Category How to Find the Apollo Landing Sites

Moon Observing Basics

The Moon is an easy and bright target for the beginning, casual, and serious back­yard observer. Even with the unaided eye, one can identify the major Seas as the large smooth grey areas. A good pair of 7 x 35 or 7 x 50 binoculars can resolve some of the major craters and large light and dark regions on the Moon’s surface. But it’s not until the observer starts using a telescope that the “OH WOW!” factor comes into play. “OH WOW” is the exclamation that issues from your mouth when you look through the eyepiece of the telescope at the Moon for the first time. Telescopes with apertures beginning at 60 mm and larger can produce very satisfying images of craters, mountain ranges, mares and lunar domes. And in the case of the subject of this book, a good telescope can help the reader to zoom-in on the Apollo landing sites and appreciate NASA’s great successes.

The reader needs to understand that, depending on the type of telescope being used, the orientation of the image may either be correct or mirrored. This can pose a problem when using Moon maps, or even the images presented in this book. The short-hand guidance is as follows: if the reader is using a Newtonian reflector, don’t worry. If using a refractor or other design, up will be up, down will be down, but left will be right, and right will be left. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

Despite the sophistication and technology that is possessed by today’s backyard astronomer, the reader is reminded that although the Apollo landings sites can be identified, there is no hope to see the remaining Apollo relics left on the Moon. The smallest object that can be seen from an earthbound telescope is a crater the size of the Rose Bowl or Wembley Stadium. The largest Apollo object left on the Moon is the descent stage of the lunar lander, roughly the equivalent of two U-Haul trucks parked side-by-side.

The Ranger Series

The Ranger Series

Fig. 10.1 The Ranger. Courtesy of NASA

The Ranger Program was NASA’s first step in achieving President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely by the end of the 1960s. This long forgotten lunar probe program was initially a source of embarrassment to NASA and the nation, but eventually achieved its goals and paved the way for the Surveyor Program, followed then by the Apollo triumphs. The Ranger spacecraft mission evolved into a simple task: to take images of the lunar surface and return those images to Earth by a telemetry link until the Ranger spacecraft smashed into the Moon.

The Ranger Series

The Ranger Series

Fig. 10.3 LRO photo of the Ranger impact sites. Photo courtesy of NASA and Arizona State University

In the scope of this book, consider visually locating the Ranger sites with a telescope as extra credit. LRO photos have located the Ranger impact sites with difficulty. Fortunately, the Apollo 12 landing site is not only within walking dis­tance of Surveyor 3, but is also within the general area of the Ranger 7 impact zone. Apollo 11 also landed in the general vicinity of Ranger 8. To the backyard observer, basically locating Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 also encompasses the Ranger 7 and Ranger 8 impact zones. To locate the Ranger 9 impact site, first locate the major crater Ptolemy. The crater just south of Ptolemy is the crater Alphonsus, and Ranger 9 impacted just slightly north and east of the central peak within the crater.

The Ranger program was a series of unmanned lunar missions by NASA in the early 1960s whose design goal was to obtain the first close-up images of the lunar surface. The development of the basic Ranger spacecraft system began in 1959. The original concept for Ranger included a gamma ray spectrometer, radar altimeter, television imaging system, and a soft landing seismometer. These scientific equipment should sound familiar as parts of the eventual Apollo sci­entific equipment suites. The first six Ranger missions were complete failures, as NASA went through a learning process for developing space capable vehi­cles, space navigation, and launch technology and procedures. Ranger 1 and 2 were launch failures, and Ranger 3 and 5 totally missed the Moon. Ranger 4 impacted the Moon but experienced electronic systems failure. Ranger 6 impacted the Moon, but its cameras failed to function. At one point, the program was called "shoot and hope". After two congressionally mandated reorganiza­tions of NASA and JPL, the Ranger program was stripped of much of its scien­tific equipment and simplified to its final kamikaze space camera configuration. Ranger 7 successfully returned images in July 1964, followed by two more successful missions.

The Ranger spacecraft had three different configurations.

