Buying Your First Telescope

by telescope review guide

Buying a new telescope can be confusing, especially for the first timer. Many are left wondering which telescope to get. Understanding telescopes and their various accessories can go a long way in choosing the best one for you. Whether you are a beginner or old pro, in this first of a six part series, I will help you better identify the different types of telescopes and help you find the best telescope for you.

Aperture of a telescope

A telescope’s singular most important attribute is its aperture. Aperture is a measure of a telescope’s light gathering ability and determines the brightness and sharpness of everything viewed through your scope. Aperture is the diameter of the main lens or mirror and as the aperture increases so does the details of the image you see. A good 10″ aperture scope shows sharper images than even a well-made 6″ aperture telescope.

Since aperture is so important, many astronomers are misled into believing that getting the biggest aperture you can afford is the simplest way to choosing the best telescope for you. This isn’t always the case. If you make your decision based solely on the size of aperture, you might end up owning a big telescope that sits unused.

Where will you use your new telescope? If  nearby in the backyard then having a large telescope will be of advantage to you. If you need to carry the telescope to to an observing site away from city lights, you will definitely need something compact, yet powerful. Don’t forget that you may have to assemble and set up your telescope in the dark. A scope that is too big to carry outdoors and too difficult to set up just won’t get used.

Telescope Power

Power and design, like aperture, are other important considerations when deciding which telescope to purchase. Power is a critical factor since it determines how close a view you can get of space objects such as planets but it is not a decision making factor. You can control the  power by using different eyepieces.

An eyepiece is the small removable lens assembly you look into. Most telescopes come with several eyepieces and you can buy more separately. Remember to match the power of your eyepiece lens with the aperture of your scope for clear images. The lowest powers are the easiest to use, especially for beginners, and provide the most pleasant views.

Telescope Designs

Even among telescopes with the same aperture, some designs are more portable, others give sharper images while still others are more economical. There are three basic kinds of telescope to choose from depending on your specific requirements.

ᄋ Reflecting telescope,

ᄋ Refracting telescope, and

ᄋ Catadioptric telescope.
Despite their differences in size these 3 telescope types have the same light-gathering properties. They also have a similar purpose, to collect light and bring it to a point so it can be magnified and examined with an eyepiece, but each does it differently. Therefore, each type of telescope has its pros and cons, which you can match with your observing needs.

Come back soon for part 2 of this article when I will discuss refracting telescopes!

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