How to use a telescope

Astronomy is a fascinating hobby that has been enjoyed by people for centuries. With the advancements in technology, amateur astronomers now have access to high-quality commercial telescopes. If you’re a beginner looking to get into astronomy, using a telescope can be a great way to start. In this article, we will go over the basic steps for how to use a commercial telescope for astronomy. As well as tips and tricks for making the most of your observing experience.

Before we dive into the steps for using a commercial telescope, it’s important to understand the different components. A commercial telescope typically consists of the following components: tube, mount, finder scope and eyepiece.

Basic steps and tips

AssemblySetting up the telescope as per manufacturer instructions.Follow the manual carefully; take care with delicate parts.
Understanding Telescope PartsFamiliarize with parts like eyepiece, mount, and finder scope.Know each part’s function for better usage.
Aligning the Finder ScopeMaking sure the finder scope aligns with the telescope.Do this during the day to make it easier.
FocusingAdjusting the focus for a clear image.Start with a low-power eyepiece to find and focus objects.
Using EyepiecesChanging eyepieces for different magnifications.Start with higher focal length eyepieces for wider views.
Finding ObjectsLocating celestial objects in the night sky.Use star maps or apps for guidance.
Tracking ObjectsKeeping objects in view as the Earth rotates.Manual tracking with an altazimuth mount; motorized with an equatorial mount.
MaintenanceRegular cleaning and care.Handle lenses carefully; store the telescope in a dry, dust-free place.
Astrophotography (Optional)Taking photos through the telescope.Requires additional equipment like a camera mount.
Practice and PatienceDeveloping skills through regular use.Don’t get discouraged; practice makes perfect.
How to use a commercial telescope

The tube

This is the main body of a commercial telescope . It contains the optical elements, which can either be lenses or mirrors. The tube plays a crucial role in the performance of the telescope. It provides a stable and protected environment for the optical elements to work at their best. It is usually made of metal, such as aluminum or steel, and is designed to be strong and durable. The material used for it must also be able to withstand temperature changes and humidity. These factors can affect the performance of the telescope.


The length of the tube is determined by the focal length of the optical elements. Which determines the magnification and field of view of the telescope. The longer the focal length, the longer the tube needs to be to accommodate the optical elements. Some commercial telescopes may have collapsible or extendable tubes, which allow for more compact storage and easier transportation. The tube also serves as a protective shield for the optical elements. Dust, dirt, and other particles can affect the quality of the images produced by the telescope.

So the tube is designed to keep the optical elements clean and protected, it may have a cover or cap to protect the lens or mirror when not in use, and some telescopes come with a protective case for storage and transportation. It may also have additional features to enhance the performance of the instrument.

For example, some tubes have baffles, which are designed to reduce unwanted reflections and increase contrast in the image. Baffles are particularly important in reflecting telescopes, where stray light can cause glare and reduce the clarity of the image. The tube of a commercial telescope can also have a focusing mechanism, which allows the user to adjust the position of the optical elements to achieve the best focus. The focusing mechanism may be a manual knob or a motorized system, depending on the type of telescope and the level of precision required.

The mount

The mount is the structure that holds the telescope in place and allows you to point it at different objects in the sky, it is an essential component that allows the telescope to be positioned and stabilized in a way that enables optimal viewing of celestial objects. A telescope mount is essentially a device that supports the telescope and allows it to be pointed at any desired location in the sky. There are two primary types of telescope mounts: Altazimuth and Equatorial.

Altazimuth mounts

Altazimuth mounts are simpler and more intuitive to use, with one axis of rotation for vertical movement and another axis of rotation for horizontal movement. They are best suited for beginners and are popular for terrestrial viewing as well.

Equatorial mounts

Equatorial mounts, on the other hand, are more complex and offer greater precision. They have one axis of rotation aligned with the celestial equator and another axis aligned with the earth’s rotation axis. This enables the telescope to track celestial objects as they move across the sky. The mount of a commercial telescope must be sturdy and well-built to ensure that the telescope remains stable during observation.

