How to Set-up an Astronomy Telescope

How to Set-up an Astronomy Telescope

There is nothing more frustrating then getting your telescope out for a great observing session only to find the telescope and finderscope point to different areas of the sky,  the stars appear as blurry spots, or the neighbour’s security light is shining right into your eye. Follow this short guide to setting up your telescope to make your observing so much more enjoyable.


Align the Finderscope


red dot on wall

Using a distant brick wall to align the finderscope

Aligning the finderscope is best performed during the day. Point your telescope at an object in the near distance. The top of a nearby streetlight, chimney or tree is ideal. Once you are happy you have the top of the object centred in your field of view move over to the finderscope and adjust the screws or dials so that the crosshair or red dot points directly at the centred object. A well-aligned finderscope will make your observing so much better and is worth spending time getting it right. This is because you can have confidence that the object you are trying to see is going to be in the centre of your field of view when you look down the eyepiece.


Orientate Yourself

Mirror image of "hq" caused by the star diagonal in the telescope

telescope orientation

This can be done anytime but is best done during the daytime again. Different types of telescopes produce different orientated images at the eyepiece. Some give an upside down image, others a mirror image and some do both. Spend some time looking through your telescope and work out what your telescope is doing. If you look at something familiar such as a stationery car in the distance and move the telescope around you will quickly work out what your telescope does to the image. It helps to look at the number plate to see if you have an upside down and mirror image. Becoming orientated really helps when viewing an object like the moon or when searching for a deep space object.


Location, location, location


Avoid placing your tripod on a hard surface

avoid placing tripod on hard surfaces

Think about where you want to place your telescope. Avoid concrete or hard surfaces, as these will cause the telescope to wobble when you look into it and when you move the telescope whilst looking for a faint object. Choose firm, stable but soft ground such as the lawn. Make sure you place the telescope in a place shielded from local light sources. Simply placing the telescope nearer to a fence, for example, to shield it from the neighbour’s security light can make a big difference. You want to avoid these light sources entering the telescope. If this isn’t possible a dew shield over the aperture and a towel over your head will suffice. Lastly, make sure the telescope can be pointed at the area of the night sky that you wish to observe. There is nothing worse than having a house or tree obscuring the view of the planet you were planning to observe that night.


Cool Down


Cooling down the telescope

cool down

The air inside your telescope when you take it out is different to the air surrounding the telescope. This can lead to air currents or misting of the mirror. These can severely affect the view you have down the eyepiece. Make sure you place the telescope in its observing position a good couple of hours before you plan to start observing. Different telescopes take different times to cool down but generally the larger the telescope’s aperture the longer the cool down will take. This is one of the reasons a very large aperture telescope isn’t ideal for the beginner.


That’s it really. Align your finderscope, orientate yourself with your telescope, find an ideal location and allow your telescope to acclimatise. Doing these simple steps will certainly make your observing more successful and enjoyable.

Related Posts: Observing


Back to Beginners guide to Astronomy

Or next:

Part 1. Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy

Part 2. Binoculars or a telescope, which should I buy first?

Part 3. 5 Things you Need to Know Before Buying a Beginner's Astronomy Telescope

Part 4. Goto or Not Goto? That is the Question

Part 5. How to Set-up an Astronomy Telescope

Part 6. 8 Tips for Making Your Goto Telescope More Accurate

Part 7. 10 Easy Astronomical Objects to see From the City

Part 8. 5 Things to do on a Cloudy Night

Part 9. Which Eyepieces Do I Need?

Part 10. 10 Useful Astronomy Accessories

Part 11: How Can I See Deep Space Objects Better?

Part 12: How Can I See More Detail On Planets?

Part 13: How to Dress for Astronomical Success

Extras: Beginner Astronomy Telescopes

Or Start reading the Learn Astronomy Blog

Or Start Finding Deep Space Objects with the Constellation and DSO Guide.

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