If you have bought a top telescope recently, or intend to buy one, then a question you might ask is, can telescopes be used during the day? Novice astronomers often wonder whether this is possible and whether it is safe or worth their time. Thankfully, astronomy can still carry on after the sun comes up, but there are several factors to take into account that will determine how you approach it.
Here’s what you need to know:
Ultimately, your telescope’s performance will dictate what you can see. Regardless of the time of day, Focal Length, Aperture, Focal Ratio, Resolving Power and Magnification are all elements of a telescope that affect its ability to display images. Also, it is prudent to factor in your location and the weather conditions before observing the sky. If there are lots of clouds or pollution in your area, you might have limited views. Telescopes always produce better results if you use them in rural locations, and when the views are not impacted by the weather.
Suffice to say, when the sky is clear you will be able to see more, and it is sensible to identify the sky’s highest point. If this point of the sky is dark blue, your viewing experience will be good. All the main bright stars, notable satellites and five classical planets can be seen through a telescope with moderate specifications.
Observing the Sun During Daytime
At the risk of stating the obvious, staring at the Sun should be avoided. This is particularly important when you use a telescope. You will damage your sight significantly if you attempt to magnify your view of the Sun. Nonetheless, full aperture solar filters allow you to observe the Sun while protecting your eyes. The majority of these accessories come in single pieces and fasten onto the telescope’s end. With these simple devices, you can study the Sun just as much as any other star.
Daytime Observation of the Moon
Unlike the Sun, the Moon is not an obvious target for daytime viewing – however, depending on what phase it is in, it can be seen during the day. When it moves further away from the Sun initially, the Moon is hard to see. However, its visibility increases before sunset in the afternoons at the start of the first quarter of the year. If you are a morning person and don’t mind an early start, the days leading into the last quarter of the year also provide a good opportunity to observe the Moon. Telescopes can highlight certain features normally only visible at night, however they will be less pronounced because of the blue cast, bright daytime sky.
Observing Planets During the Day
Most of the time, it is fairly easy to locate the Moon with your naked eye. When a conjunction occurs between another planet and the Moon, it can help you find Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Mercury. Sometimes, you might be able to find Jupiter and Venus without using the Moon. However, this tends to be when they are at their highest southern point – with the Sun sixty degrees or more away from them. Sky this distance away from the Sun will be darker, offering greater visibility to these two bright planets during daytime.
Star Watching During Daytime
You can use the same methods used to locate the planets to find some bright stars during the day. The trick is to target stars in the south while the Sun is to the west. This could occur two or three hours prior to sunset. Often, you will be able to see the main stars of Orion through your telescope. These include Rigel, Betelgeuse, Alnitak, Bellatrix and Iota Orionis. Procyon, Aldebaran and Capella might be visible as well. Haze sometimes ruins the views of stars that are lower in the sky, however you might see Sirius in the south shortly before sunset.
Terrestrial Views During the Day
Telescopes are great, because they enable you to get a detailed view of things that are a long distance away. If you use your telescope to look at things on land, you have to be quite far away from the things you point the telescope at. Unless your telescope is weak, you will not be able to use it to view things nearby — so spying on the neighbors is out of the question.
Notwithstanding, if you are in the countryside, a telescope is ideal for watching animals that are grazing in the distance. Moreover, a telescope can come in handy if you live by the sea. You can use it to view islands that might not be visible otherwise. Also, you can scan the water for signs of marine life. Based on your location, you might get lucky and notice whales, dolphins or other interesting sea creatures.
Other Daytime Telescope Suggestions
Another thing worth looking out for during the day is a combination of atmospheric and astronomical effects. When the sky has a cirrus cloud or high level, fine haze in it, this can produce a range of amazing effects near the Sun. When the sun moves lower in the sky, a Sun Pillar can often appear. This is a light column that extends upwards by roughly five to ten degrees. If you are fortunate, you might witness a flash of green light — a rarely seen spectacle that occurs as the sun sets and rises, when a green flash materializes on the horizon right above it.
In addition, the International Space Station can be seen through a telescope during its daytime travels occasionally. This tends to be possible when it passes across the Sun and Moon. Sometimes, you might even see meteors traveling during the day, if you look at the right time — although there’s nothing to stop you setting up a meteor radio detector to monitor them round the clock. Whatever your interests, there is no shortage of things to keep you occupied in the sky during daytime, so feel free to start exploring and prepare to be fascinated.