Since the New Hampshire Astronomy Society (NHAS) started donating telescopes to local libraries in 2008, library telescope programs have skyrocketed across the country.
These programs typically have a few things in common:
- Libraries partner with a local amateur astronomy club.
- Telescopes are donated, usually by an astronomy club and/or Friends group.
- Telescopes are modified to increase durability and enhance viewer experience.
- Kits include viewing instructions for patrons.
- Instructions warn patrons not to look at the sun without a solar filter.
- Libraries use Newtonian reflector telescopes on Dobsonian mounts.
- Telescopes cost $200-300 each.
Telescopes, programs and resources
- Telescopes and mounts
- Program examples: Let’s take a look at how three different Florida libraries started and ran their own telescope programs.
- Leon County
- Tips for success
- Resources & video
Newtonian telescopes generally offer larger apertures for less cost. The larger the aperture, the more objects and details will be visible.
Named after their inventor Isaac Newton, Newtonians utilize a curved mirror at the back of the telescope’s main tube instead of a lens at the front. Light bounces off the mirror to a second mirror that’s mounted diagonally, which sends the light out of a side-mounted eyepiece.
Dobsonian mounts are simple, flat mounts that can be set on a table or a floor, providing good balance and stability. The telescope can move left, right, up or down. Although Dobsonian mounts don’t allow for more sophisticated functions like tracking stars as they move in the sky, they are the perfect choice for library patrons because they are so easy to use.