In this section I have listed a few things that I would recommend to anyone interested in amateur astronomy.
People often ask me what kind of telescope I use myself, and why that's the case.
The answer is that I use a SkyWatcher 150P on a SkyScan2001 EQ mounting.
My main interest is the planets, but I like to look at deep sky too!
The reason I use the 150P is that, although I have owned and used many, many telescopes, as you can see on this website, I find that the 150P gathers enough light to see the faintest thing I'm interested in seeing, it's got a good enough resolution to show the detail I'm interested in on the planets and magnifications suitable for the planets and sufficient that close doubles are easily within reach.
On a good night I can utilise 225x magnification without any of it being 'wasted' (New detail becomes available over a less magnified image). The reason for this is the quality of the SkyWatcher's Parabolic mirror and secondary, and the good quality Plössl eyepieces I use.
The tube is short enough to suffer from little vibration and 'wind wobble', especially on the SkyScan2001 mount, whilst being sturdy enough to hold everything in place perfectly without going out of alignment every few days.
The manufacture is good and the design is faultless.
It has to be said that the role of the mounting cannot be overemphasised. The sturdier and heavier the mounting, the better the view. For the 150P the SkyScan2001 is ideal. Rapidly negating any knocks and wind shake this makes observing in less than ideal conditions tollerable. This means that I can spend more time under the stars and less time complaining about the breeze!
Why do I not recommend my amazing 150mm f8 refractor, a telescope I drooled over for thirty years?
Because the tube is so long that at times you really can't reach the slow motions from the eyepiece position! Although the image is undeniably beautiful, the difficulty of easily guiding the refractor spoils the experience.
Projects and What to Look out for...
If you're not sure what you should look at in the night sky, or you're worried about missing things of interest, you could do a lot worse than getting a copy of the excellent 'Night Scenes' by Paul Money.
Month by month pages show what to keep an eye out for and have exact times for the UK.
Well written and put together you will have something to do on every clear night, with this smashing publication by an expert in the field of amateur observational astronomy.
Have a look at Paul's Monthly Night Sky.
Wil Tirion's SkyAtlas 2000.0
Absolutely fabulous atlas with 26 large-scale fold out pages showing stars to magnitude 8.0
Beautifully printed and amazing just to look through. It's not cheap, but well worth the outlay.
Peter Lancaster-Brown's 'Star and Planet Spotting'
Only available second hand, but well worth tracking down for some useable field charts and lots of guidance and information.
Starting with binoculars?
Get all the projects you could want to do with your binoculars and be guided through the constellations as the year passes by:
FREE Download PC Based Star Atlas/Planetarium.
Change the time and date. Search for the object you want. Plan your observations. Check the exact positions. It's a piece of cake with this easy-to-use downloadable star atlas. Even has a night time mode for use at the telescope!