Telescopes and Light Pollution

When it comes to viewing the night sky and all the celestial bodies in that sky, you’ll need to think beyond the telescope itself to the environment. This is especially true in an urban setting where there’s plenty of lights to block stunning views.

You wouldn’t think that it would be tough to see the night sky since you’re using a magnifier. The lights in your area could be a serious problem for nighttime viewing.

What is Light Pollution?

The amount of lights that brighten the world so you can see better at night are the same lights that can block your view of the sky. They create a haze that will make viewing certain aspects of the sky challenging.

Some objects in the night sky are actually visible with the naked eye while in an area that has a ton of light pollution. Check out the sky next time you’re out at night, or take a peek outside your window. You’ll be able to see certain objects even under light polluted conditions. Those are items you’ll be able to magnify with a telescope.

While it’s more challenging to see certain objects in a light-compromised area, it’s not entirely impossible. There are some tips that will help like the telescope you purchase as well as how and where to set up the tube that will help.

The Best Telescope for Urban Settings

Under the bright city lights, you’re not going to see as much. Setting your telescope in the middle of the city will always be an issue. You can purchase a good telescope for city viewing by understanding how telescopes work with light.

The aperture of the telescope allows light into the lens to enhance and brighten the image that you’re seeing. The starlight is collected and applies to the image in a way that makes it clearer and easier for you to see.

For this reason, you want to get a telescope with the widest aperture possible. It’ll allow more light into the scope for viewing, which can filter out the light that is blocking as a haze over your head.

It’s also a good idea to get a Go-To mount for faster pinpointing. When you’re hopping around with a star chart, you’ll spend more time trying to find a good star to look at than actually checking out the one you eventually find.

Good Places for Setting Up Your Telescope

Another challenge in an urban setting is where to set up your telescope. Cement or the rooftop of your building isn’t a great location for the telescope. Both retain heat that can cause distortions while you’re trying to view the stars and planets. The best locations are in the backyard on dirt or grass.

Once you have the right location that is cool and dry, you can direct your telescope into the sky. Avoid aiming it directly over a building like the neighbor’s home. The light and heat from homes can distract from the light of the star.

The contrast between the object and the exterior environment will be too low to see a sharp image in the eyepiece. It’s best to aim the telescope straight into the sky instead of on a line with the horizon. The horizon is where light pollution will be the worst.

Viewing Objects

When you’ve found the best location in your backyard, what kind of objects should you be looking for in the sky? While you won’t be able to see some deep-sky objects that are dim and further away, there are some fascinating stars and planets to see.


Some people don’t realize that with your telescope, you’ll be able to see the sun. Most experts recommend that we never look at the sun, but with the right filters, it’s a fascinating sight. It changes frequently as the surface of the sun shifts and moves. In an urban setting, it’s a good alternative to night viewing. It’s vital that you have the right filter for sun viewing, though.


The moon is one of the obvious objects in the night sky that you can focus on even with high light pollution. As each phase changes, you’ll be able to track those changes and see new aspects of the Moon’s surface. You don’t have to wait for the moon to be full. You can watch the Moon as it reveals itself and see how the sun creates shadows on the surface.


There are at least 4 planets that are visible even when the area around you is polluted with light. Venus is a planet that most are able to see with their telescope, but many amateur astronomers don’t know that the planet can be seen in moon-like phases and can appear bigger or smaller depending on the phase.

Jupiter is another planet that is a great focus for your telescopic viewing. It has a changing surface and cloud bands as well as the red spot that people love to stare at through their telescope.

You can live in an urban setting and still see stars and planets through your telescope. Light pollution can make some viewing impossible, but there are millions of stars out there for you to view as well as things like the Moon and Sun.


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