• Block I, consisting of Ranger 1 and 2, were test missions. They were launched in 1961 for engineering development, and were not targeted for the Moon. The Ranger 1 spacecraft was designed to go into an Earth parking orbit and then into an extended elliptical Earth orbit to test systems and strategies for future lunar missions. Ranger 1 was launched into the Earth parking orbit as planned, but the Agena B booster stage failed to restart to put it into the higher trajectory, so when Ranger 1 separated from the Agena stage it went into a low Earth orbit and began tumbling. The satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on August 30, 1961. The Ranger 2 followed a similar fate, and was launched into a low earth parking orbit, but an inoperative roll gyro prevented the Agena booster stage restart. As with its predecessor, Ranger 2 could not be put into its planned deep-space tra­jectory, and was stranded in low earth orbit upon separation from the Agena stage. The orbit decayed and the spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere on November 20, 1961.

• Block II missions comprising of Ranger 3, 4, and 5, were launched during 1962 to achieve rough lunar landings, obtain science data, and test approach television camera operations. These Ranger spacecraft experienced satisfactory vehicle performance, but Ranger 3 missed the Moon by approximately 23,000 miles and Ranger 5 missed the Moon by about 450 miles. Ranger 4 suffered electronics problems that caused the solar panels to not open. Ranger 4 battery power failed after 10 hours and the probe was unable to perform mid-course corrections or activate its cameras. Ranger 4 impacted the Moon on the far side.

• Block III Missions were the Ranger 6, 7, 8, and 9 which used the experience of the earlier Ranger missions to achieve success in 1964 and 1965. NASA learned its lessons on navigating to the Moon and made technology modifications to enable transmission of high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface during the final minutes of flight. Ranger 6 performed satisfactorily en route to the Moon, but the camera failed to operate before lunar impact. Success finally came with Ranger 7, 8, and 9, as those missions fulfilled NASA objectives and provided more than 17,000 photographs at resolutions higher than ever achieved. The Ranger 7 and 8 missions provided coverage of the two types of mare terrain that included the area of the eventual Apollo 11 landing site. Ranger 9 provided coverage of the highland region, impacting in the large central highland crater Alphonsus.

The Ranger photographs provided valuable photographic information for future landing site selection for Surveyor and Apollo missions, and provided surface detail unavailable from Earth-based observations. Each Ranger space­craft had 6 cameras on board. The basic cameras were the same with each camera set up for different exposure times, fields of view, lenses, and scan rates. The camera system was divided into two channels, P for partial and F for full, with each channel design having with independent power supplies, timers, and transmitters.

• The F-channel had 2 cameras: the wide-angle A-camera and the narrow angle B-camera. The final F-channel image was taken between 2.5 and 5 seconds before impact at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet.

• The P-channel had four cameras: P1 and P2 (narrow angle) and P3 and P4 (wide angle). The last P-channel image was taken between 0.2 and 0.4 second before impact at an altitude of approximately 2,000 feet.

The images provided better resolution than was available from Earth based views by a factor of 1000. The smallest crater that earthbound telescopes could achieve was about the size of a large NFL or major college football stadium, while the images produced by the Ranger cameras showed from pickup truck sized cra­ters down to the 1 feet sized features in Ranger 9 photos. These high resolution images showed Apollo mission planners that finding a smooth landing site was not going to be easy.

The Ranger Series

Fig. 10.4 Photo Sequence taken by Ranger 7 a camera approaching the Moon. Courtesy ofNASA

The Ranger Series

Fig. 10.5 Courtesy of NASA

The Ranger Series

The Ranger Series

The Ranger Series

Fig. 10.8 Photo Sequence taken by Ranger 7 p camera approaching the Moon. Courtesy ofNASA

The Ranger Series

Fig. 10.9 Courtesy of NASA

Impact on Society and Culture

To the post World War 2 generation, the Apollo Program represented the hopes and dreams of a bright future and great adventure that was tantalizingly within reach. But the main driver for the race to the Moon was international politics. Created during the height of the Cold War, the rivalry between the two great superpowers, the United States and the U. S.S. R,. provided the impetus for the push into space, culminating in the success of the Apollo Program. The technical challenges were great, but the basis of science supported the idea of landing on the Moon. The technical groundwork of physics, chemistry, and engineering had been laid decades before, and the national focus and challenge of accomplishing a manned lunar mis­sion within a decade provided the necessary energy, commitment, and funding to achieve the goal.

