Can't See Anything Through Telescope? (Here's What to Do) (2023)

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A telescope can be a true eye-opener, revealing beautiful and expansive world views. However, if you’re having trouble seeing anything through it, there are a few tips to help you get the most out of your telescope.

In this article, we will go through all the problems and proffer solutions to help you troubleshoot your problem so you can fully enjoy your telescope and the night sky.

Let’s begin!

Table of Contents

Reasons why you can’t see anything through your telescope

You may be unable to see anything through your telescope for several reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons:

There is an issue with your telescope

Some common problems that can crop up with your telescopes are

The telescope mount may not be properly balanced or aligned

When your telescope mount is not well aligned, it can mess with the stability of the whole setup and make it tough to see anything through the eyepiece.

Damaged or dirty optics themselves

If your telescope optics or eyepiece are dirty, damaged, or misaligned, which can happen over time, it can mess with the image quality and make it hard to see anything.

The telescope is well out of focus

Astronomy telescopes have a focuser, which is essentially a tube that can be moved in and out of the telescope using knobs located at the base of the focuser.

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Sometimes, the tube may be fully extended or retracted, causing the telescope to show no visible objects, even if pointed at a bright one.

In this case, you have to play with the focuser knobs until you see some light slowly coming into focus.

To facilitate this process, it is recommended to begin by pointing the telescope at the moon, as it is a large and bright object that is easier to focus on. So point the telescope at the moon and try to focus.

Once you can focus on the moon, it should be ok for all other objects in the night sky, although you may need to adjust the focuser knobs slightly for dimmer and smaller objects.

You may also like: Can I Use My telescope Through a Window?

You forget the Barlow lens in the focuser

A Barlow lens is a tool that will increase the telescope’s magnification by 2x, 3x, or even 5x. It is placed between the focuser and the eyepiece.

So if a Barlow lens is left in the focuser tube, and an eyepiece is installed on top of it, the resulting magnification can be so high that the image becomes blurry. This can make it difficult to see anything through the telescope.

Therefore, checking the focuser before installing an eyepiece is important, and ensure no additional components, such as a Barlow lens, are left in the tube.

You may also like: The Best Barlow Lens For Any Telescope

Dew on the mirrors and lenses

Temperature differentials between the telescope and the outside environment can cause condensation on the lenses and mirrors, which can significantly reduce the clarity of the image and make it difficult, if not impossible, to see anything through the telescope.

No matter the type of telescope, temperature differentials between the telescope and the outside environment can be a reason you have issues seeing anything.

If you plan to observe the night sky when it is colder outside and take out your warm telescope, there will be condensation on the lenses or mirrors immediately. This dramatically reduces the image’s clarity and makes seeing anything through the telescope difficult.

The best practice is to take the telescope out one hour before you want to start stargazing. This helps the telescope cool down to prevent condensation on the optical parts. The bigger the telescope, the longer it needs to cool down.

Also, note that temperature fluctuations during the night can cause the same problem. Hence, astronomers, especially astrophotographers, use special dew heaters in this case.

These heaters cover parts of the telescope to prevent dew from forming on the lenses and mirrors.

An excellent dew heater we recommend is the SVBONY SV192 Dew Heater.

Your telescope is out of collimation – Newtonian telescope

If you have a telescope with a mirror instead of lenses inside, you have a Newtonian reflector. These telescopes need to be collimated before you can see anything.

Commonly, the mirrors are slightly out of the collimation, which can cause the resulting object in the eyepiece to be out of focus and blurry. All you need to do in this case is slightly adjust the mirrors.

But if it is pitch black in the eyepiece and you are 100% sure that the telescope is pointing at the bright moon, you have a bigger problem.

It means your telescope mirrors are way out of collimation and will need to be fixed(collimated) with some big adjustments to the mirrors.

We use special tools to collimate reflecting telescopes. You are screwed without them, and you need to buy them.

The most used tools are a laser collimator and a Cheshire eyepiece.

The following are recommended:

Wrong location or time of day

Another issue can be your location.

Let’s assume that the telescope has been appropriately set up, including removing the covers, collimating the telescope, and aligning the finderscope, yet it failed to show the desired object.

Suppose you have a GoTo telescope, so you put in the object you want to see. The telescope slews and points to the target, but you see nothing.

In such cases, pointing the telescope at the moon can help determine if there is a problem.

If the moon is visible through the eyepiece, but the desired object is not, then light pollution in the observation area may be the cause of the problem, especially if you are observing from a big city.

You can have the biggest telescope in the field, but in a highly light-polluted city sky, you are limited to only seeing the moon and some planets.

All other objects, like galaxies and nebulae, are so dim that you can’t see them through the telescope without the proper dark skies.

This is a common issue encountered by people who purchase a telescope in light-polluted areas, only to be disappointed when they cannot see anything through it.

The problem is not with the telescope but the observing conditions, as dark skies are the most critical factor in successful stargazing.

To ensure that your location is suitable, check the light pollution in your location on this map. You don’t want to use the telescope in the purple, red, and yellow areas.

If you click on the map, a small popup window appears with the details about the location. The info you want to check is the Bortle class.

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The Bortle scale has nine classes. Class one is the darkest sky available in the world, and class nine is the inner city skies. Here is the summary of all classes:

  1. Excellent dark-sky site
  2. A typical dark site
  3. Rural sky
  4. Rural/suburban transition
  5. Suburban sky
  6. Bright suburban sky
  7. Suburban/urban transition
  8. City sky
  9. Inner-city sky

Keep this in mind; believe me, under the Bortle class 1 and 2 skies, you don’t need the telescope. It’s like being in space.

