Telescopes allow us to see very little details that are otherwise not visible to the naked eye. Irrespective of the type you have, your telescope deserves maintenance. The best thing about telescopes is that they cost nothing to clean and maintain. You can easily disassemble and assemble the parts at your home. Dirty telescopes tend to scatter light and therefore can make a huge difference when it comes to observing objects far into the universe. So let’s take a look at some tips on maintaining your telescope.
Cleaning and Maintaining a Telescope
Storing Your Telescope
When it comes to maintaining your telescope, the first thing you need to consider is the storage area. If you are not using the telescope, you need to store it in a place that is free of dust and dirt. Plus, the storage area should be large enough to provide easy access to the telescope. Experts suggest that one should store the Telescope at or near the outside temperature. This reduces the warm-up or cooling time when you plan to use it at night.
Perhaps the best way to store a telescope is by creating a designated area that is dust, moisture, and dirt-free. Similar to an observatory, you can come up with space where you can permanently install the telescope so that it provides easy access to the sky.
On the other hand, wooden toolsheds and unheated garages are also good storage examples but you will have to ensure air circulation. Sheds made of vinyl, metal, and plastic are not fit for the purpose as they absorb more heat than wooden enclosures.
Additionally, basements also qualify as storage spaces but only if they are properly maintained and dust-free. Since these areas are large enough to store telescopes, you can easily take them out and position them in your garden or porch whenever you wish to use them. If the basement tends to be your only option, you should install a dehumidifier.
Regardless of where you opt to store your telescope, make sure that the scope is always covered. You can do this by simply covering the scope with a cover or a plastic bag. Plus, do this diligently. If your telescope did not come with a dust cap, you can use a plastic shower cap as well.
Cleaning the Scope
Maintaining a dust-free environment for your telescope does not mean that does will not welcome itself after some time. A moderate amount of dust has close to zero effect on the performance of the telescope. However, if there is a huge amount of dust, the images produce will be dimmer and lack clarity.
Some people tend to clean the scope whenever they desire. Unfortunately, telescope maintenance does not work this way. You should only clean the scope when stains are apparent. The more you touch the scope the more risk you run of damaging it. If you know your way around telescopes, only then you should clean the scope. The reason is that some telescopes are sealed to prevent dirt and dust from entering inside.
If you observe that the mirror surface or interior lens in a sealed telescope has become tainted, you should hand it over to a qualified professional for cleaning and disassembly.
Cleaning lenses and contractors
You should begin by clearing the dirt off the surface. That does not mean that you start blowing over it as you will only be spitting on it during the process. Instead, you should opt for a camel brush or compressed can air. Some brushes also allow you to blow and sweep at the same time. If you prefer using a brush, clear the dust in one direction. Then, flick the brush free of dust particles once each stroke ends.
Some amateur astronomers tend to use compressed can air so that nothing touches the surface. Holding the can upright or in a tilted position might stain the surface. Therefore, you should keep the can as far as recommended by the manufacturer.
Once you are done cleaning the dust, you are going to need a cleaning fluid to remove the fingerprints. Follow the directions on the back and dilute the fluid if required. Then, use sterile surgical cotton and clean the lens using the solution. Remember to use very soft cotton balls. The ones offered over the shelf are rough and can scratch the lens.
Cleaning the mirrors requires time and patience. The reason is that telescope mirrors feature a very fine optical surface. The aluminum coating of the mirror is very soft, which you can easily damage while clearing the abrasive dirt.
Typically, cleaning a telescope’s primary or secondary mirror requires removing it along with the cell that holds it in place. Furthermore, you should only use compressed air for the purpose and avoid using the brush.
The next step involves inspecting the coating of the mirror for scratches and pinholes. If the telescope has been well-kept, a good coating can last more than 10 years. To inspect the mirror, hold its reflective side towards yourself, in front of a light. The image appearing in the mirror should be the same. If that is not the case, there may be uneven spots in the coating.
It might also be that the coating is damaged if you find scratches or pinholes. For that, you will need to send the telescope for re-coating. However, if the coating is acceptable, bring it back and run lukewarm tap water gently over the mirror. This will remove stubborn dirt, which otherwise wouldn’t loosen up with compressed air.
Then, fill the sink with tepid tap water and add a few drops of liquid dish soap while immersing the mirror. Let it sit for a while. Next, use soft surgical cotton and sweep across the mirror’s surface ensuring that you do not put pressure on it. Repeat the process if necessary.
Once the surface is clean, wash away the soap by running tepid tap water on the mirror. Finally, use room-temperature distilled water for the final rinse across the surface. To dry the mirror, lay it over a towel or against a pillow. Position it at a slightly tilted angle so that the water droplets roll down without causing stains.
Cleaning and maintaining a telescope is easy provided that you store it in a dust and dirt-free environment. However, depending on the type of telescope, taking it apart and assembling might be tricky. In such situations, you shouldn’t take any chances and consult a professional for help. Since maintenance is not expensive on these things, you should only opt for the right tools and fluids if you plan on cleaning them on your own.