Buying Your First Telescope: A Short Guide

This is a guest article by Bogdan Teodorescu from Romania.


Buying your first telescope can be tough. If you don’t know what to look for, you can easily get lost in the process. Luckily, I run an astronomy organisation since last year, and a lot of people asked me questions regarding buying a telescope.

First of all, know what you look for. Where do you want to use it? How expensive do you want it to be? As all around the market, there are cheap and super-expensive telescopes, 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 either in millimeters or, in inches (1 inch equals 25.4 mm). Your telescope should have at least 2.8 inches (70 mm) aperture and the more the better.

Telescope

A larger aperture may allow you to see fainter objects and in better detail, but smaller good
telescopes may still show you a great deal 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. 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 an awesome 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, which is a very important factor to take into consideration. Still, binoculars have their obvious 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 7x50, and the Celestron Skymasters (8x56 is easier to handle).

The major types of telescopes

The Refractor Telescope
An illustration of 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 the usage of more
exotic lenses.

The Reflector Telescope
An illustration of 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
An illustration of Cadioptric 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.

Also Read: Basics of Astrophysics Series

What do I recommend?

I can’t do much to help you with this. All I can do is make some recommendations, based on
what I know, heard, and on my own preferences. As a known fact, the best brands of telescopes you should look for, and the most popular, are Celestron, Orion and Meade. Of course, there are a lot of 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 a price of only $80. Indeed, the aperture is not that big, but it is a great choice for beginners. A classic reflector.

Buy Orion SpaceProbe II 76 mm Newtonian

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.” It comes for around $1,000, so it is better to check all the reviews and opinions you can first, as it is also a controversial telescope.

Telescope
Celestron's NexStar 8SE
Buy Celestron NexStar 8SE

One of my favorite types of telescope is the Dobsonian, so I will give my recommendation on
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 Oberwerk 15 x 70 LW, as I feel that it is one of the best for the price it has.
You can use it with other purposes too, and it is easy to handle. As proven now, not all of them need to be Orions or Celestrons.

Oberwerk 15 x 70 LW

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