How to View the Southern Delta Aquariids

The best telescope brands for optimal stargazing.

The best telescope brands for optimal stargazing.

From July 29 to 30, 2019, the night sky will be ablaze. The Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower set to peak between Monday night and Tuesday morning, will rain down, giving viewers the opportunity to see a natural wonder that happens approximately 30 times a year—but, in most cases, is seldom visible to the naked eye.

According to the International Meteor Organization, the moonlight conditions play a major factor in the clarity of meteor shows. And seeing how there will be a new moon (sometimes referred to as the black supermoon) in the last week of July, blanketing the troposphere in near darkness, the chance to get a glimpse of the Southern Delta Aquariids will be at its most optimal. Indeed, if you are away from urban areas, and are situated in the Southern Hemisphere, all that is required is a lawn chair and a few cups of coffee to see the spectacle. Though, it wouldn’t hurt to have an elaborate tool on hand, particularly a telescope.

In preparation for the Southern Delta Aquariids and the black supermoon, writer Paul L. Underwood explores the best telescope brands in the market.

Orion Telescopes

Not sure where to begin? Orion is a great brand to consider. The 40-year-old company makes a seriously extensive line of telescopes, including powerful-yet-affordable reflectors, as well as light-and-crisp refractors. (For reference, Hubble is a reflector.) The brand also carries other companies’ telescopes on its site if you want to compare and contrast. The StarSeeker IV comes in under $500, and comes with an extra-long focal length that affords a detailed look at, say, the moon’s craters or Saturn’s rings. It’s also got a Tour mode that will help rookie astronomers identify what’s coming through the viewfinder, and a sleek, cherry-red design.

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In 1970, one year after the moon landing, Celestron helped usher in the next wave of amateur astronomy by introducing the C8, which sold for under $1,000, but was powered by a complicated, top-of-the-line Schmidt-Cassegrain lens. The Torrance, California–based company still specializes in bringing ultra-powerful ‘scopes to the masses, now with the entry-level FirstScopes, a series of handsomely designed products that cater to the neophyte astronomer. You can shell out a few grand for Celestron’s higher-end models, too, but your best bet might be somewhere in between. We like the 114LCM, a computerized model that can tell you when and where to look based on your time, date, and coordinates. Oh, and you can still find vintage C8s online.

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A relative newcomer, this Chinese outfit launched in 1999, and specializes in Dobsonian telescopes—a type invented in 1965, with the goal of being cheaper, more portable, and easier to manufacture than most commercial telescopes. They feature large objective diameters, meaning they gather light better than other ’scopes, ideal for observing deep-sky objects like nebulae and star clusters. Check out the collapsible versions, which make it easier to pack up and head somewhere cloudless and dark, and take in the cosmic ballet above.

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Meade Instruments

Meade started as a mail-order business out of Irvine, California, in 1972; today, it’s the largest telescope manufacturer in the world. As such, it offers everything from kid-friendly, sub-$50 refractors to research-grade models that cost more than a new Honda. We like the rugged and portable Lightbridge series, designed so that even beginners can get set up with minimal effort. (Some telescopes, as you might guess, require a fair amount of familiarity with gadgeting to get started.) Also check out the Coronado collection, a beautiful line of aluminum-encased solar telescopes that allow you to safely explore the workings of the sun.

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(Above: Photo via Juskteez Vu on Unsplash)

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