So, you are getting really serious about stargazing and looking to buy your first telescope? Congratulations, you’ve come to the right place because this article is all about how to choose the right optical equipment if you are a newbie. We bet you have already heard and read plenty of conflicting “rules of thumbs”, as well as comments of other newly-minted astronomers who are extremely disappointed with their investment because they expected to do astrophotography.
Well, even though modern technologies have aided the advancement of amateur astronomy significantly, the subject is still very complex and a lot depends on the observing interests and goals of a stargazer. The aim of this text is to highlight the most important elements that all beginners have to consider when shopping for their first telescope. Read on to learn what to look at to figure out the perfect match for your needs and preferences.
Just as with all other items sold out there, prices for telescopes vary dramatically, starting from under $200 and going up to $15,000 (or even higher) for models enhanced with an impressive package of extras including a camera angle adjuster that can turn the camera 360 degrees for top-notch photographs of the objects in the night sky.
However, as a beginner, you have to look for a model that can cater to your current needs and capabilities and the great news is, the majority of such options start from $400. Also, there is a possibility that you will be able to find a great scope under $250 if you are willing to spend a bit more time surfing the internet on the lookout for a bargain.
Perhaps, you have already noticed that many experts claim that the aperture is the most important factor in the whole plot while others disagree with this statement and offer a variety of arguments to support their opinions. For someone who is just at the beginning of his or her way towards the stars, such discussions can be pretty confusing.
Let’s make it clear once and for all with the help of people who have tons of first-hand experience. For instance, Adam from LoveTheNightSky.com, who has been a practicing fan of astronomy for more than 30 years, has no doubts that for novice astronomers, the size of the aperture is the most significant specification. Why? Simply because it determines the light-capturing capabilities of a telescope, meaning it directly affects your ability to see into space.
Later on in your journey across the universe when you become well-versed in all its ins and outs and define your preferences, you will look for a heck of a lot of other characteristics. But for now, just remember that the bigger your scope, the more details you will be able to see. The general recommendation is to opt for the biggest optical tube you can squeeze into your budget.
This is the element that is often underestimated by beginners but they realize its importance pretty quickly, especially if their mounts are not stable and can’t really serve the purpose. Mounts come in two major variants: altazimuth and equatorial. While the first option is definitely cheaper, believe us there is a reason for a lower price. Designed to swing up and down and left to right, they are quite tricky when it comes to following the stars and planets as the earth turns.
On the other side, the equatorial type will automatically handle the up and down plane as you move it down left to right. There is no dilemma, equatorial mounts are much easier and much stronger, but what’s most important, they let users enjoy the objects without annoying vibrations.
Refractors, Reflectors, Or Catadioptrics?
To make it clear from the outset, catadioptric (or compound) telescopes are the most advantageous type of all three because it offers the best of both worlds: lenses of a refractor model and mirrors of a reflector counterpart. Needless to say, it is also the most expensive option of the three but on the bright side, you get a motorized mount and access to computer databases. Speaking of refractors vs reflectors, the latter will usually give you more bang (in terms of the size of the aperture) for your bucks because lenses are far more expensive to manufacture than mirrors.
To start with the right telescope is important for newbies who make their first steps as stargazers. Fortunately, the market has no shortage of quality models for all budgets and interests, just make sure you consider these crucial elements when shopping for your perfect match.