The generations following the Apollo triumphs have lost their way in space. The goals of space travel have become muddled. There is no superpower rivalry that is driving nations to race into space and achieve the goal of landing on Mars. There is no international or national imperative that is pressuring mankind to go to Mars, other than curiosity and the need to explore. The society of the common man has lost sight of the benefits attained by striving towards a common, far reaching goal. The focus on immediate financial accountability has fogged mankind’s vision of the future.

A manned mission to Mars benefits man’s need for exploration, knowledge, and adventure. On the practical side, a program to launch a manned mission to Mars, or even a return to the Moon for potential colonization, represents an opportunity for job creation. New jobs are created from programs directly supporting the space effort to spinoff industries that apply new technologies which provide beneficial products and services. A forward looking approach to space will benefit better edu­cation for the populace, more employment, and better and more meaningful jobs.

Rose colored glasses? Maybe. But the evidence shows the benefits of space – related research and development in a trickle down transfer to every day use.

Every year, NASA publishes a book entitled Spinoff, which highlights products and industries created as off-shoots from space technology. Examples from a recent issue of Spinoff listed the following recent NASA-derived technologies transferred to everyday use:

• Spacesuits incorporating sun-blocking fabric have been adapted to clothing offering protection to ordinary beach goers and people with light sensitivities.

• Gravity-loading technology designed to help astronauts exercise in space have been incorporated into anti-gravity treadmills for rehabilitating after surgery.

• A device NASA invented to study cell growth in simulated weightlessness has been applied to medical research into treatments for heart disease, diabetes, and cirrhosis.

• A star mapping algorithm developed for the Hubble telescope has been adapted to identify unique migrational patterns of endangered species.

• NASA research and development into materials and manufacturing techniques are bringing carbon nanotubes into greater use in everyday applications, such as nanofiber filters to eliminate contaminants.

• Thermal insulation technologies developed for isolating the cryogenic tempera­tures of Saturn V and Space Shuttle fuel tanks have been transferred to applica­tions in the home, resulting in thermal insulation strips that easily apply to wall studs, providing an affordable and environmentally friendly boost to a home’s insulation factor.

These are just a handful of thousands of products derived from the research and development of the space programs such as Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the ISS. Many new innovations and breakthroughs in technology will result from a focused effort to land a manned mission on Mars. And the public ultimately benefits from these discoveries and innovations in everyday life.

Lunar Photography

Many of the non-NASA lunar photos in this book were taken by the author. The equipment used was selected to reflect typical sized telescopes owned by a majority of backyard observers. 80 mm to 130 mm refractors on equatorial mounts were utilized, with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera. The majority of the author’s photos were taken using a 102 mm Stellarvue 102ED mounted on a Celestron CG-4 equatorial mount, with a few photos from a 130 mm aperture Brandon refractor mounted on a computer-driven Vixen equatorial mount. A Canon Rebel XTi DSLR camera was used with either the prime focus technique or Barlow projection technique with a Proxima 1.5x Barlow, in combination with various camera-to-telescope adaptors. The goal was to present the reader a view of the Moon through a typical hobbyist’s telescope at low and medium magnifications.

The reader will notice that many of the photos were taken when the Moon was not full. The Moon, being a three-dimensional object, casts beautiful shadows dur­ing its less-than-full phases. The full Moon tends to be drab and two dimensional, both in photographs and with the naked eye peering through the eyepiece of a telescope, because the fully illuminated surface casts no shadows. So, for eye appeal and the logical fact that there are more days that the Moon is not in its full phase, many of the locator photographs in this book were taken during the first quarter and gibbous phases of the Moon.

