The impact is hardly going to be easily visible or spectacular from earth. It certainly won't be from a small telescope (e.g. the ones you linked to above). I have a 12" dobson reflector. I'll just be watching the webcast like everyone else: http://www.noao.edu/news/deep-impact/
By all means get a telescope however. I'd recommend a reflector for viewing nebulae and galaxies (you can get a good dobsonian telescope for a few hundred bucks) or a good quality refractor if you are interested in viewing planetary details. Be prepared to research your purchase well though. And be prepared to spend several nights orienting yourself with the sky and your telescope.
Originally posted by retep The impact is hardly going to be easily visible or spectacular from earth. It certainly won't be from a small telescope (e.g. the ones you linked to above). I have a 12" dobson reflector. I'll just be watching the webcast like everyone else: http://www.noao.edu/news/deep-impact/
If you get a telescope you should save up and get a nice one, don't pick up a cheapo from Wal-Mart. Take a look at Meade (http://www.meade.com/) they are one of the top brands in my opinion. They also have a good variety to please most price ranges.
As for me I'm going to be watching the impact on the NASA channel, that would be 376 for people with DirecTV.
I would tend to advise against a telescope from Walmart. The Meade brand can be tricky. They make serious quality telescopes, but they also make some low end models. You might say, "I'm just a beginner, I don't need serious quality." That is a mistake. You should start with smaller, less poweful instruments, but never with toystore quality. The image should look sharp and clear, even if it seems small compared to the pictures taken with bigger instruments.
An instrument touting a magnification greater than 50X per inch of aperture is a red flag. The image can be magnified higher than this, but it becomes a dim blur. This is called empty magnification. Low quality scopes are often hyped by offering empty magnification. People who buy them often become discouraged about astronomy.
The experiment on Comet Tempel 1 is likely to be a disappointing use of a new telescope. Before impact it requires a 200mm or larger telescope to see, as well as dark skies and experience star hopping to faint objects. After impact it is expected to get brighter, but that is still not likely to be very bright.
Jupiter will be up, and that is a good use of a beginner's scope. Don't expect it to look like the Hubble images. In a good beginner's scope the disk will be small but visible. The equatorial belts in the cloudtops should be visible as two faint lines. The four largest moons will look starlike. You can learn to starhop to objects too faint to see without a telescope. This time of year M13, the globular cluster in Hercules, is a good beginner object. M57, the Ring Nebula, will be small and faint but visible in a small scope. Finding it is fairly easy, because it is between two visible stars, Beta and Gamma Lyrae, that are only 2 degrees apart.
A good quality telescope, even a small one, is nice to have. An obvious object to look at is the moon. Some amateur astronomers spend a lot of time getting familiar with lunar geography. Not all do. An immediate benefit is that because the moon's disk at half a degree across is so easy to see with the naked eye, you get a good perspective on what a given magnification means. This perspective carries over to looking at other objects. Perspective is the main thing you gain with an amateur telescope that is missing from looking at the gorgeous, contrast enhanced pictures from giant observatory telescopes. What is intermediate between that little dot in the sky and the big, detailed observatory photograph view?
One thing advanced amateurs gain from using their large, advanced amateur telescopes is dynamic range. Astrophotography uses long exposures to bring up the faint light and colors that are below the range of human vision. But on the higher end brightness turns to white-out. The observatory photograph can't capture the brighter bright tones as anything more than flat white-out. Seeing the brighter shades of brightness in the Orion Nebula as gathered by a telescope with a large aperture is something the eye at the eyepiece can perceive that the photograph loses.
Remember that binoculars are small telescopes. With good binoculars the larger craters on the moon may be just about visible. The Pleiades star cluster will show many more stars. Away from city light pollution binoculars can show your the Andromeda Galaxy and a little bit of the nebulosity in Orion's sword. Actually July is not a good time for those.
This time of year binoculars can show M13 in Hercules as a small fuzz ball.
Last year I took 8X30 binoculars with me to Bali. Bigger is better, but I needed to keep the weight of my pack manageable. The faint Magellanic Clouds were easier to see. The globular cluster 47 Tucanae was recognizable as a small fuzz ball.
Jupiter's four large moons may be just about visible in binoculars. Galileo's first telescope was only about 7X. His largest was about 30X.
One last major piece of advice: Never look at the sun through a telescope without a proper solar filter from a reputable supplier. Don't use improvised filters, and don't rely on in-the-eyepiece solar filters that come supplied with cheap, toy-store-quality telescopes.
Sunspots were Galileo's last discovery. If they would have been his first discovery they would have been his only discovery.
Last edited by Disgruntled; 07-04-2005 at 04:20 PM.