As you’d expect, you’ll see the most through a telescope at night. The lack of sunlight makes it easier for distant heavenly lights to reach us.
But does that mean your telescope is no good when the Sun’s out?
Not exactly. And that’s especially good news for those of us who live at far northern or southern latitudes with endless summer days.
So, can you use a telescope during the day?
Absolutely — you’ll just have to pick from a smaller range of celestial bodies that are visible, and rule out any deep space objects. The moon, Venus, and (with proper safety precautions) the Sun are all viable. You can also use a telescope to observe terrestrial sights like nature and wildlife, but its image reversal and high magnification may be hard to work with.
Naturally, this is something that’s particularly useful for people who want to get a good night’s sleep; or they simply don’t feel comfortable going out into the remote dark sites that are the best places for astronomy during the night. Considering this, we’ll give you some tips on using telescopes during the day in productive and interesting ways!
Will you see stars through a telescope during the day?
One of the first things people want to know about using telescopes during the day is — can you actually view the stars if the sun hasn’t set? Well, most of the stars simply don’t emit enough light towards Earth to be visible in daylight; or rather, they emit plenty of light, but they’re simply too far away.
However, there’s one obvious candidate for stargazing during the day which you may have already thought of — and it’s the star that creates this day to begin with! That’s right, we’re talking about our very own Sun.
Now, we need to give you a very important warning straight away; looking at the sun can be incredibly damaging to your eyesight, and it can cause you long-term harm if you’re not careful. The sun is our closest star, and thus you need to make sure that you’re using some sort of filtering if you intend on looking at it through your telescope.
Remember, even looking at the sun with the naked eye can be an issue; so take great care while using optics as well. Read this article for a more detailed guide.
However, there are interesting situations in which observing the sun can be truly epic. And one of the most famous ones is, of course — the solar eclipse! This is the famous constellation of celestial bodies where our Moon starts passing directly in front of our view of the Sun; thus blocking it from sight for a very small time period.
This time period may vary, depending on the eclipse in question; it ranges between eight minutes and a couple of seconds. At the end of the day, it’s all about the orbit of the Moon and its somewhat erratic nature. In essence, the closer the moon is to Earth — the longer the solar eclipse will last. And when the Moon is at its largest distance from Earth and an eclipse happens, it doesn’t manage to cover the entirety of the sun — resulting in a striking image of a ring of fire around a black circle.
Of course, apart from eyesight protection, there’s another thing that you need to consider here. Eclipses aren’t equally visible from every position on Earth, because they depend on the observer’s point of view.
As a result, someone looking to observe the eclipse during daytime might have to travel to incredibly remote places to achieve their goal. Unfortunately, that sort of travel isn’t always feasible.
Of course, the Sun is an amazing sight even if an eclipse isn’t imminent; but again, only as long as you maintain all of the needed safety precautions. Some light observation will definitely provide you with interesting stuff, such as surface granulation and sunspots.
Which planets can you see during the day?
If you thought that the Sun was the only thing big enough to be visible during the day — you’ll be happy to learn that you’re quite wrong! In reality, there are plenty of other celestial bodies in the solar system that may warrant your attention during the day, as long as you’re properly positioned to view them.
First of all — the moon! Okay, that’s technically cheating, seeing as the moon isn’t a planet; but you still get our point. And if you’re not someone who’s done much stargazing and looking up at the sky, you may not even be aware of the fact that you can often see the moon during the day as well. For the most superficial kind of observation, you won’t even need a telescope!
However, you can’t see it all the time if we’re talking about daylight observation. Much akin to the Sun, the moon is, logically, situated below your specific horizon precisely 50% of the time. And even when it’s up in daytime, it may appear as nothing more than a thin crescent, depending on your location and the meteorological conditions.
And apart from that, a less obvious candidate is Venus. Many online images of daytime Venus make the planet appear as a small crescent — but that’s true only in very specific conditions. Also, this is something that will definitely require optical aid — you are bound to struggle if you want to see Venus with the naked eye.
Still, if you try to see it without any equipment, you may still catch a glimpse — but it won’t be anything more than a pale white dot.
Daytime observation with a telescope: other things worth trying
Lastly, we should point out that your optical equipment isn’t just great for viewing stars and far-flung celestial objects. If you’re limited to (or just want to do) observing things with your telescope during the day — you can still see some pretty amazing sights that wouldn’t otherwise be close enough for you!
For instance, you can view amazing wildlife from huge distances and in great detail — but without disturbing the animals! You can also see gorgeous vistas from your natural scenery without having to travel anywhere during the day.
However, there are still some considerations to make here. First of all, if you’re specifically using a telescope for this, you need to be aware of the image flipping. Like we’ve discussed here, it will happen with almost every telescope that’s otherwise used for nighttime astronomy. That’s something you don’t notice when you look at the stars because there’s no up and down; but the case is obviously different on Earth.
On the other hand, another reason why you may want to use binoculars for this kind of observation is the fact that terrestrial optical devices usually operate in light-heavy environments; daylight being an obvious example here. On the other hand, plenty of telescopes weren’t made with this in mind, instead being used primarily in darker environments.
Stargazing and astronomy are incredibly fun hobbies — but they have one major downside. You can only do them properly at night; or at least, that’s what most people think. However, the reality is quite different. If you adjust your expectations regarding the objects which you’ll be able to observe — telescopes can be used during the day as well.