Mounts are typically made from steel or aluminum and are designed to withstand wind, vibration, and other disturbances that could affect the accuracy of observations. Most commercial telescope mounts have a motorized tracking system that allows the telescope to follow the movement of celestial objects as they cross the sky. This is particularly important for high-magnification observations, where even the slightest movement of the telescope can cause the object to move out of the field of view.

The mount of a commercial telescope can also have additional features that enhance the observing experience. For example, some mounts have a GoTo system, which uses a computerized database of celestial objects to automatically move the telescope to the desired location in the sky. This is particularly useful for beginners who may not be familiar with the night sky.

Another feature that some mounts have is the ability to control the telescope remotely through a smartphone or tablet. This allows for greater flexibility and ease of use, as the observer can adjust the telescope position without having to physically touch the mount. The type of mount used will depend on the level of precision required and the skill level of the observer. Additional features such as motorized tracking systems and remote control can further enhance the observing experience. A well-built and sturdy mount is essential for accurate and stable observations.

The finder scope

The finder scope is a small telescope mounted on the main telescope that helps you locate objects in the sky. It typically has a lower magnification than the main telescope, making it easier to locate objects and navigate the night sky.

Often used to locate objects that are too faint or too small to be seen with the naked eye. It is usually mounted on top of the main telescope, parallel to the main optical axis. It is aligned with the main telescope to ensure that the center of the field of view of the finder scope is the same as that of the main telescope. This is important because the observer can use the finder scope to center the object in the field of view before switching to the main telescope for a closer look.

Additional features

The finder scope may have additional features to enhance its performance, such as illuminated reticles. An illuminated reticle is a crosshair or other marking that is illuminated by a small light source, making it easier to see in low light conditions. The reticle can be adjusted to match the field of view of the main telescope, allowing the observer to center the object precisely. Another feature of the finder scope is the ability to adjust its focus. This allows the observer to focus the finder scope on the same object as the main telescope, ensuring that both telescopes are in focus and the object is centered accurately.

Some commercial telescopes come with a red dot finder instead of a traditional finder scope. A red dot finder projects a small red dot onto a transparent screen, which is aligned with the main telescope. The observer looks through the main telescope and uses the red dot to locate the object in the sky. This type of finder is often easier to use than a traditional finder scope, particularly for beginners.

The eyepiece

The eyepiece is the component of the telescope that you look through to observe objects in the sky. It is an essential part of a commercial telescope that determines the magnification and quality of the image observed. The eyepiece is a small optical component that is inserted into the focuser of the telescope and is responsible for magnifying the image produced by the primary optical element (lens or mirror).

The magnification of the eyepiece is determined by its focal length, which is typically measured in millimeters. The higher the focal length of the eyepiece, the lower the magnification, and vice versa. Commercial telescopes usually come with a set of eyepieces of different focal lengths to provide a range of magnification options.

Design and construction

The quality of the eyepiece is determined by its design and construction. Higher quality eyepieces use more advanced optical designs and higher quality materials, resulting in sharper and clearer images. Low-quality eyepieces can cause the image to be blurry, distorted, or have a reduced field of view. One common type of eyepiece is the Plössl eyepiece, which has a simple design and provides good image quality at a reasonable price. Other types of eyepieces, such as the wide-angle eyepiece, provide a larger field of view and are ideal for observing large objects like star clusters and galaxies.

Additional features

The eyepiece can also have additional features that enhance the observing experience. For example, some eyepieces have an adjustable eyecup that can be raised or lowered to accommodate different eye positions. This is particularly useful for eyeglass wearers. Another feature of some eyepieces is a filter thread that allows filters to be attached to the eyepiece.

Filters can be used to enhance contrast, reduce glare, or isolate certain wavelengths of light for more precise observations. Higher quality eyepieces can provide sharper and clearer images, while lower quality eyepieces can cause blurring or distortion. A range of eyepieces with different focal lengths is typically included with commercial telescopes, providing a variety of magnification options. Additional features such as adjustable eyecups and filter threads can further enhance the observing experience. A well-designed and high-quality eyepiece is essential for successful observation of celestial objects.