Site Selection

From the standpoint of the Apollo program, NASA planners desired an initial target area to be one of typical mare and near the lunar equator. The selected region was a relatively detached sea between Ocean of Storms and Sea of Clouds, bounded by the Riphean Mountains on one side and the bright cratered area containing Guericke Crater and Parry-Bonpland Crater on the other.

Mission Description

Launch: July 28, 1964. Impacted Moon: July 31, 1964, at 13:25:49 UT. Landing Site: Mare Cognitum (The Sea that has Become Known), 10.35°S lat., 339.42°E long.

The mission objective of Ranger 7 was carried out flawlessly by obtaining close – up pictures of the lunar surface for the benefit of both the scientific community and the Apollo program planning. Ranger 7 transmitted approximately 4,000 television pictures of the target area before smashing itself in the lunar surface. The signals from the six television cameras aboard the spacecraft were transmitted during the last 17 minutes of the flight. The picture taking spanned a distance range from slightly more than 1,800 miles to approximately 500 yards above the surface.

Fig. 10.12 Photo Sequence taken by Ranger 8 p camera approaching the Moon. Courtesy of NASA


Site Selection

The basic objective in selecting the Ranger 8 impact site was to choose an area which, in conjunction with the Ranger 7 photographs, would provide a more com­plete knowledge of the lunar maria within the Moon’s equatorial zone. Applying the newly evolving Apollo constraints, a point near the equator and 15° from the termi­nator was chosen.

Robotic Exploration Versus Manned Exploration

A decades long debate has existed over the merits of robotic exploration, using deep space probes and landing robotic rovers, instead of manned missions.

Supporters of manned missions have cited the large and ever increasing numbers of scientific papers based on data generated from the Apollo mission in the four

decades since Apollo Moon landings. The area covered by the astronauts, onsite human judgement for sampling or executing experiments, and the efficiencies and problem solving of manned exploration are often cited as advantages.

Robotic exploration is less expensive and more resource efficient. When the kind of resources necessary to accomplish a manned Mars mission, dozens of robotic missions can be planned and accomplished for robotic exploration of a good part of the Solar System, including the large major planets and visiting comets and asteroids. Without the burden and risks of keeping astronauts alive in space, robotic exploration does not need advanced propulsion to lessen the transit time, heavy and cumbersome shielding from radiation, or life support systems. As is done now, planetary gravity assisted deep space probes can take years to arrive at their solar system goals and accomplish their missions.

The drawback to robotic exploration are twofold. One is the risk of equipment failure that is difficult to correct in-flight. The Jupiter probe Galileo is a prime example. After its launch, the main antenna failed to fully deploy. Despite repeated attempts to dislodge and free 3 of the 18 antenna ribs, the main antenna never was fully functional. Fortunately, a secondary low-gain antenna was used in the main antennas place to transmit data, but at a reduced bandwidth. The lower bandwidth resulted in slower transmission speed, and only 70 % of the Galileo scientific goals being met.

The second drawback is that a robotic mission does not capture the imagina­tion of mankind. Great accomplishments and discoveries have result from robotic missions, but the lack of a human presence does not produce the public excite­ment. People don’t remember where they were when Surveyor 1 landed on the Moon, but people remember where they were and how they felt when Apollo 11 landed and Neil Armstrong took his first step on the lunar surface. Robotic mis­sions do not produce the same exhilaration of the human spirit as manned explo­ration does.

A possible alternative that is the hybrid of both types of exploration is a manned mission to Mars orbit, with the deployment of a robot astronaut remotely controlled from the manned Mars spacecraft in orbit. A human astronaut would have realtime control capability of a robot astronaut on the Martian surface for exploration and experimentation.

