Gazing out to the stars has always been something that humans have wanted to do, for as long as humans have been looking at the world around them. The invention of the telescope and of various types of telescopes, such as the astronomical telescope, can allow us to look at places we are not able to see with our naked eyes, and learn more about the systems that surround ours.
Even tough Galileo Galilei is the first person renowned for using a telescope to scrutinize the skies – the inventor of the telescope is actually a German-Dutch lensmaker named Hans Lippershey. His work (1608) on the design of the refracting telescope allowed Galileo Galilei do discover the four largest moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) later remaining known in history as the galilean moons.
There are many uses for an astronomical telescope. You can use it anywhere you’d like to use it, and you can develop and hone your object finding skills with a telescope from almost any vantage point. But the best thing to do with a big aperture Dobson for example is to go out into the country, away from the city lights. This is because cities light up the sky (light pollution), and you are often unable to see anything of interest in a telescope if you’re too close (or inside) a big city. So pretty much the reason to head away from the lights is that when you are far away form the lights, they don’t reflect on the sky, and you are actually able to see what is up there, and to study it.
Once you’re at you’re observing site with the telescope set up and clear skies ahead you can start pointing it to different objects. Knowing the constellations (basic orientation should be enough) is kind of a prerequisite. The Moon should reveal itself with great details on craters, mountains, riffs and other forms of relief. The brightest planets again put up a show: Jupiter shows us a mix of colors with bands, the Great Red Spot and other atmospheric formations. Saturn has it’s amazing ring structure (or the planet with “ears”). Mars is a bit overrated in my opinion because it doesn’t show up that many distinctive features. For Venus we can observe it’s phases in a telescope. The rest of the planets they’re not of that much interest for now.
Star clusters, Nebulae, Galaxies
We can than expect to observe multiple star systems, star clusters, nebulae and even other galaxies. You have some examples of star clusters and nebulas above. The largest galaxy – and the closest to us is Andromeda Galaxy ( or Messier 33 ). You need only a star chart, clear skies and a bit of practice and you’ll be able to observe an awful lot of objects with a medium sized telescope for example (200 mm diameter Dob).
People are using a good quality telescope for many years. They usually don’t require any special care or routine maintainance. You’re perfectly fine to keep it in a dry place with a dust cover (yeah, the optical system needs to be protected by dust, water or other impurities). You’ll also discover that the telescope will serve you well if you just don’t abuse it. Sure, in time you’ll probably want to gather more eyepieces, a telrad, anti-dew (heating) systems, etc.
If we’re considering astrophotography we’ll need aditional tools, like motorized mounts, a camera, guiding scopes, a laptop, etc. But nowdays it has become possible for the amateur astronomer (the Astronomy Apprentice) to take photographs of things that the naked eye cannot see. These types of photographs are photographs that will stay with the world, and photographs that we can learn a lot from. There are many reasons to study the world through the lens of an astronomical telescope, because sometimes in order to understand what is surrounding us, we need to understand what is above us, in the heavens.
Remember that you should find a place where it is quiet and where you can use your telescope safely, for as long as you’d like. There are several places online and in libraries where you can find many star charts, digital apps and scientific catalogues which will show you what you should be looking for and in what specific place on the night sky and will help to explain the things that you see.
What to practically look for?
There are many things to be seen on the night sky, it is just a matter of knowing what to look for, and looking at the right times and from the right places. If you can find a set time in which you can witness all kinds of events, such as supernovas, comets, transits, occultations, and other things like this, you are going to find that you are able to enjoy your astronomical telescope even more.