Man with telescope looking at galaxy

Now that you have a basic understanding of the components of a commercial telescope, let’s go over the steps for using one:

Set up the mount:

The mount is an essential component of the telescope as it holds the telescope in place and allows you to point it at different objects in the sky. Make sure to set up the mount on a level surface, away from any sources of light pollution.

Assemble the telescope:

Once the mount is set up, attach the telescope to the mount. Make sure that all the screws are tightened securely to prevent the telescope from moving while in use.

Align the finder scope:

The finder scope is a small telescope mounted on the main telescope that helps you locate objects in the sky. To align the finder scope, point the main telescope at a distant object, such as a streetlight or a tree, and adjust the finder scope until it is aimed at the same object.

Choose your target:

Use a star chart or planetarium software to find the object you want to observe. Look up the coordinates of the object and use the mount’s control knobs to point the telescope in the right direction.

Focus the eyepiece:

Once the telescope is pointed in the right direction, look through the eyepiece and adjust the focus until the object is in sharp focus.

Observe the object:

Once the object is in focus, take your time to observe and appreciate the beauty of the celestial object you are observing. Make note of any details you see, such as the shape, color, and brightness of the object.

Tips and tricks

In addition to the basic steps outlined above, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of your observing experience:

Use a red light

When setting up your telescope and observing the night sky, it’s important to use a red light instead of a white light. This is because white light can be very disruptive to your night vision and make it difficult to see the objects you’re observing. A red light, on the other hand, is less disruptive and allows you to maintain your night vision.

Invest in quality eyepieces

High-quality eyepieces can greatly enhance the detail and clarity of the image you see through the telescope. Consider investing in a set of eyepieces that provide different magnification options.

Use a motorized drive system

A motorized drive system can help automatically track objects as they move across the sky, making it easier to observe them for longer periods of time. This is especially helpful for objects that move quickly, such as planets and the moon.

Take your time

Observing the night sky is a relaxing and enjoyable experience, so take your time and enjoy the view. Pay attention to the details you see and make note of what you observe. You can also try observing the same object on different nights to see how it changes over time.

Join a local astronomy club

Joining a local astronomy club can be a great way to meet other amateur astronomers and learn more about using a commercial telescope. Club members can also provide helpful tips and advice for making the most of your observing experience.

Using a commercial telescope for astronomy is a great way for beginners to get started in this fascinating hobby. By following the steps outlined in this article, as well as taking advantage of the tips and tricks provided, you can make the most of your observing experience and enjoy the beauty of the night sky. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make mistakes, and continue to learn and grow as an amateur astronomer. With patience, persistence, and a love for the stars, you will find that using a commercial telescope is a rewarding and fulfilling hobby.

FAQ Section for “How to Use a Telescope”

Do I Need Any Special Skills to Use a Telescope?

No special skills are needed, but patience and practice are important for mastering its use.

How Do I Set Up My New Telescope?

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for assembly, and start with aligning the finder scope during the day.

What Should I Look at First with My Telescope?

Begin with easy-to-find objects like the Moon or bright planets like Jupiter and Saturn.

How Do I Find Objects in the Night Sky?

Use star maps, astronomy apps, or a planisphere to help locate objects.

What’s the Best Way to Focus a Telescope?

Start with a low-power eyepiece and adjust the focus slowly until you get a clear image.

How Often Does My Telescope Need Maintenance?

Regularly check for dust and clean the optics gently as needed. Store in a dry, dust-free place.

Can I Take Pictures Through My Telescope?

Yes, you can practice astrophotography, but you’ll need additional equipment like a camera adapter.

How Important is the Mount Type?

The mount type is crucial for tracking objects and stability. Equatorial mounts are best for tracking, while altazimuth mounts are easier to use.

Why is Aligning the Finder Scope Important?

Proper alignment of the finder scope makes locating celestial objects easier.

What is the Best Time for Stargazing?

Clear, dark nights with minimal light pollution are ideal for stargazing. Check the weather and astronomical events for best viewing times.