Lack of experience handling the telescope

Another reason you may have trouble seeing anything through your telescope is a lack of experience handling it.

Telescopes can be complex devices with many moving parts and settings to adjust, and if you’re new to using them, it can take a while to get the hang of things.

For example, you may not know how to focus the telescope properly or be unfamiliar with how to adjust the eyepiece for the best viewing experience.

Try to experiment with your telescope and play with the focus and eyepiece settings to see how they affect your viewing experience. You can learn how to use the telescope by practicing and with patience.

Also, remember you can consult your local astronomy club or the manual that came with your telescope for helpful hints and instructions specific to your model.

Possible solutions when you can’t see anything through your telescope

If you cannot see anything through your telescope, consider doing the following

Be sure that all dust covers are removed from the telescope

It seems silly, but even experienced astronomers (including me) sometimes forget to take off the lens cap/dust covers or, in the astrophotography case, remove the Bahtinov mask after focusing.

Be sure that all dust covers are removed from the telescope.

Use the eyepiece

You should know that all telescopes require an eyepiece in the focuser to give you the image. If you are looking into the hollow tube, you are definitely missing the eyepiece.

Telescopes come with a pair of eyepieces, so during observations, ensure that you first use the eyepiece with the highest focal length number( lowest power eyepiece ).

The higher the eyepiece’s focal length, the less magnification you have, meaning it is easier to find something. Then you can switch to the shorter focal length to get more magnification.

You may also like: Telescope eyepiece Guide

Align your finderscope

Every telescope has a small scope on the top of the eyepiece holder called a finder scope. The finderscope helps to find objects in the sky because it has a wider field of view. Usually, a cross is inside or a red dot if it is a red dot finder.

You have to position the cross or a red dot on the object you want to see through the telescope. But first, you need to align it. The best way to do that is to do it during the day.

Find some electric pole or any terrestrial distant object. Try to find it with the telescope by looking through the eyepiece first. Center it in the field of view and fix the telescope so it can’t move.

Then look through the finderscope and align it by turning the screw to hit the object with the cross or red dot you see in the eyepiece to align your finderscope.

With that done, you should always see the same object that’s in the finderscope in the telescope eyepiece.

If you want to get one soon, the SVBONY SV182 Finderscope, is an excellent choice.

Insert the eyepiece correctly

Make sure that the eyepiece is correctly inserted into your telescope. If the eyepiece is not properly inserted or screwed into the focuser, the light will not be accurately focused, resulting in no image.

You may also like: Barlow Lens vs. Eyepiece

Tighten the focuser

Even when you insert the eyepiece correctly, you may still have trouble seeing anything through your telescope if the focuser isn’t tightened enough.

The focuser is part of the telescope that holds the eyepiece in place, and it needs to be securely fastened to allow for proper focusing.

Replace damaged eyepiece

If your eyepiece is dirty or damaged, replacing it with a new one or cleaning it with a lens cloth may help. Ensure not to touch the lens with your fingers, as it can leave fingerprints.

Collimate the telescope properly

For issues arising from improper collimation, try to realign the mirrors to ensure the telescope is properly collimated.

To learn how to collimate a telescope, read my article How To Collimate Mirrors On Newtonian Reflector.

Invest in a Filter

When location/light pollution is the problem, especially for those in the city, it is difficult to see anything through your telescope.

To solve this issue, you can move to a darker location or use a filter on your telescope. Investing in a telescope filter that blocks some artificial light can be helpful.

An excellent recommendation is the Orion 5657 2-Inch eyepiece filter.

How to improve your viewing experience

Here are some tips that will help improve your viewing experience when using a telescope.

1. Adjust the tripod

The tripod is what the telescope is mounted on. Make sure it is adjusted correctly. Otherwise, you will not be able to see anything through the telescope.

2. Check the focuser

The focuser is what you use to focus the image on the telescope. Ensure that the focuser is screwed in tightly before utilizing the telescope.

3. Check the diopter adjustment

The diopter adjustment is used to focus the eyepiece. Ensure that it is set to the correct setting before using the telescope.

You can find instructions on how to do this in your telescope user manual.

4. Calibrate the finder scope

The finder scope assists you in pointing the telescope at an object. It would help if you calibrated it to use it effectively.

Find instructions on how to do this in the user manual.

Takeaway: Utilize effective troubleshooting tips when you can’t see anything through your telescope

Don’t give up on stargazing if you can’t see anything through your telescope. This might happen for several reasons, including being out of focus, a dirty or damaged eyepiece, or light pollution.

I know it can be frustrating when you set up your telescope at night and then look and can’t see anything through it! Been there and done that hence this blog post.

By checking for the issues discussed in this piece and taking steps to correct them, such as inserting the eyepiece correctly, using a filter, tightening the focuser, collimating the telescope, adjusting the focus, or moving to a darker location, you can start enjoying the wonders of the night sky through your telescope.

You may also like:

  • How to Use a Telescope (Explained for Beginners)
  • How To Increase The Magnification Of a Telescope
  • Maksutov Newtonian Telescopes (In-depth Guide)
  • Is SVBONY a Good Brand? (Brand Review)
  • National Geographic Telescope: NT114CF Review
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