Looking at the night sky unaided is a great way to learn your way around, but if you want to set the spiral arms of a galaxy or the remnants of the death of a star then you’ll need a telescope. For Star-Safari we use two giant reflecting telescopes that have 405mm primary mirrors. This means that these telescopes collect around 4500 times more light than the average human eye.
One of the telescopes is called Princess Leia, it’s a Meade Lightbridge and is about 10 years old. Princess Leia has been all around the world, she lived in the United Kingdom for a couple of years before moving to New Zealand. She’s had a few upgrades over the years including a new secondary mirror and the installation of wheels to make it easy to move her around. She weighs in at about 60kg. For those who want to know the numbers, Princess Leia has a focal length of 1829mm and an f ratio of 4.5. We usually use a 32mm eyepiece with this telescope so the view has a magnification of about 60 times. To get in close to objects, like double stars and planets we can push the magnification easily to 200 times. In really good atmospheric conditions we can even go to 400 times magnification.
The other big telescope is called Darth Vader, unlike Star Wars, he is considerably younger than Princess Leia and was added to the Star-Safari collection only last year. Darth Vader has similar specifications to Princess Leia with a 405mm primary mirror and a similar focal length and f ratio. Darth Vader has carbon fibre struts and a modern design, made by GSO. With this telescope we use our new monster Televue Ethos 21mm eyepiece. This eyepiece gives incredible views and is a real treat to look through. Most eyepieces are like looking through a long tube with an apparent field of view of around 50 degrees. The Ethos has an apparent field of view of 110 degrees. This completely changes the experience of looking through a telescope.