Astronomy

We specialize in introducing beginners to the wonders of the night sky

But we have a lot to offer more advanced astronomers too!

The moon was captured (single, short exposure) with a digital SLR camera attached to a Skywatcher 8" Dobsonian telescope. The camera body was attached with an adaptor directly to the telescope's focuser, where the eyepiece would normally go. For you photographers, this set-up effectively gives the camera an amazing 1200 mm, F5.9 telephoto "lens"! A Dobsonian (reflector) uses mirrors rather than lenses, so without the normal camera lens and without a telescope eyepiece, the light from the moon goes through no glass. It first bounces off the 8" diameter primary mirror (which provides the magnification) then off a small secondary flat mirror which bounces the light directly onto the camera's sensor. Cool!

How can we help you?

There are so many options to choose from when you first take up amateur astronomy. We are here to help, whether you want equipment, a training course, or just some friendly advice. One doesn't need any equipment to start enjoying the night sky. On a clear night, it can be fun, and educational, to get a basic orientation; finding the north star (Polaris), identifying some constellations and differentiating a planet from a star are great first steps! With your naked eye, you can see Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Saturn, the Milky Way, and even satellites hurtling by! A telescope, and to some extent binoculars, can reveal still more amazing celestial features. Stop by the store and talk to us today. We can help you understand the nuances of observing planets versus "deep sky objects" (and vice-versa). We'd be happy to clearly explain magnification, aperture and other astronomy vocabulary.

It's not all about magnification!

A common misconception is that you need more magnification. Although many telescopes are quoted as having 400X magnification or more, it is much more common to use 100X or less. Astronomical "weather" significantly limits performance at higher magnifications. Furthermore, most celestial objects appear larger than planets; the problem is that they are too faint to be seen without a telescope. Thus, what an astronomer actually desires is more aperture (diameter). The larger the diameter, the more light-gathering power. All other things being equal, a larger diameter will allow you to see fainter objects (distant nebulae or galaxies) and will also allow you to resolve more details in planets. Please stop by the store for a more detailed explanation!

What's a light year?

A light year is a measure of distance. It's the distance that light would travel in a year and it's used to describe distances that are very large. One light year = 9,460,730,000,000 km. Reflected light from our moon takes only one and a half seconds to reach us. Light rays from the sun take roughly 8 minutes to reach Earth. Light rays reflecting off Jupiter take over 1/2 hour to reach Earth. But light rays coming from Andromeda galaxy take roughly 2.5 million years to reach Earth ... and Andromeda is considered to be a nearby galaxy!

Jupiter with 4 moons

Within our solar system:

Jupiter (and 4 of its moons)

Our solar system consists of one star (the sun) around which the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) move in orbits. Jupiter is the largest planet, being roughly 1300 times larger than Earth (by volume). The distance between Earth and Jupiter varies depending on their orbits, but an average distance would be roughly 750 million kilometres. You can spot Jupiter with your naked eye. Binoculars makes it easier to confirm that it's a planet rather than a star and if you have very steady hands, you might catch a hint of one of Jupiter's moons. With a telescope, you can see some shading details of the planet's surface and easily pick out four of Jupiter's moons. Exciting!

M13 globular star cluster

Within our galaxy (the Milky Way):

M13 globular star cluster

The Milky Way galaxy contains our sun (and planets) as well as billions of other stars. Within the Milky Way - but beyond our solar system - lie many fascinating deep sky objects. One easily found object is M13, a cluster of stars some 22,000 light years away, that you can see with an affordable telescope. Exhilarating!

Andromeda galaxy (M31)

Beyond our galaxy:

Andromeda galaxy (M31)

The universe is unimaginably big. It is estimated to contain hundreds of billions of galaxies, of which our Milky Way galaxy is one. Finding deep sky objects is a challenging but rewarding experience. The nearest large neighbouring galaxy is Andromeda and it will likely be your first galactic target. Imagine this: it is roughly 2.5 million light years away! When you observe Andromeda through your telescope, you're seeing light that left those stars 2.5 million years ago. Mind-blowing!

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