While buying a larger telescope is one way to see more
difficult astronomical objects, improving your observing technique plays a big role.
Experienced observers can always see more in the eyepiece than a newcomer. Here are some
Allow your eyes to become fully dark adapted and guard that adaptation throughout the
night. Everyone is familiar with the fact that after stepping out of a lighted building,
it is not possible to see much at all. But within just a few minutes, you are able to see
fainter objects (both on the ground and in the sky) than you could initially. Your night
vision improves dramatically in the first 30 minutes of avoiding bright lights. After
that, the process slows down, but your ability to see fainter and fainter light sources
continues to improve for a couple of hours. But all it takes is one look into a bright
light and your eyes get to start over again. Red light is the lest damaging to our night
vision, thus astronomers use red flashlights when they need light. But the red light
should be very dim as even a bright red light reverses some of your dark adaptation. Also
note that the moon through binoculars or a telescope is an extremely bright object. Leave
your lunar viewing for last if possible.
Use averted vision for faint objects like galaxies, nebulae and globular clusters. The
central area of the retina is best at detecting color while the areas off center are
better at detecting faint light. When viewing a faint object, try focusing to the side of
the object while concentrating on the object itself. You will generally be able to make
out fainter detail in this way.
Move the scope slightly side to side. Sometimes an object will be in the eyepiece, but
you can't located it. If you move the scope slightly side to side or up and down, the
motion will often make the object visible to you. Once you have located it in this way,
you can generally study it with averted vision.
- Spend some time on each object. When you first start out in astronomy, the tendency is
to jump from object to object as everything is new to you. Resist that urge and spend some
time on each object. What details can you make out on a planet's disk? Moments of clear
seeing will reward you with subtle details that are not initially obvious. Can you make
out any features in that faint smudge that is a galaxy millions of light years away? How
many stars can you individually pick out in that star cluster?
As you gain experience, you will notice that even your first looks at an object yield
greater detail than your painstaking efforts as a beginner. The most important thing is to
have fun and learn as you observe. Develop your observation technique and you will develop
astronomy into a life-long interest.