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How To Buy A Telescope For Beginners EXCLUSIVE

Read our guide to the best beginner telescopes, or if portability is your thing, find out which models made our list of the best travel telescopes. And we've also put together a list of the best telescopes for kids.

how to buy a telescope for beginners


The quality of the optics in the telescope, determined predominantly by their cost, will have a significant bearing on the quality of the views, and the cheap refractors that tend to be popular at electrical goods and camera shops are often disappointing.

Light entering the tube is reflected back inside the tube onto a much smaller angled secondary mirror, and then out through the side of the telescope near the top end, which is where the interchangeable eyepiece goes.

Cassegrain designs give a comparatively more magnified view for a given size of eyepiece, and for those wishing to experience the best views of the planets and our Moon, a Maksutov-Cassegrain or a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope may well be the best option.

Because of the higher magnifications provided by these telescopes, the object being observed will more quickly move out of view, and so they are often purchased with electronic tracking mounts to follow the targets as they move.

Whatever your choice, refractor, reflector, Cassegrain, it is advisable to make your purchase from specialist astronomy dealers that know all about the telescopes they offer and can answer the inevitable questions.

One nifty inclusion is the StarSense Explorer phone dock, which can be used to fit a smartphone and turns this manual telescope into a hi-tech gadget that can locate celestial objects using your phone and the StarSense app.

We performed some astrophotography tests with the telescope and found no evidence of unwanted reflections or artefacts, while a star test showed that the lens cell holds the glass without skewing or pinching, even despite drops in temperature greater than 10C.

With such a variety of telescopes on offer, it can be tricky to choose which one is most suitable, especially for beginners. This article offers advice on which one may be most suitable for you, your budget and your circumstances.

The team here at Go Stargazing highly recommends a particular type of telescope known as a Dobsonian. Named after their inventor John Dobson, an amateur astronomer from San Francisco, these telescopes are sturdy, have good quality optics, and come with large reflective surfaces (mirrors) that gather more light.

Dobsonians are extremely easy to use. They move up and down and twist on a rotating base, meaning they can point at any part of the sky. They are good value for money, ideal for beginners (including children from about 10), and great for observing the Moon, planets, and the brighter deep sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae. They are terrific fun to use too, and little can go wrong if you look after them!

Being of simple design, Dobsonian telescopes are amongst the best value telescopes that money can buy without too much compromise. Your budget goes primarily towards how powerful the telescope is (the size of the light-gathering mirror) rather than fancy electronics.

Other types of telescopes can be found cheaper however you may well find yourself venturing into the realms of poor build quality and difficult to use (in which case you really must try before you buy!).

We highly recommend you go to an independent astronomy equipment supplier (rather than any online retailer). We recommend First Light Optics whom we know to be a very reliable, helpful and customer focussed supplier of telescopes and associated equipment. See the telescopes they currently have in stock.

Telescopes come in two basic types: reflectors and refractors. A reflector telescope uses a large parabolic mirror to harvest and reflect the incoming light to another mirror, which in turn reflects that light into the eyepiece. A refractor uses one or more lenses to do the same job.

Most entry-level and mid-range telescopes come with a bundled mount, but the quality varies enormously. A good mount will give you stable views even at high magnifications; with a wobbly one, it may be hard to keep far-off objects in the frame.

So, you've decided to take the plunge and buy a telescope -- congratulations!Astronomy can be a life long pleasure, with the right equipment. But what tobuy? And how do you not wind up with a room that looks like the above? There'smore equipment out there than ever before. This article will attempt to make some sense out of the seemingly huge selection of scopes and accessories.

1) Learn to spot a few constellations and maybe a planet or two with thenaked eye. If you can't point to M42, how do you expect to able to point a telescope (which has a much narrower field of view) there?

That said, your ideal first telescope may not be a telescope at all, buta pair of binoculars. Perhaps you have a pair lying around the house already. Most experienced astronomers keep a pair of binoculars closeby, for quick peeks or for scanning the field of view before using theirtelescopes. The common recommendation is to get a pair of 7X50's, orat least, 7X35's. The first number "7" is the magnification, the second "50" is the aperture of each objective lens, in mm. You want the largestlenses you can comfortably hold.