One of the current problems of controlling Mars rovers, such as Curiosity, Spirit, or Opportunity, is the 5-20 minutes command latency because of the distance from Earth to Mars. A manned spacecraft orbiting Mars can launch a robot astronaut for landing on the Martian surface and provide realtime or near-realtime control. Greater selectivity of samples and human-like dexterity can be designed into a robot astronaut. New robotic technology can provide a remote controlled human analog on the surface of Mars without the risks of exposing humans to the chal­lenges of landing on, surviving the Martian environment, exploring, and lifting off the surface of Mars. A large cost savings can result by removing the technological challenge of landing on and taking off the surface of Mars. Multiple robot astro­nauts could be deployed over different areas of Mars during the same mission, achieving greater coverage of the planet. Multiple deployment maximizes the mission effectiveness, and maximizes the cost efficiency of the mission. The robot astronaut can be switched off at mission’s end, and possibly used in future mis­sions – more bang for the buck. No life support concerns would be incurred on the Martian surface. The risk to human life, and overall mission risk would be lessened with this type of hybrid mission, while providing greater control of experiments and Martian sampling than currently available with Mars rovers. A simpler, more cost effective, more efficient, and less risky manned Mars mission may be achieved with this type of hybrid man-machine approach.

NASA Apollo, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Other Lunar Probes

The structure of this book was developed to allow the reader to proceed from pic­ture to picture on a zoom-in journey: locating the Apollo landings on the Moon from a naked eye or binocular point-of-view, to a telescope view, then transition to NASA photos of the landing sites, to finally photos from each landing taken by the Apollo astronauts during their missions. NASA has thousands of lunar photos, of which many are indelibly imprinted in the public’s mind. Rather than repeated the familiar, many of the NASA photos chosen for this book for comparison to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, photos.

The genesis of this book stems from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) photos first released to the public in 2009. Among the LRO photos were the over­head images of the Apollo landing sites, with amazing details of the Lunar Module (LM) descent stage, trails left by the astronauts walking or using the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), and experiments left on the Moon’s surface. Seeing these LRO photos recapture for many people the memories and excitement of the Golden Age of NASA.

In researching for this book, the author was reminded of the unmanned lunar missions that preceded Apollo: the first and long forgotten photographic probe

Ranger series, and the lunar landing Surveyor. These early attempts by NASA, first to impact the Moon with Ranger, and then to accomplish lunar landings with Surveyor, were clearly a scientific and engineering learning experience. The first six Ranger missions were punctuated by failures in equipment and technique. Ranger 1 and 2 experienced launch failures. Ranger 3 and 5 missed the Moon entirely, while Ranger 4 and 6 impacted the Moon but failed to relay any data back to NASA. It wasn’t until Ranger 7, 8, and 9 that the NASA mission goals were accomplished by relaying photographic data prior to impacting the Moon.

The Surveyor program had its own share of problems, with Surveyor 2 and 4 crashing and Surveyor 3 having unplanned launches from the Moon’s surface due to the vernier rockets continuing to fire. Again, the lessons learned from the early Surveyor missions enabled NASA to successfully complete Surveyor 5, 6, and 7 missions.

Mission Description

Launch: February 17, 1965. Impacted Moon: February 20, 1965, at 09:57:37 UT. Landing Site: Sea of Tranquility, 2.67°N lat., 24.65°E long.

The prime objective of the mission, to obtain high-resolution photographs of Sea of Tranquility, was met. During the 23 minutes the cameras operated before impact, a large swath of the Moon was photographed at high resolution for the first time. Excellent photographs of Delambre Crater, the southern shoreline of Sea of Tranquility, and the crater pair Ritter and Sabine were obtained. The last picture was taken 0.09 second before impact from an altitude of approximately 500 feet. The impact point was less than 12 miles from the selected target. The eventual Apollo 11 landing site can be found among the Ranger 8 photograph series.

Fig. 10.15 Courtesy of NAS A

Fig. 10.17 Photo sequence taken by Ranger 9 p camera approaching the Moon. Courtesy of NASA

Site Selection

Since Ranger 7 and 8 missions had successfully provided high-resolution coverage to the two principal types of mare, it was decided that Ranger 9 photograph other types of terrain. Mission planners eventually settled on the highlands surrounding the Alphonsus Crater as the target.

Mission Description

Launch: March 21, 1965. Impacted Moon: March 24, 1965 at 14:08:20 UT. Landing Site: Alphonsus Crater, 12.83°S lat., 357.63°E long.

