Welcome Hobbyists & Burgeoning Astronomers!
November’s new hobby is Astronomy. I know what you’re thinking, “perfect timing,” right? Yes! The Supermoon was just closer to the Earth than it has been in 70 years. Fun fact: Its official name is perigee-syzygy. Supermoon viewing was jaw dropping to say the least, but it’s now time to make your jaw drop even further…
We begin with a bit of history on the telescope… (If you’re eager to build your own, skip down to “Your New Hobby Box Includes”)
“The earliest recorded working telescopes were the refracting telescopes that appeared in the Netherlands in 1608.
Its development is credited to three individuals: Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Janssen, who were spectacle makers in Middelburg, and Jacob Metius of Alkmaar. Galileo heard about the Dutch telescope in June 1609, built his own within a month and greatly improved upon the design in the following year.
The idea that the objective, or light-gathering element, could be a mirror instead of a lens was being investigated soon after the invention of the refracting telescope. The potential advantages of using parabolic mirrors—reduction of spherical aberration and no chromatic aberration—led to many proposed designs and several attempts to build reflecting telescopes. In 1668, Isaac Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope, of a design which now bears his name, the Newtonian reflector.
The invention of the achromatic lens in 1733 partially corrected color aberrations present in the simple lens and enabled the construction of shorter, more functional refracting telescopes. Reflecting telescopes, though not limited by the color problems seen in refractors, were hampered by the use of fast tarnishing speculum metal mirrors employed during the 18th and early 19th century—a problem alleviated by the introduction of silver coated glass mirrors in 1857, and aluminized mirrors in 1932. The maximum physical size limit for refracting telescopes is about 1 meter (40 inches), dictating that the vast majority of large optical researching telescopes built since the turn of the 20th century have been reflectors. The largest reflecting telescopes currently have objectives larger than 10 m (33 feet).
The 20th century also saw the development of telescopes that worked in a wide range of wavelengths from radio to gamma-rays. The first purpose built radio telescope went into operation in 1937. Since then, a tremendous variety of complex astronomical instruments have been developed.”
Source: The history of the telescope Henry C. King, Harold Spencer Jones Publisher Courier Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-43265-3
You’re About to Make the Same Telescope Galileo Designed.
Your homemade telescope will be modeled after Galileo’s first design developed in 1609:
The Galilean telescope could view the phases of Venus, and was able to see craters on the Moon and four moons orbiting Jupiter and the story goes that this telescope made Galileo the first person to see Saturn’s rings!
So how about we hurry up and build your telescope so you can start taking in the wonders of the sky…
Your New Hobby Box Includes:
2 sliding tubes
2 plastic red eyepieces
1 large lens
1 small lens
1 cardboard spacer
1 cardboard washer
1 foam holder
1 star finder
1 star finder booklet
1 long distance star laser
2 AAA batteries
Let’s Build A Telescope
Step One: Lay the red cap down on a table with the wide open end up.
Step Two: Holding it carefully by the edges, place the big (objective) lens with the curved side DOWN in the cap.
Note: To figure out which is the curved side, carefully place the lens on the table. If it rocks when you touch the edge, the curved side is against the table. If it lays still when you touch the edge, the curved side is facing up.
Step Three: Insert the larger end of the 2 sliding tubes in the cap.
Step Four: Place the foam lens holder on the table.
Step Five: Push the cardboard spacer into the foam lens holder so that it goes all the way to the bottom, touching the table.
Next, Using tissue, push the small (eyepiece) lens into the foam until it stops against the cardboard spacer. Like so:
Step Six: Now push the smaller end of the 2 sliding cardboard tubes over the foam eyepiece holder place the cardboard washer over the end of the tube and secure everything in place with the second red cap.
Step Seven: Act like a pirate. Your telescope is ready!
Now, Let’s Find Some Stars:
The Star and Planet locator (Star Chart) is an amazing tool for locating stars, constellations, and planets in the sky. This specific chart was built for those at 40° latitude, but still valuable for anyone in the United States (mid-latitude northern hemisphere.) I swear it’s just coincidence, but I am currently at 40°latitude as well – it will help explain some of the booklet references along the way though. The booklet that accompanies the star chart is incredibly detailed and a perfect guide for starting to explore the sky, but we wanted to help explain a few of the intricacies.
- Page 2 – Start with what you know | I was pretty ambitious to try and locate things I hadn’t even heard of when I started. It’s a big task in hindsight. So definitely follow what they say by finding what you know. For many, that’s the Big Dipper.
- Page 3 – Find your zenith | Have a look at figure 6 on page 3. This visual hit home with me as I was trying to better understand the celestial equator better. It’s a bit like being in the dead center of a snow globe. The top of the snow globe (directly above where you would be sitting in the center) is your zenith (or the latitude you are.) The zenith represents the stars and planets that will be directly above you. Need to find your latitude? Google is great for the smaller cities, but page 9 has a pretty comprehensive list of US cities as well. This latitude or zenith essentially becomes your angle from the horizon.
- Page 4 & 5 – Now find your meridian | This gets back to basic geometry, but to find your meridian, you will simply subtract your zenith from 90°. The meridian is accounting for your southern horizon. So if your zenith is 40° then your meridian is 50°. I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I’ve done geometry as well – never thought I would be dealing with complementary angles again. Page 5 lays the meridian out nicely – the top visual shows your 0°will always be the celestial equator and your 90° will be the pole. On the far right side going up and down the edge, you will find the meridian scale – take note of what your meridian is and make a tiny mark for reference on where you are at. Remember, you will see all the way down to the south horizon from the zenith.
- Page 6 – Piecing it all together | Go back to your star chart. If you are facing the northern sky, then have the chart with the north at the bottom and south at the top. Reverse it if you are facing south. Spin the chart wheel to the date (November 17th if you are reading this the day you open your New Hobby Box.) Reference figure 11 here. You want to take the meridian chart from page 5 and place the top of the meridian chart edge to the opening in the middle of your star chart. Align it to the top of the arc there. If you are at 40° latitude like me, and facing south, you are just missing perseus. The 40°zenith on November 17th is part of the pleiadies, followed by Taurus, and further down I should be able to see part of erinadus.
If you have a smartphone, there are some amazing apps that can help you out if you get stuck. Check out the following…
For the iPhone users check out SkyView – don’t fret, it’s free…
For the Android owners, you’ll want to use Sky Map, which is also free…
Show Off Your Sky Skills
The coolest part of this whole hobby is sharing what you know. Grab a friend and get out into the country. Get away from the light pollution. Disconnect from technology and spend some time out in nature. The laser included in your kit is super powerful – WARNING – do not shine in eyes or give to kids. The whole point of the laser is that you can easily point what you are looking at with those who join you on your night sky quest.
What I love about this hobby is you can learn and share it with ease. Stars are constantly shifting above us and I now understand a bit better how it all works together. This was science meets awe for me and I hope you experienced something similar.
So, drop a line below or on our social and let us know what star is above you right now – we will pick a random entry to receive a free hobby from our storefront!
Happy Hobbying 😉