Tuesday, 22 October 2013

How to see Ison

OK so you want to see Ison, but how to go about it?

The most important piece of equipment is simply your eyes! This may sound obvious but come the end of November in to December Ison will be more than visible to the naked eye. Ison will appear as a bright point of light low in the sky with a long tail stretching far up in to the heavens, and should be visible all across the northern hemisphere.
McNaught's Comet of 2007
The spectacular picture above is of McNaughts comet also known as "the great comet of 2007". McNaught was visible in the Southern hemisphere. We expect Ison to put on a show of similar scale, so as you can see you really don't need any fancy equipment to enjoy this amazing celestial show!

That said to view Ison before she becomes visible to the naked eye you will need to use optics, as you will if you want to see some of the finer details in her tail, the lumps of material and even jets from her surface.
There obvious choice is to run out and buy a astronomy telescope, but this would be our last choice!
So what are the options? Well it comes down to three, Binoculars, terrestrial telescopes and astronomy telescopes and we rate them in that order, and here why....


People always over look binoculars when staring out in astronomy, but they are the most useful tool an astronomer can own. Firstly for someone who just wants to catch a glimpse of Ison in all her glory, you really don't want to be spending huge sums of money on a telescope.
A good pair of binoculars cost considerably less than even the cheapest telescope and are not limited to just sky watching! Binoculars are much easier to use, it takes experience and a little skill to locate a distant object with a telescope and even more to keep it tracked on, binoculars make short work of both tasks! The large field of view you get with binoculars make finding objects in the sky easy. The best place to observe anything in the night sky is out in the country, on top of a hill, away from the light pollution of the towns and cities. Unfortunately for astronomers, these are not the easiest places to get to when your carrying a 25kg telescope! No optical device likes being dropped, including binoculars, but we can tell you from experience that telescopes really, REALLY don't like falls! Binoculars on the other hand are designed for "rougher" use. Finally space, not the bit up there but the lack of it in your home! Binoculars take up no room at all and can be kept handy in your cars glove box for those unscheduled comet watching moments! Don't know much about binoculars? Don't worry, scroll down for our buyers guide!
Get a good pair of bins, your back, wallet and sanity will thank you!

Terrestrial Telescopes:

These telescopes are often used for bird watching and are also known as spotter scopes, field telescopes, birding scopes or sports scopes to name but a few. Terrestrial telescopes can be fantastic for comet watching, but do suffer from a lot of the same restrictions that an astronomy telescope does. The advantage's of a terrestrial scope is that they offer higher magnification than binoculars without being to high like a regular telescope. The field of view is also much larger than a regular telescope which makes it easier to locate and stay on objects in the sky. They are much more rugged than an astronomy telescope, smaller, lighter and easier to carry. On the down side though, they are more expensive than binoculars, harder to use, heavier and more awkward to carry and still require a tripod. Our advice is, if you have one or can borrow one take it with you. If not stick with the binoculars.....

Astronomy Telescopes:

Astronomy telescopes are designed to view far space objects, rather than near earth objects like Ison. 
The high magnification and small field of view makes it hard to locate objects in the sky and with the earths rotation, hard to keep in view. 
Telescopes don't come cheap, and the ones that do are usually very poor quality. If you have never used a telescope before, you will probably become frustrated quickly. 

Don't get us wrong telescopes are the backbone of astronomy, but for when Ison comes close, they're to big, to powerful, to clumsy!
Its all about using the right tool the the job........

You might have noticed that we recommend binoculars! But how do you go about choosing a pair? Well don't fret we've written a guide........

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