The Ranger 9 flight concluded the Ranger series in a spectacular fashion, with the direct broadcast of the B-camera telecast over national television as the space­craft approached the Moon. Unlike its predecessors, which photographed relatively simple mare terrain, Ranger 9 was directed to one of the more highly featured areas of the Moon. The impact point was selected slightly northeast of the central peak of Alphonsus Crater. The last picture was taken 0.25 second before impact from an altitude of approximately 2,000 feet. The terminal resolution of approximately 1 feet bettered that of both Ranger 7 and 8.

The Future of Man, Moon, and Mars

Mankind’s return to the Moon seems inevitable. Countries such as Japan, India and China have successfully launched unmanned probes and rovers to the Moon. NASA has been planning a return to the Moon for years. Although challenging, the success of the Apollo program serves as a reminder that the Moon is achievable.

Mars is a greater challenge. The risks are many and some of the questions of extended spaceflight have not been answered. If a breakthrough propulsion system could be developed that would shorten a mission to Mars to be equivalent in length to a lunar mission, say a week to 10 days, many of the difficulties of going to Mars would go away. New technologies, such as the VASIMR ion drive, offer hope by shortening the trip to Mars to 39 days.

Like the Moon landings of Apollo, a manned mission to Mars will have an indelible impact on the future of humankind.

What You Need. to Know About. Telescopes

The Moon is an easy and bright target for the beginning, casual, and serious backyard observer. Even with the unaided eye, one can identify the major Mares (or Seas) as the large and seemingly smooth grey areas. However, details of the Moon are dif­ficult to discern with the unaided eye. The Moon is actually much smaller to the naked eye than the average person expects. Popular media and art often depict the Moon as a large celestial object taking up to as much as 20 or 30° of sky. Contrast this to the actual visual diameter of the Moon of a little over a half degree (31.4 arc-minutes). Still the Moon is an easy, large and bright target for a backyard astronomer to study.

With optical aids of either a good pair of binoculars or a good telescope, the Moon comes alive with details. A good pair of 7 x 35 or 7 x 50 binoculars can resolve some of the major craters and other major details on the Moon’s surface. The major mares, or seas can be identified.

But once the observer starts using a telescope the “OH WOW!” factor comes into play. Telescopes with apertures beginning at 60 mm and larger can produce very satisfying images of craters, mountain ranges, mares and lunar domes. And in the case of this book, a good telescope can help the reader to zoom-in on the Apollo landing sites and appreciate NASA’s great successes.

There are bookshelves full of books, and there are numerous websites on the Internet that offer advice in selecting telescopes, and telescope accessories. Many are well-written, thoughtful, and informative. Some are not. But most offer optical advice either from the well-heeled consumer with a money-is-no-object budget, or from the “best bang for the buck” viewpoint. What is often missing is the common sense approach for selecting the right telescope for the right use.

J. L. Chen, How to Find the Apollo Landing Sites,

The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-06456-7_2, © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

A useful analogy in buying a telescope is looking at a parking lot of a local gro­cery store. There are a variety of cars and trucks parked there. Why? Because dif­ferent people purchase vehicles for different reasons. Soccer moms need mini-vans to haul their kids to soccer fields. Handymen need pickup trucks to haul plywood and plumbing tools. The thrill-seeker will own a high-performance sports car. And a business man will drive a prestige high priced car to show off wealth and fame.

The same process of selection also applies to telescopes. In this case, there are telescopes that are best used for deep sky objects such as nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters. There are telescopes that excel in astrophotography. And in the case of this book, there are telescopes that excel in observing the Moon and the planets of our solar system.

First-time buyers are faced with a myriad array of telescope choices, and more- often-than-not purchase the wrong telescope for their use. The wrong telescope purchase will end up in the closet gathering dust, or worst yet, in a garage sale. So here are a few basic all-encompassing guidelines in selecting telescopes for astron­omy use, especially for viewing the Moon.

