Hello to all the new and lucky telescope owners,
Please use your telescope for the very first time during the day.
WARNING, WARNING, WARNING – NEVER POINT YOUR TELESCOPE ANYWHERE NEAR THE SUN!
All of the following information will strive to support the above statement.
I’m writing this post so that you and yours will have the highest possible chance of having a pleasant evening viewing our amazing night sky. To me, it is a shame when I read that someone got so frustrated trying to set up the scope in the dark that they just gave up. Or you started losing your audience (wife, kids, friends/relatives) because the setup was taking so long or nothing could be found or brought into focus. This first experience may determine whether you can’t wait to use the scope again, or it winds up on Craigslist.
First a little background on me. I've been using a telescope (sometimes several at once) for over 50 years. I've owned more than two dozen and I've built two of them from scratch. I still purchase new pieces of equipment regularly and new scopes as often as I can afford them. To this day I test out and become acquainted with each new scope/piece of equipment during the DAY! This also applies to cameras!
The advantages of setting up your scope during the day:
You can see what you are doing which includes looking at and even (heaven forbid) reading the supplied instructions.
You can survey the backyard (or wherever your perceived choice spot is) to find the best/most level/widest open location. Don’t forget to look for the evil street lights (if you can see them, they can see you). Also, look for a secondary site just in case your first doesn’t work out (unseen street/porch light, dog poop, and any number of things).
You can see how the mount fits together and how it should be set up.
You can see all of your tools and all the adjustment screws that you will be adjusting. Plus you’ll more easily be able to visualize “lefty Lucy, righty tighty".
You can see how to install the scope, AKA the Optical Tube Assembly (OTA), onto the mount.
You can see the holes where the mounting screws go for the finder (scope, red dot/reflex, Telrad, etc).
For those scopes that use a 90° diagonal, you‘ll be able to see where it goes and how to secure it into place.
You can see the focusing knob(s)
You can see where to insert the eyepiece (EP) and how to secure it into place.
To realize the rest of the advantages, you will need to point your scope at a far way mountain/hilltop, or a cell tower, or even a tall tree. I don’t even go outside to do this (I open my sliding glass door), but realize if you try to focus through a window you will not necessarily get a “focused” image because of the window glass’ irregularities.
WARNING, WARNING, WARNING – NEVER POINT YOUR TELESCOPE ANYWHERE NEAR THE SUN! Besides the obvious damage to your eye, you can also damage the optical surfaces in your scope. In fact, stay on the other side of the sky away from the sun!
Note: The images in your scope will either be upside down (reflectors and simple “no diagonal used” refractors) or reversed left to right – like looking in a mirror (Refractors with the diagonal and Catadiotric telescopes [Cassegrains, Maksutovs, etc]). This is normal because it is not important whether an object is shown correctly. In space there is no up or down.
NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT PART
You need to practice bringing an image into focus. Make sure you start with the highest numbered (in millimeters) eyepiece (EP) (usually a 25mm). This is your lowest power EP.
The first time you use the scope you won't know whether to rotate the focusing knob(s) clockwise or counter clockwise. So pick a direction and rotate the knob slowly and be patient, it may take a few minutes to find focus.
Now that you have the hilltop/cell tower/tall tree in focus, you can move over to your (newly installed) finder (scope, red dot/reflex, Telrad) and center it (using its…