Preparing To Observe
Properly getting ready for an evening of sky gazing is essential for getting the most out of the observing experience. Preparation can make the difference between a fairly interesting night and an extraordinary one.
As I have already noted in the previous section called Learning Your Way Around The Night Sky, a location away from bright lights is highly preferable. Unwanted stray light is referred to as light pollution. In the case of very bright objects such as the moon and planets, your viewing won’t suffer as badly under less than dark skies. If you are observing near your house, turn out all of your lights. Stray light from a single window will drastically reduce what you might see.
One might think that the only thing left to do before observing begins is the preparation and adjustment of your telescope (and we shall discuss this shortly). While equipment set up is indeed important, preparing yourself is just as essential.
A point that was made in the prior section was the necessity to dark-adapt your eyes for at least ten minutes. But your body should be prepared in other ways to make sure that you can see the maximum amount of detail in what you’re observing.
First, comfort is a must. It is a documented medical fact that the less comfortable a human being is, the less sensitive the eyes are to light. So, should you decide to observe in cold weather, bundle up tightly in warm clothing; conversely when the weather is hot you will need to dress as lightly as you can.
Believe it or not, your posture can affect your eye’s sensitivity. When the eyepiece of your telescope is a little too high and you have to stretch your neck or stand on tiptoes to get a view, the strain will decrease the amount of detail you will see in a faint object. Crouching downward to the point where you are straining has the same negative effect. In short, if at all possible, either sit in a chair in a comfortable upright position or stand straight but in a relaxed manner.
It is also important that you be free of fatigue and relaxed. You may find that your ability to discern fine detail will actually be better if you take a short cat nap before you go outdoors.
A meal before an observing session is a good idea. Low blood sugar is detrimental to light sensitivity. If you are not in a position to eat a meal before hand, get a “quick charge” from a candy bar (assuming you are not diabetic).
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