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What Can I Expect to See....?


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On 14/12/2020 at 15:08, Pixies said:

And to strain the metaphor even further. An expert driver in a Mini can beat a learner in a Porche around a track. Observing is a skill to be learned and I've probably reached my 'P' plate stage. There are lots of good instructors on this forum.


Equally true of imaging - if not more so!

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I'm so glad to have stumbled across this post. It reassures me that I'm not doing anything wrong!

My 7 year old daughter is fascinated by all things space so we bought her a 5" dobsonian for her birthday mid December. Since then, of course, there have only been 2 nights where we can see the sky...

I have always liked a bit of stargazing, although mainly in my youth when it was an excuse to be outside my mother's house and smoke "special" roll-ups after dark! I've never had a telescope and have no experience with astronomy.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I'm enjoying the journey of discovery that we're starting out on together, but knowing next to nothing myself, I worry that I will spoil her enthusiasm for the subject. I realised that images through a sub-£200 dob ≠ hubble, but I worry that my daughter will be disappointed. Additionally, having no idea what I'm looking for/at, I'm at a loss of how to keep her entertained!

We've seen Jupiter (just a large white disc currently, no other details) and the galilean moons and watched them move about between the 2 nights of observing so far! Also looked at andromeda galaxy which underwhelmed my daughter until she realised what it was and that the light was 2.5million years old! That blew her away. We've seen the pleiades and hyades and enjoyed the different coloured stars. I spent a fruitless few hours looking for the comet currently in Gemini too, but couldn't find it! 

Sorry for the long post, and the emotional outpouring... Some practical suggestions for how to introduce my daughter to astronomy while giving me some practical tips on how to improve my own skills in a stepwise manner would be much appreciated!

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1 hour ago, UniDonk said:

 Some practical suggestions for how to introduce my daughter to astronomy while giving me some practical tips on how to improve my own skills in a stepwise manner would be much appreciated!

I've used a 6" Dobsonian, which is only a little bit bigger in size to your daughter's and have managed to see a lot of stuff in a relatively short space of time, so you've made a good choice with what you bought. A lot depends on the conditions you're going to observe under so it's difficult to make specific recommendations for targets. However, I would recommend a couple of things: 1) a copy of Turn Left at Orion and 2) a good free astronomy app such as Stellarium or SkySafari for your phone. That's going to help you see what part of the sky is in the right place at the right time to match your viewing schedule.

Don't forget the moon as a target - it's a fabulous sight in my small binoculars and will blow you away through your telescope. The Turn Left at Orion has sections outlining what features you'll see based on the current moon phase.

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UniDonk - I can only echo the previous post - the Moon should be your top priority. Even if the atmosphere is a little shaky, it provides unforgettable views with a reasonably powerful eyepiece. Look along the terminator where Sunlight falls upon craters and mountains. The next night, you’ll get a very different view as the Moon goes through its phases. M42 Orion Nebula should be very good in your telescope too.

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Thanks for these suggestions! We've had a few more clear (ish) nights and have been watching features develop over several nights on a waxing moon. It's been fantastic! We've identified lunar seas and even some individual craters (we have invested in "50 things to see on the moon" to help us). We've also had a good look at the orion nebula which looks impressive. My daughter now asks every night when we're going to get her telescope out. It's been fun!

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