Beginner's Astronomy: How to Choose a Your First Telescope

List: Posted: 10/03/11

If you have recently peered through a telescope and into the night sky, it is likely that you may have been bitten by the astronomy bug.  Millions of people become enchanted by the stars and planets when they peer at them through the eyepiece of a telescope, and this brief discussion is going to help you choose the right model of scope if you have recently taken up astronomy as a hobby.

 

The Way it Works

 

Telescopes work in one of two ways – by the use of lenses OR by the use of mirrors.  The ones which use lenses are often called refracting scopes, and these are the oldest style of telescope in existence.  They are also the most affordable and are the first that any hobby astronomer should consider.

 

Why?  Most modern versions of the telescope will not come cheap, simply because they contain advanced optics.  Even a hobby refractor telescope from the toy store is going to cost more than one hundred dollars.

 

The reason that we recommend starting out with a hobby-level telescope also has to do with the power of the device as well.  This is because you may not yet know how to use the scope to effectively hone in on your target, and an advanced scope can make it extremely difficult to do so because it will be offering you such a up close view.

 

Choosing a Beginner Scope

 

The other type of hobby scope is the reflector, and this is just as simple as the refractor except it uses mirrors to do the magnifying work.  The reflector will have the outermost lens at the end of the scope, but it pulls the image into a mirror and this helps to also gather more light for the astronomer to see details by.

 

What does this mean to a novice?  It means that if you can afford a bit more on your first hobby telescope, you would probably do well to choose the reflector simply because it makes it easier to observe objects under a wider array of lighting conditions.  You can get a telescope from any hobby shop or outdoor supplies store such as a camping outlet.


The Next Level of Astronomy

 

The more advanced or serious novices can consider one of two different types of telescopes for their viewing activities.  They can purchase the Dobsonian models that offer massive mirrors and use the same technologies as the reflector scopes, or they can invest in the Catadioptic types.

 

Let’s first consider a Dobsonian and why it may be the perfect all-around choice.  First of all it doesn’t use the standard tripod mount that the beginner versions do.  Instead it has a smaller and shorter body and a massive mirror.  It also, unfortunately, relies on what is called the “simple mount” through which you view the heavens.  This is great if you are just going to go outside and stare at the stars and planets, but if you hope to take pictures it will not be possible with this one.

 

If that is what you plan to do the Catadioptic is the one for you.  This combines lenses and mirrors, has the ability to use advanced computer technologies, and will let you take photographs through the telescope whenever you desire.

 

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