Introduction: How to Tune Up Your Telescope (basics)

About: Born in and raised in MO, travelling the most of my life, an avid photographer, educated stargazer. Geek-y parent.

A telescope can be one of the best ways to observe the beauty of the stars. If you’re recently purchased one you probably excitedly unwrapped it and got it set up. But, upon using it for the first time, you realized that has a few issues. You might have gotten a wobbly image, or you might not have a good finder.
Thankfully, you’ll be able to overcome these issues fairly quickly.


For some quick fixes you might need:

- tape
- screwdriver
- some tuna cans and a shopping bag (no time to explain!)

Step 1: Know What the Problem Is

Before you start tinkering with your telescope you need to have a better idea of what the problems are. If you don’t know what they are, it will be almost impossible for you to fix them properly. It can help to make a list of all the issues you want to correct. Keep in mind that it won’t be possible to fix all these issues unless you’re willing to spend some money.

It’s important to make sure that any changes that you make can be reversed. This will ensure that you don’t accidentally ruin the telescope or make things worse. For example, if you replace a part, keep the old one. All the changes in this guide can be reversed.

After this warning, let's proceed with the most basic issues.

Step 2: Add More Stability

One of the most common problems is that the telescope is producing a wobbly image. If your telescope isn’t stable, it can be almost impossible to focus and get a good view of the object. There are two reasons why you might be having issues with a wobbly image. Either the tripod is moving, or small vibrations are distorting the image. Let’s take a closer look at each of these problems, and how you can fix them.

Ways To Stabilize A Tripod

The most common cause of a wavy image is the tripod moving as you’re using the telescope. If this is the case, there are a few things you can try:

  • Shorten the legs of the tripod. The lower it is, the less it will be able to move.

  • Hang a weight between the tripod (I hope you've kept this tuna cans I was mentioning earlier?). This can help stop the tripod from shifting in the breeze.

  • Check that the wingnuts are tight.

  • Make sure that you’re using the tripod on stable ground.

Ways To Reduce Vibrations

Once you’ve finished tightening up the tripod, you might still notice some distortions in the images. This will often be because of vibrations. These can be caused by small things, like minor shifts in the tripod or things knocking against the barrel of the telescope. There are a few ways to combat this:

  • Check that the mount head is attached properly.

  • Make sure that you’re using knobs, instead of cables, to adjust the telescope.

  • Hang a chain around the telescope. This will help absorb the vibrations. You might need to put one at the front and one at the back, to stop it from going off-balance.

Step 3: Change the Finder

Another common issue is that people struggle to use the finder. In some cases, the finder might move about, making it harder to focus. There are a few ways to fix these issues.

  • Tighten the screws. If the finderscope is moving around in its casing, tighten up the screws. If this doesn’t work, you might want to consider using some zip ties, to keep it in place.
  • If nothing helps, then replace it with a new model that gives a clearer view.

As you know, a telescope should be a joy to use not a pain. If this doesn’t work, you might need to consider spending a little more money to purchase a newer one. Hopefully, you’ll be able to make these adjustments to create a telescope that will deliver clearer images w/o costing you a sum.