a man using his telescope during the day

Can you use a telescope during the day?

Last Updated: March 11, 2022

A telescope can be used during the day, but it will not be as effective as it is at night. If you are expecting to observe the stars and other celestial objects as you would at night, you are likely to be disappointed. Indeed, telescopes collect light from objects in the sky and magnify it, so it is important to have a dark sky to see more detail. However, during the day, the sky is much brighter, which causes a lot of interferences caused by sunlight.

That being said, daytime astronomy is still something that can be enjoyed, and there are several celestial objects that you can see in the sky. Additionally, telescopes can be used to observe things like airplanes, wildlife, landscapes, and even storms. So if you want to get the most out of your device, using a telescope during the day can be a fun and worthwhile experience.

What can you see with a telescope during the day?

Telescopes are often thought of as tools only made for stargazing at night, but daytime observings can be just as rewarding. Below is a list of things you can observe:

Solar observation

The Sun is the closest star that we have access to and is, therefore, one of the most studied objects in space. With a telescope, you can see different features on the Sun’s surface that you can’t see with the naked eye, like sunspots, which are dark areas on the sun’s surface. Please keep in mind that you should never look at the sun without using appropriate solar filters.

Moongazing

The moon can be observed during the day with a telescope or stargazing binoculars. The best time of day to observe the moon is in the early morning or evening. The moon is easiest to see when it is a crescent or gibbous phase. With a telescope, you will be able to see the different craters and mountains on the moon’s surface. This could be a good way to introduce children to moongazing since they usually can not stay up too late at night.

Planetary observation

Telescopes can be used during the day to see a few planets, mainly Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. The best time to view these planets is usually in the early morning or evening. Since the sky is so bright during the day, the main challenge is to find where the planets are located in the sky. I recommend using a stargazing app for mobile devices or planetarium software to help you spot the planets.

Star observation

If you are unable to stargaze at night, you might still be able to view a few stars during daylight hours. The best time is early in the morning or late in the evening when the sky is still a little dark. Just point your telescope at the sky and look for bright spots. You may need to adjust the focus of your telescope to get a clearer view of the stars.

Spot the International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is an amazing sight to see, regardless of the time of day.  The ISS is very bright and it will often look like a fast-moving star in the sky. However, you will need to time your observation correctly to see it. Since the ISS orbits around Earth, it will only appear in your local sky at certain times. You can find out the next time the ISS will be visible in your area on this page: Where is the international space station now?

Wildlife observation

Telescopes are not just for astronomy! They can also be used to observe wildlife. By positioning a telescope near a water source, you can watch birds and other aquatic creatures swim and dive. Daytime observing is a great way to get a closer look at the natural world around you.

Landscape viewing

You can use your telescope to observe landscapes and other terrestrial objects. You can get a closer look at features that are far away or too small to see with the naked eye. This can be a fun and interesting way to spend your time, and it can also help you learn more about your surroundings. 

This Dobsonian telescope is equipped with the appropriate solar filter, which allows the observer to look at the Sun safely.

What are the pros and cons of using your telescope during the day?

Here are some of the pros of using a telescope during the day:

  • If you are a beginner, daytime observing gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your telescope and learn how to use it better.
  • Daytime observation is ideal for solar observation, which allows you to study the closest star to Earth, the Sun. At the end of the day, it is the only star that we can observe at such a close range so it would be a shame not to make the most of it.
  • They can be used for terrestrial observations such as bird watching, landscape and even wildlife.
  • If you are a parent, using your telescope during the day might be your best option for teaching your children to (safely) operate it, as they are (usually) asleep by the time you are stargazing at late at night. Remember to never leave your telescope unattended when children are using it and to always provide adequate adult supervision.

Here are some of the cons of using a telescope during the day:

  • You will not be able to observe any deep space objects.
  • The few things that you can observe in the sky will not look as good as they would at night, apart from the Sun of course.
  • The Sun can sometimes be too close to your celestial target in the sky, which makes it too dangerous to see through the telescope’s eyepiece.
  • Staying under the hot sun for too long can be dangerous, so make sure to take plenty of breaks while observing with your telescope during the day
  • You must use your telescope with great care because the sunlight and the heat from the Sun can damage the delicate optical components it contains.

Safety precautions to take when using your telescope during the day

There are several safety precautions you should take when using your telescope during the day. First and foremost, never directly look at the sun with your telescope. Even if the sun is partially obscured by clouds! Doing so could cause permanent damage to your eyes. 

Always use an approved solar filter when looking at the sun. 

If you live in a very hot part of the world, the optical tube assemblies (OTA) can heat up significantly if you use your telescope in the daytime for extended periods. To avoid this, try to keep your telescope in a shaded area when using it during the day. If there is no shade available, try covering the telescope with a white cloth. 

Finally, make sure to drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a hat, and stay in the shade as much as possible if you are going to be outside for a long time. These precautions will help ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience using your telescope during the day.

Picture of Mars in the night sky, seen without the help of a telescope or binoculars.

Without a telescope, Mars looks like a star with a reddish tint in the night sky.

Conclusion

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but it is entirely possible to use your telescope during the day and observe a few things, either in the sky or on land. If you don’t have a lot of free time to use your telescope during the night, daytime observation is your best option. You can use your instrument during the day to catch a glimpse of some celestial objects. Keep in mind, however, that you won’t be able to see as many objects during the day as you would during the night. Happy stargazing and clear skies!

Tom Urbain

Written by Tom Urbain

 I’ve been fascinated by space and astronomy from a very young age. When I’m not watching space-themed documentaries, movies or TV series, I spend most of my free time in my backyard admiring the planets and galaxies with my telescope.

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