components of the telescope mount and their importance and what effect various aspect of the HyperTune process may have. However, someone who is very handy with tools may be perfectly able to HyperTune their own mount even though they are a beginner in the hobby. In general, it is a matter of personal comfort. If a customer is comfortable with tearing apart their brand new (maybe used) telescope mount that they may have spent a fair amount of money on, then it is an excellent way for them to gain a better understanding of how the equipment works and how better to use it in the long run. However, if a customer is unsure of their mechanical abilities or uncomfortable with tearing into their expensive piece of equipment, then it is better to send the mount in to be HyperTuned in our shop. We hate to see someone tear into a mount themselves only to have to spend more for us to put it back together for them, but it does happen.
  • 38. What is astrophotography?
  • Astrophotography is the art of taking photographs of the night sky from plants to stars to nebulas to galaxies. I call it an art because it generally involves more than just snapping a picture with your digital camera. There are special cameras designed for low light conditions, telescopes and mounts designed for accurately tracking objects in the sky, computer programs for taking the images and other computer programs for working with the images after they are taken.
  • 39. How do I get started in Astrophotography?
  • Read. There are many good books and articles on astrophotography and a plethora of information available on the internet. That is the first place to start. Assuming you have an appropriate telescope, from there it will be necessary to purchase a camera suitable for astrophotography which may be anything from a consumer digital camera to a dedicated astronomy camera. While the camera may come with software, additional software is almost always necessary to process the images taken with the camera. In addition, there may be numerous other pieces of equipment necessary, from adapters to guiding systems to filters.
  • 40. Do I need a different telescope for astrophotography?
  • Many telescopes are suitable for astrophotography at some level. However, just as there are limitations and benefits to the use of the various types of telescopes on different night sky objects, there are similar limitations and benefits for the use of those telescopes for astrophotography. In addition, astrophotography generally adds additional equipment and thus weight to the telescope set up so it is necessary that whatever telescope and mount is used, it is capable of handling the additional weight.
  • 41. Can I take photos with a Dobsonian telescope?
  • Yes. However, these are often some of the more difficult telescopes to use for astrophotography due to their configuration with the focal point near the top of the telescope and their typical Alt-Azimuth mounting. But since Dobsonian telescopes are often very “fast” telescopes, they can take images faster thus negating some of their drawbacks.
  • 42. What kind of camera would I use for taking pictures through my telescope?
  • The best cameras are often those that are designed strictly for astrophotography. However, there are an increasing number of people using digital single lens reflex (“SLR”) cameras for astrophotography and even standard digital cameras and webcams may be used for astrophotography depending on the setup.
  • 43. What equipment will I need for astrophotography?
  • A good telescope on a stable and sturdy mount with tracking capability (manually or motor driven), a camera and software, a guide scope or off-axis guider may or may not be necessary, post-processing software (graphic programs), a lot of time and patience.
  • 44. What is a guidescope?
  • A guidescope is a telescope (often a small refractor of 80 mm aperture or less) that is used to keep the telescope pointing at the object being photographed. It may be used visually or it may be used with a second camera that sends signals to the mount to adjust the telescope’s position if it begins to drift off target.
  • 45. What scope should I buy for deep sky imaging?
  • In general, larger aperture telescopes are better for deep sky imaging due to their greater light gathering capacity. These large aperture telescopes may be of nearly any type with various benefits and drawbacks to each. The most cost-effective type is often a reflector, however many experienced astrophotographers use the more expensive catadioptric types or the even more expensive large-aperture refractors for deep sky imaging
  • 46. How do I select a telescope mount for astrophotography?
  • The best telescope mounts for astrophotography are those that can easily handle the weight you want to place on them; are stable with heavy and stable tripods or mounting piers; are motorized (guiding or GOTO). Most people prefer German equatorial telescope mounts over alt-azimuth telescope mounts for astrophotography although excellent result may be obtained with either type depending on the quality of the mount and the experience of the user.
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