Personal Matters

There are a number of other factors that impact the overall success of an observing session at the telescope. One concerns proper dress. This is of particular importance in the cold winter months of the year, when observers often experience subzero temperatures at night. It is impossible to be effective at the eyepiece, or to even just enjoy the views, when you're half frozen to death! Proper protection of the head, hands and feet are especially critical during such times, and several layers of clothing are recommended. During the summer months the opposite problem occurs, as observers attempt to stay cool. In addition to very short nights at this time of year, there's the added annoyance of flying insects and optics-fogging humidity and dew (see the discussion on dew caps and heated eyepieces in Chapter 5).

Another concern is proper posture at the telescope. It has been repeatedly shown that the eye sees more detail in a comfortably seated position than when standing, twisting or bending at the eyepiece. If you must stand, be sure that the eyepiece/focuser is at a position where you don't have to turn and strain your neck and head to look into it. And while not as critical, the same goes for positioning finder scopes where they can be reached without undue contortions.

Proper rest and diet both play a role in experiencing a pleasurable observing session. Attempting to stargaze when you're physically or mentally exhausted is guaranteed to leave you frustrated and maybe looking for a buyer for your prized telescope. Even a brief catnap before going out to observe after a hectic day is a big help here. Many heavy foods can leave you feeling sluggish and unable to function alertly at the telescope. It's much better to eat after you're done stargazing, especially since most observers find themselves famished then (particularly on cold nights!). Various liquid refreshments such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate can provide warmth and a needed energy boost. And while alcoholic drinks like wine do dilate the pupils and technically let in more light, they adversely affect the chemistry of the eye. This reduces its ability to see fine detail on the Moon and planets, resolve close double stars and see faint objects like galaxies.

Chapter 5

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