Are you into astronomy and looking for a complex telescope to take your career to the next level? Are you just beginning your career in astronomy and need a simple telescope that’s easy to use to get you started? Do you love watching the stars from your terrace or bedroom window at night? There are different types of telescopes designed to meet different viewing needs.
Telescopes are ocular instruments you can use to view distant objects such as stars. They are designed to magnify objects that are far so they appear closer, similar to glasses
. Whether your profession dictates the use of a telescope or you just love watching the stars from the comfort of your home, you need the right telescope to fully enjoy the view.
A good telescope is your gateway to the universe for enjoyment that lasts a lifetime. What’s more, they also make perfect gift ideas. When shopping for a telescope, you must first decide the specific type you want. There are three major types of telescopes you might want to consider.
Refractor telescopes are designed to use glass lenses to project distant objects. These are the most common types of telescopes and although they require little to no maintenance, they increasingly become more expensive to maintain as their apertures increase. Although apochromat refractors are generally more expensive than achromat, they provide better optical quality.
Reflector telescopes use mirrors to reflect light from far objects to make them appear closer. In terms of aperture, these are the most cost-effective telescopes. However, they require adjustment of the optical alignments, a straightforward process known as collimation.
Catadioptric or compound telescopes are hybrid variations of refractor and reflector telescopes. They are lightweight and come with compact tubes. They are convenient and ideal for use on-the-go.
Look out for the right aperture, base/tripod, weight and focal length, magnification, and mount type in a telescope you want to buy. Also look out for the size of the telescope, the materials it’s made up of, number of eyepieces, optical diameter, and whether it’s designed for a beginner, standard, or seasoned astronomer. This guide will help you make an informed buying decision, so you can start recording your magical experiences in your journal
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Since most cheap telescopes are mechanically and optically poor in quality, avoid buying them to save yourself from disappointment later on. If you’re working on a tight budget, let’s say a maximum of $200, there are many good binocular telescopes you might want to check out.
Also consider building a DIY telescope using wood if you’re gifted in craftsmanship and don’t have much to spend. Another good avenue to help you find high-quality telescopes is checking with dealers selling used telescopes. It could be someone you know letting go of a good ocular for an even better one.
On the other hand, don’t go for the most expensive telescope just because you can afford it. Buy a telescope with the features you need and will use. Whichever telescope you opt for, ensure it’s easy to setup, dismantle, and even store for future use.
Also note that there’s need to buy a detailed sky atlas, extra eyepieces for expansion of your telescope’s range of magnification, a guidebook, and other accessories. These are essential if you’re into astrophotography.
Good telescopes range in price from $400 to $1500 although you might find some basic ones at $250 or less. For instance, the Levenhuk Strike 80 retails at about $140 and the Celestron Regal M2 100ED retails at about $900.
Designed for standard, beginner, or experienced astronomers, telescopes are built with various features to support use in different settings and levels. Whereas basic telescopes come with simple features to support magnification of distant objects, advanced telescopes come with more complex features for increasingly complex applications.
Whichever type of telescope you want to buy, there are basic features to look out for as listed below and detailed in the next section.
Here are a few important telescope features to look out for:
- Aperture/objective (optical diameter) – the diameter of the mirror or lens used to gather light
- Mount type for stable use – alt-azimuth, Dobsonian, and equatorial
- Weight and focal length – for portable use and focused views, respectively
- Magnification – for enlarged object views
- Type of telescope – refractor, reflector, and compound telescopes
- Number of eyepieces – field of view (wide or narrow), size, and magnification
- Size and materials – for portable and durable use, respectively
Easily mount your telescope and jet into the universe or pack your ocular device for use on-the-go as you deem necessary.
Construction and Design
Aperture is expressed in inches or millimeters, and is also known as the objective. As the most important feature of a telescope, a good one has a diameter of at least 70mm or 2.8 inches. For fine-viewing of object details, go for large apertures, especially if you live in the countryside. With a 6-inch or 8-inch aperture, you can view so much despite the amount of lighting in your environment.
Avoid telescopes being marketed by their magnifications because you need up to 50 times the aperture for fine-detail viewing. For instance, for a 600X magnification, you’d have to buy a telescope with 12-inch aperture. When choosing the right mount type for sturdy support, consider mounts or tripods with large robust plates or rings, but not single-screw attachments.
Altitude-azimuth, Dobsonian, and equatorial (ideal for astrophotography) are some mount types to look out for in your telescope. ