How to Choose Your First Telescope

Are you shopping for a telescope and don’t know where to start? Most people who look at telescopes for sale find themselves overwhelmed. There are so many different types of telescopes, with different sizes and prices.

How do you choose? Where do you even start? It doesn’t have to be hard. In this article I’ll help guide you through the telescope purchase process by describing each type of telescope, what they excel at, and who should buy one. By the end of this article you’ll have a better idea about what type of telescope is right for you and what makes a good telescope.

What Is a Telescope and How Does It Work ?

A telescope is an instrument used to make distant objects appear closer. Telescopes function by using mirrors or lenses in order to focus the incoming light from distant objects, allowing us to view them with greater clarity and detail than if we were standing right there in front of them.

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Types of Telescopes Explained

Refracting Telescopes

Refracting telescopes use lenses to bring light to a point of focus. They come in two varieties:

  • Achromatic refractors, which create images with less chromatic aberration than comparably sized achromats, but they need expensive extra-low dispersion glass or ED (extra low dispersion) glass.
  • Apochromatic refractors, which use expensive extra-low dispersion glass or ED (extra low dispersion) glass to reduce chromatic aberration even more than achromats can.

Newtonian Telescopes

A Newtonian telescope uses a mirror to bring light to a point of focus. While newtonians are generally cheaper than refractors, they tend to produce images with spherical aberration and don’t come in larger sizes due to size constraints of the mirror support cell.

Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes

Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are a type of reflector that uses a combination of mirrors and lenses. Cassegrains offer good light-gathering capability, but they need expensive extra-low dispersion glass or ED (extra low dispersion) glass to reduce chromatic aberration.

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What to Look for In a Telescope

When choosing a telescope for yourself or your family, you’ll want to consider certain factors to get the most out of your viewing experience. Here are some key things to keep in mind when making your decision:

Different Types in Telescopes

Refracting telescopes, due to their lens design, tend to be much longer than other telescope designs. A newtonian is cheaper and easier to make in larger sizes but sacrifices quality for size. Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are compact and are good for making larger telescopes due to the design, but they pack in a lot of lens elements.

Aperture 

The aperture you choose will play a big role in how much light your telescope can gather. Larger apertures mean more light so not only will you see fainter objects, but they’ll appear brighter. However, large aperture also means increased weight and added expense, so keep that in mind as well.

Focal Length – What Does mm Mean in Telescopes

Focal length is the distance (usually measured in millimeters) from the center of a curved mirror or lens to its focal point. So basically, the longer your telescope’s focal length, the higher-quality images you’ll be able to capture. However, this comes at the cost of size and weight; most telescopes with long focal lengths are also pretty bulky.

Eyepieces

You’ll want to make sure your telescope kit comes with at least one, if not two or more eyepieces. Eyepieces are the lenses you look through to bring objects into view. Make sure the eyepieces in your kit have a high amount of magnification and low levels of chromatic aberration so you can see extremely close-up images of distant objects.

Mount

The type of mount affects how well you can track objects in the sky. Equatorial mounts are considered the best choice for astrophotography, but they’re also bulkier and more expensive than altazimuth mounts. If you’re just looking to get a nice view of the moon or planets, an altazimuth mount will

You’ll want your telescope to have a solid, stable mount with easy-to-use controls for moving the telescope around and tracking celestial objects as they move through the night sky. You also want the telescope to come with all the basic tools you need to get started right away.

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Tips on Using Your New Telescope!

Now you have your new telescope, but there are some things to know before you start using it – let’s take a look.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

When choosing a place to set up your telescope, make sure you’re aware of any light pollution in the area. You’ll want to go somewhere with little or no artificial light for optimal viewing conditions. Also, remember to check the weather before heading out so you don’t get caught under cloudy skies.

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Pick a Clear Night

For the best views of objects in the night sky, you’ll want to avoid cloudy nights and be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out. The darker your viewing conditions, the more detail you’ll be able to see in celestial objects.

No Flashlights or Phone Lights!

You should never use your phone or flashlight when observing the night sky. Doing so will ruin your dark adaptation, making it practically impossible to see anything through your telescope. If you need light, you can use a red filter on your phone’s camera to reduce the effects of light pollution.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Using your telescope for stargazing and astrophotography is a lot like anything else: The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Try setting up your telescope in your backyard several times before going out to a viewing location so you can practice finding objects and moving the telescope around easily. When you feel confident, head out to an area with little or no light pollution for optimal views of the night sky.

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Know Your Limitations!

People enjoy the night sky so much partly because they don’t understand how vast it is – and when you can see fainter objects with your new telescope, it seems like there’s even more to enjoy. However, no matter how good your new telescope is, the laws of physics mean you’ll never be able to see distant planets or galaxies with it – these are simply too far away for any existing telescopes to capture images of them. It’s important to understand your limits as a viewer because there are some beautiful objects that you won’t see because of how they’re positioned in the sky.

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