There are new "giant" binoculars which can give stunning viewsof the heavens, if you know how to use them. If someone offers youa view through one of these, by all means oblige, but hold off buying apair for now. You'll know later if you want them.OK, so binoculars aren't exciting the way telescopes are. Before I leave the topic, allow me to make a final case for good binoculars:1) Cheap binoculars are much, much more useful than cheap telescopes. Trust me on this one.2) Good binoculars can last you a lifetime. As you trade up (or down)your telescopes, you'll still need a pair of binoculars for quick peeks and scanning. As a result, binoculars tend to be something you buy onlyonce or twice. Finally, some find that a "spotting scope" - asmall, stand-mounted telescope that can be used for astronomical and terrestrialpurposes - can be a good stepping stone to a first telescope.

Ask a roomful of people what the purpose of a telescope is, and chances arethey will say something like, "to make distant objects look bigger." I'm afrequent guest speaker at local schools, and I always get that answer (orsomething close to it) when I ask that question.

Is the primary function of a telescope really to make things look bigger? Not necessarily. The primary function of a telescope is to gather light.The more light a scope gathers, the more powerful it is. And remember,telescope apertures are circles, and the areas of circles increase withthe square of the radius, so moving up in aperture, even modestly,can yield big results. Our hypothetical 7X50 binoculars (above) gatherover twice the light of the 7X35's, even though they look about the same size. Put another way, the owner of an 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain who decides to upgrade to a 12" will see a 44% increase in light-gathering ability. Not bad for a 2" increase, eh?

1) The refractor is what most people think of when they hear the word"telescope". Refractors gather light with an objective lens at one end andfocus the light at the eyepiece at the other end. Refractors were almostextinct at one point, but modern glass elements (including an exciting newartificially grown crystal known as fluorite) have brought the refractorback to prominence.

3) The Schmidt-Cassegrain and its derivatives (Maksutov-Cassegrain,Schmidt-Newtonian, etc.) use BOTH mirrors and lenses to fold theoptical path back onto itself, resulting in a compact tube. The technicalterm for these scopes is catadioptrics, but since nobody seems to usethis term, I won't. A Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is sometimes simplyreferred to as an "SCT."

Depends. The "right" telescope depends on you, your observing habits, and your financial situation. Back before 1990, picking a telescope used to be a simple matter. You started out with a 60 mm refractor (probably from a departmentstore), then you upgraded to a 6" f/8 reflector from either Criterion or Meade, and if you stuck with it long enough, you eventually bought an 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain from Celestron.

This is a tough one to answer, since everyone has their own priorities and preferences. Still, knowing what I know, if I were starting out today, Iwould probably get a 6" or 8" Dobsonian-mounted reflector. The fact that I am something of a "refractor guy" says a lot about this choice.A 6" Dobsonian is simple, cheap, and will teach you a lot. The simplicity partis important, since you will spend your time aiming and observing with yourtelescope, rather than playing around with the sometimes complicated controlson an equatorial mount.Beginners need early success, and the 6" or 8" aperture is big enough to throwup a bright image of most common celestial objects.

I like all the 6" Dobsonians from Meade, Celestron, Orion, and Discovery. Offshore manufacturing means that the same basic unit is now available under a variety of nameplates. You may find similar Dobsonian reflectors sold as Zhumell, Skywatcher, Bresser, Konus, Hardin, Apertura, and others, depending on where in the world you live. I like the Orion the best, but you can just pick one; they're all good. If you're feeling ambitious, get an 8" version. The differences betweenthe brands show up mainly in the quality of the accessories. Look for a 6X30 finder (or larger), Plossl instead of Kellner eyepieces, and Pyrex instead of plate glass mirrors. If I were pressed to recommend one telescope for beginners, it would be the Orion Skyquest XT8. The scope weighs about 41 lbs and is about 4-5 feet high. The XT6/XT8 telescope is complete as shown, and simply sits on the ground. There is no need to purchase any additional mount or tripod.

Astronomy is a lot like that. The probability that a telescope will be used is inversely proportional to its size. This seems to apply to justabout everyone, regardless of experience. I've carried on a correspondence with a fellow astronomer. He has an 18""Luxo-Dob", I have a tiny TeleVue Ranger. Our conversations tend to go something like this: 041b061a72

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