The Galileoscopes arrived – instructions and ideas for improvement
You may have heard about the Galileoscope, a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy. After my visit at the AAS conference at Pasadena, CA in June, I decided to organize a large order of this cheap telescope. We received last week ~155 Galileoscopes that should be now in the hands of my colleagues at SETi and UC-Berkeley and my friends. Since I already got a few questions from them, I decided to post on this blog some useful items and ideas.
- Assembling your Galileoscope. It is true that the instruction manual is not very clear and quite short. You can find more details on the Galileoscope website, if you are more into “seeing” than “reading”, then you can also check the visual instructions preapred by Universe Awareness or watch the video posted on youtube by the Adler Museum.
- Tripod. You really need a tripod to get the full performance of the telescope, if you hold it with your hands it will wiggle limiting significantly the quality of the images. The Galileoscope is equipped with an interface to set it up on ANY tripod for photography. You can buy a tripod from 2$ to 160$ (see this link on Amazon). I am not sure that a flexible mini-tripod for digital camera could hold the Galileoscope, but a steady one should work (e.g. Ambico) if you set it up on a flat surface (table). However, it is recommended to set up your Galileoscope on a normal tripod ( ~$15-$25), especially if you “wander in the wild to observe the heavens.”
- Focus. The focus of the telescope can be adjust by moving the focusing tube in and out (see the youtube video at 5min20s). The focal point is slightly further away from the eyepiece (the end of the telescope), allowing people with glasses to see without removing them.
- Eyepieces. I recommend to start first with the low eyepiece (x18 lens) since it is easier to spot the target (larger field of view). When you are familiar with the telescope you can increase to x25. A lot of people reported difficulties to use the x50 due to the tiny field of view. You definitely need a tripod to use it (and a lot of patience). Yo can see a discussion on the blog of my colleague Phil Blait (Bad Astronomy).
- Connecting a Camera. It is possible to install a camera on the telescope to take pictures as well. You will need a camera (obviously), a T-ring, an adapter and you may have to change the eyepiece (x25 seems to be the best). Elias_Jordan posted on his Flickr web site a video showing how it connected his Galileoscope with his digital Canon EOS 50D camera. I will most likely try that as well, so will post more details in the future.
- Connecting a webcam. I found a video on youtube from MarbleMad showing how you can cheaply connect a webcam to your Galileoscope. There are also some professional options. Rob Sparks from NOAO mentioned in his blog that he connected his Galilescope with a small webcam based camera called an Astrocam. I could not find more about it but I will post an update as soon as possible
- I want a Galileoscope! You can still order your Galilescope directly on the website ($20 each plus shipping) and don’t forget to make a donation for schools and clubs if you can. You can also directly buy one for your kid schools, I am sure their teachers will appreciate your gesture
I am glad to have found on the web that the Galileoscope initiative helps building a new community of amateur astronomers. You can find on the web several pictures taken by some of them (the Moon, Jupiter and its satellites). I will mount and test my own Galileoscope this weekend since I will be camping nearby Lake Camanche, CA, so I may update this blog with more handy comments.
The UC-Berkeley IYA group is considering to organize a Galilean Night at the university on Oct 22-24 2009. It will be a great opportunity for those who did not yet order their Galileoscope to look through one of them and for us to share our enthusiasm for space exploration. More news soon…