(Image courtesy NASA)
Today we look to the skies to see what interesting astronomical events are taking place in 2018, and how we can go about enjoying them with a brand new Celestron telescope. Whether you’re a long time amateur astronomer looking to upgrade your current system, or someone just looking to get into a fun new hobby, the telescopes we feature here today are sure to enhance your ability to enjoy the wonderful pastime of sky gazing. We’ll start with a look at 5 excellent Celestron model telescopes, then near the end of the article we’ll check out a few important dates on the 2018 astronomical calendar. If that’s the part that interests you the most, you can just skip ahead to that section now. Otherwise, let’s get right into it with out first telescope selection.
A Few Fine Telescopes from Celestron
The first telescope I want to consider is the Celestron Explorascope 70AZ Telescope. This refractor (lights scattering) model is great for the amateur astronomer or beginning star gazer. It’s got a 70mm aperture, combined with a 700mm focal length, thus creating a focal ratio of f/10. It also provides a StarPointer finder to help you align your telescope and assist with locating astronomical objects, and extremely educational interactive astronomy software that’s just perfect for introducing new enthusiasts to the field of astronomy. Also included with this scope are 2 eyepieces (with 35x & 175x magnification), a 3x Barlow lens (to increase the magnification of each eyepiece to 135x and 525x respectively), and an accessory tray to hold it all, along with a scratch-resistant aluminum tripod to set your scope up on. With a setup like this, you’ll be out enjoying the nighttime sky for many years to come.
Another excellent model (and also a refractor) is this Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZS Telescope. With an 80mm aperture diameter, 400mm focal length, and f/5 focal ratio, this impressive telescope is capable of capturing the most fascinating of astronomical images, including distant star clusters and vast nebulae (large, interstellar clouds of dust and gasses). Moreover, thanks to its inclusion of the SkyX DVD ROM, this telescope will help you to learn about and better understand the distant objects you’re viewing. Also included here are 2 eyepieces, a 3x Barlow lens, an accessory tray, and a full mount and tripod. The optics with this scope are also fully coated (for clearer and more detailed images), and the entire unit is both lightweight and easy to set up without any tools whatsoever (so you can easily transport it wherever you’d like it to be). All in all, the Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZS is a great telescope for astronomers of the beginning, amateur, or intermediate variety—a very fine unit indeed!
The first reflector on today’s list is the Celestron PowerSeeker 114EQ Telescope with Motor Drive. For anyone that might not know, a reflecting telescope uses a mirror to collect light, rather than breaking light apart like a refractor. This particular model offers an aperture diameter of 114mm, a focal length of 900mm, and therefore a focal ratio of 7.89 (Note: to calculate focal ratios, simply divide the focal length by the aperture diameter). Also included with this beautiful scope are 2 eyepieces (offering 45x and 225x magnifications), a 3x Barlow lens (to triple the magnifying power of each eyepiece), and a sturdy and adjustable (for height) aluminum tripod to mount it on. Its glass optical components are also fully coated (with high transmission coatings) for better clarity and enhanced image brightness, and there’s even a special tracking motor included with this model to keep your telescope constantly pointed at the same celestial object even though the Earth is continually moving that object across the night sky. Once again, a very fine telescope for beginning and amateur astronomers and hobbyists.
Moving right along, we now come to a true, high quality Newtonian reflector called the Celestron 114 x 1000mm Reflector Telescope. This telescope provides a 114mm aperture with a 1000mm focal length (can you calculate the focal ratio for this model, based on the information provided above?). With its lightweight (and computerized) Altazimuth mount, its SkyX First Light Edition Astronomy Software (featuring a database of 10,000 astronomical objects, as well as 75 enhanced images and printable sky maps), and its attached StarPointer finder to help you more easily locate objects of interest, the Celestron 114 x 1000mm Reflector Telescope is certainly an impressive model—a true enthusiast’s telescope, to which its highest useful magnification of 269x can attest. And I’ve only just scratched the surface of what this particular telescope can do, so it’s definitely one that’s worth checking out Best Buy’s product page for. There are many more features and details.