• Buy your second telescope first. The common advice for years from all amateur astronomers is don’t buy a department store telescope. In today’s world that advice extends to warehouse stores and sporting goods stores. Most so-called beginners’ telescopes are plagued with poor optics, shaky telescope mounts, and in some cases poor electronics. Many of these telescopes are aimed at well – intentioned consumers that haven’t taken the time to study the telescope market, and just want a big box under the Christmas tree or at the birthday party. Grandparents especially fall into this trap. By using the term second telescope, most telescope owners who survive the trials of these beginners’ telescopes and still want to pursue the hobby naturally learn to buy a quality telescope the second time around. Save money now by being educated and buy the right equipment first.

• A smaller telescope will get used more than a larger telescope. There is a strange ailment that afflicts every backyard astronomer known as aperture fever. In this bigger-is-better society, the desire for a larger telescope that shows more detail and gathers more light is sometimes overwhelming. But there is a point where a telescope becomes so large and cumbersome to use that the usage of said tele­scope becomes less and less. A smaller and more portable, telescope with easy setup gets used more.

• The telescope mount is as important as the telescope optics. A good, solid and stable telescope mount encourages observers to use their telescope. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to focus a telescope on a weak and poorly designed mount that shakes and vibrates with a slight touch or a slight breeze.

• The right eyepieces for the right job. As with telescope designs, certain eyepiece designs are suited for wide-angle extended celestial objects such as nebulas and open star clusters, while others are intended to high contrast detailed assignments. With the cost of eyepieces ranging from $30 to over $1,000 each, a meaningful and careful selection is appropriate.

• Buy the right telescope that suits your personal skills. Some telescopes are well – suited for the technically inclined. Some telescopes are simple to use. The poten­tial first-time telescope owner needs to understand their own personal skills and acknowledge their abilities before making a telescope selection. Namely, if you can’t change a car tire, or your digital oven clock is always flashing 12 o’clock, certain astro equipment should avoided. And as with the size of the telescope, the easier the telescope is to use, the more likely it will be used.

• Consider a neutral density or polarizing filter for the telescope eyepiece. The Moon, especially when it’s full, can get uncomfortably bright. Not dangerously bright, like the Sun, just uncomfortable. An appropriate filter will tone down the glare to a comfortable level.

• Never point your telescope at the Sun unless properly equipped. This is impor­tant. Serious damage to the human eye occurs when viewing through an unfil­tered telescope. Telescope vendors sell appropriate white-light and hydrogen-alpha filters for safe viewing of the Sun. The previously mentioned neutral density or polarizing filters for the Moon do not offer enough filtering protection for the human eye for solar observing.

• Buy quality. The old adage “You get what you pay for” applies here. Telescopic images are clear and sharp. Mounts work smoothly. Focusers have a buttery smoothness that allows for fine tuning of the focus. High quality telescopes allow the observer to enjoy astronomy without problems getting in the way. In fact, there are numerous examples of quality apochromatic refractors that have appreciated in value, and sell on the used market for more than the original purchase price.

• Support your local telescope store. Believe it or not, the astronomy industry is not a big money, high profit business. With the exception of two dominant major companies, many telescope businesses, either manufacturers or stores, are Mom and Pop operations run by people who love science and astronomy. They have expertise in amateur astronomy, provide quality products, provide personalized service, and are able to perform many repairs in their own shops. The smaller telescope shops struggle to compete with high volume Internet or mail-order firms who offer little or no service and rely on manu­facturers to repair faulty equipment. Consumers need to understand the retail business. There are three criteria for competition: Quality, Service and Price. The consumer can only get two of the three. A lower price means the con­sumer sacrifices either service or quality. It is astounding to note that profit margins of major name brand telescopes are miniscule. For example, a well – known large Schmidt-Cassegrain computer controlled telescope costing over $3,000 will net a profit to a store of $100. Smaller stores rely on accessory sales, service work, and loyal customers to stay in business. Remember, at your local telescope store, there are real people (not a disembodied voice on the phone) who know astronomy, sell and support quality products, support local astronomy clubs, and can fix any problems with telescope equipment (often on the spot).