Buying your first telescope can be challenging. If you don’t know what to look for, you can easily get lost in the process. Luckily, I have run an astronomy organization since last year, and many people asked me questions regarding buying a telescope.
First of all, know what you are looking for. Where do you want to use it? How expensive do you want it to be? There are cheap and super-expensive telescopes all around the market, ranging from, say, $75 to $5000. Also, how big do you want it to be. You may find a telescope you like and then realize you can’t go anywhere with it.
Aperture – A little about the most important feature of a telescope
The most important characteristic of a telescope is its aperture — the diameter of its light-gathering lens or mirror, often called the objective. Look for the telescope’s specifications near its focuser, at the front of the tube, or on the box. The aperture’s diameter (D) is expressed in millimeters or inches (1 inch equals 25.4 mm). Thus, your telescope should have at least 2.8 inches (70 mm) aperture, and the more, the better.
A larger aperture may allow you to see fainter objects and better detail, but smaller good telescopes may still show plenty of objects. In deciding on this problem, the biggest factor regards where you want to use it. If you go far from the city lights, a smaller telescope can do a lot. Please don’t go for telescopes that are advertised with their magnification.
You may want a binocular
Take this option into consideration. Both binoculars and telescopes can be a fantastic choice for beginners who are just getting into astronomy. The thing is, a binocular is way easier to use. With buying a telescope, you get a longer range indeed, and stability is a significant factor to consider. Still, binoculars have their apparent advantages: they are cheaper and more compact. Also, with binoculars, you get a wider image, of course.
In my opinion, Celestron wins the race against other binoculars, and great choices would be the Celestron Cometron 7×50 and the Celestron Skymasters (8×56 is easier to handle).
The Major types of telescopes
The Refractor Telescope
It kind of looks like this. It is the telescope most of you are most familiar with. The biggest advantage of a refractor telescope is that it is maintenance-free. Although they are good for astronomy imaging, their price grows fast as aperture increases due to more exotic lenses.
The Reflector Telescope
The reflecting telescope uses two mirrors, as seen in the diagram. Although it is more effective when it comes to pricing, as the tube is open, dust can accumulate, and thus it needs maintenance.
The Catadioptric Telescope
This is more of a hybrid of reflectors and refractors, using both lenses and mirrors. Two popular designs you’ll often encounter are the Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain. As for some advantages, it is more compact, and the tube is closed and thus doesn’t need that much maintenance.
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I can’t do much to help you with this. All I can do is make recommendations based on what I know, hear, and my preferences. As a known fact, the best brands of telescopes you should look for, and the most popular, are Celestron, Orion, and Meade. But, of course, there are many individual telescopes and binoculars that are amazing and come from companies other than these.
Celestron’s Advanced VX 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT) is a great deal. A little bit expensive, it comes for $1,739.00. It is still a low-cost telescope in its category, that of good, sophisticated telescopes.
Also, you may want to try Orion’s SpaceProbe II 76mm Newtonian. It is a cheap option for amateur and beginner skywatchers, coming for only $80. Indeed, the aperture is not that big, but it is a great choice for beginners—a classic reflector.
Here comes the world choice. The Celestron NexStar 8SE is widely regarded as the most popular and beloved telescope. “The classic, 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain revolutionized amateur astronomy in the 1970s.” However, it comes for around $1,000, so it is better to check all the reviews and opinions first, as it is also a controversial telescope.
One of my favorite telescope types is the Dobsonian, so I will recommend this, as you may want to try one. It is more advanced and comes with a computer. I’m talking about the Orion 10020 SkyQuest XT12i. Take a look.
In the end, as I talked about binoculars, you may have decided to purchase one. My idea of binoculars is the berwerk 15 x 70 LW, as I feel that it is one of the best for its price. You can use it for other purposes too, and it is easy to handle. As proven now, not all of them need to be Orion’s or Celestron’s.
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Author at ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’, I am a science student from Romania. I am also the founder of Astronomy Hub, an organization for popularizing astronomy and astrophysics. I love reading philosophy and literature, enjoy classical rock, blues, and watch movies.