Finally, there’s the Celestron Nexstar 4SE 102 x 1323mm Maksutov Telescope, which is easily the most impressive telescope on today’s list. With this model (featuring the Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design), we may still be in beginner territory (slightly), but we’re definitely getting more serious now. And that’s because this telescope, with its 102mm aperture and 1325mm focal length, can truly give you a show to remember. Key features here include (but are not limited to) SkyAlign technology (for quicker and easier setup and alignment), the NexStar Alt-Az GoTo Mount and Hand Controller, a tripod with attached accessory tray, and the Sky Level 1 Planetarium Software (featuring 10,000 object database), just to name a few. You can even attach a camera to this model to take pictures of your favourite celestial objects. Just be sure and check out Best Buy’s product page first (link above) for more details on compatible cameras and the necessary attachments (T-rings) for making them connect. There’s so much you can do with a telescope as advanced as this one, but unfortunately I can’t lay it all out for you here, so I definitely recommend some further reading at Best Buy on this one.
Key Astronomical Events & Their Dates
The final thing I’d like to do today is leave you with a few key dates for upcoming astronomical events in 2018. I do, however, have a quick disclaimer to add in. Since most astronomical events can only be seen from certain parts of the world at certain times, I wanted to find some specific events that will be observable from within Canada. However, this proved to be rather difficult for a number of reasons. First, several websites that provide information on key dates for astronomy don’t necessarily specify what parts of the world these events are best seen from. Secondly, with a country as large as Canada, there are bound to be regions where a specific event is not observable even when the country itself is listed as being suitable for viewing that event. In short, this stuff is complicated—and we’re not even accounting for weather conditions. For this reason, I’m just listing a few events that sound especially interesting to me, and I can’t guarantee that they will all be visible in every (or maybe even any) part of Canada. If something should strike your fancy, you might want to do some independent research on it yourself before planning a big astronomy party. Note: I’ve tried to select one significant event per month for the remainder of 2018, though there are actually many more events than that coming up this year.
(Image courtesy NASA)
Here’s what we’ve got:
March 7 & 8: Planet Parade – This one is coming up very, VERY soon, and it sees Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn hovering very closely to each other (at least from our perspective). Our own lovely Moon will also join the group and get right in the middle of the action by March 8th, so be sure to keep an eye out for this one!
April 16: New Moon – On this evening there will be no moon visible in the night sky to light things up like a ship. This occurrence makes for a much darker night, and that means that far away, faint objects will be that much easier to see without the Moon providing light pollution interference. It’s a great night for general star gazing!
May 9: Jupiter is at Opposition – This will be the best night all year to view Jupiter, which will not only be at its closest approach to us here on Earth at that time, but will also be “full” from our perspective (just like a full Moon), and therefore incredibly bright on that night. In fact, it’ll be out all night long, so, weather permitting, it’s a great night for astronomy!
June 27: Saturn is at Opposition – All details are exactly the same as above for Jupiter, only for Saturn, so get out there and don’t miss the great ringed planet showing us its best side!
(Image courtesy NASA)
July 27: Mars is at Opposition – Once again, the details for this one are the same as the two above, only for Mars. There’s also supposed to be a full Lunar Eclipse in July, but sadly only for the good folks of the Southern Hemisphere.
August 12 & 13: Perseid Meteor Shower – With supposedly up for 60 meteors per hour shooting across the sky at its peak, this event is meant for the whole of the Northern Hemisphere, and it would be an absolute shame to miss it. You don’t even really need a telescope to enjoy this show!
September 7: Neptune is at Opposition – I think you already know how this one goes. Don’t miss it!
October 23: Uranus is at Opposition – Once again, you get the picture. Only, this planet is sooo far away that you’ll need a real whopper of a telescope to get any kind of a decent look at it. Still, it’s certainly worth checking out if you’ve got the equipment.
November 6: Mercury is at its Greatest Eastern Elongation – Simply put, this is the best day of the year on which to see Mercury, as it will be at its furthest point away from the Sun on this day and therefore won’t be swallowed up in the Sun’s brightness. Look for it close to the horizon in the western sky just after sunset on that day (since it follows the Sun, it won’t be visible for long).
December 12: Comet 46p/Wirtanen – This one isn’t a sure thing, but if conditions are just right, this comet may be visible without a telescope at all on this day (and be very visible with one). At this time, it’ll be a mere 7.2 million miles away, so keep an eye out for more information in astronomical news circles as we approach the year’s end.
So, there you have it folks, a number of fine telescopes, and a number of exciting astronomical events coming up in 2018. I’m certainly no expert on astronomy. I tried my very best to get all of the details just right, but if you can provide more clarity or specifics, please respond in a comment.
Now get your gear ready and get out there and enjoy these amazing sights!