How To Buy A Telescope
Choosing the right telescope depends entirely on how serious you are about using it. There is a great difference
between a backyard hobby telescope and a serious astronomy telescope.
Things to Consider About a Telescope
Buying a telescope can be a somewhat pricey purchase. Therefore, it is important to take a look at all the
different features in order to determine which ones are really important to you.
- Magnifying power is not the most important consideration when choosing a telescope. More important is the
scope's light gathering capability, or aperture, which determines how much you will be able
- The brightest, sharpest images are obtained at the lower powers of 25 to 50x
Types of Telescopes
- Generally, starter telescopes offer a small achromatic refractor of 60 mm to 80 mm aperture. This is fine for
observing the moon and major planets. These small apertures, however, are not ideal for faint deep-sky objects. More
advanced stargazers should consider moving up to a 90 mm or 100 mm refractor.
- The higher the refractor, the better the performance.
- Refractor telescopes are a good choice if you are doing most of your star gazing in the city or suburbs or
other relatively high light areas. A larger scope will amplify the significant existing light and make it difficult to
- Newtonian reflectors are generally good all-around scopes for both planetary and deep-sky viewing. Smaller,
3-4.5 inch Newtonian reflectors are a significant step above refractor versions, and 6-8 inch versions offer even
increased range. The size and weight of these versions limits their portability, so be sure you have a dedicated space
- Schmidt-Cassegrains are more portable than Newtonian models. An 8-inch version provides excellent versions of
the moon, planets and deep-sky objects. These are expensive models for more advanced astronomers and are not
recommended for backyard hobby viewing.
Telescopes come in three basic mounts: altazimuth, dobsonian, and equatorial.
- Altazimuth is the simplest and is recommended for casual stargazing and planetary observing
- Dobsonian mounts are boxy, altaz-type mounts designed for easy maneuvering of the larger Newtonian tubes of 6
inch aperture and larger
- Equatorial mounts are more complicated and expansive but allow the user to follow the motion of celestial
objects with a single manual control
Telescope Buying Tips
- Get as much aperture as you can reasonably handle, but not more
- Big aperture is generally better, but you don't want to buy a telescope that is too big or complicated to
conveniently set up and use
- If you are buying your first telescope, a basic refractor model with 90 mm aperture or smaller is acceptable
- For a slight step up from the basic model, a Newtonian reflector of 6-inch aperture or less is recommended
- You can always trade up once you've mastered your first scope
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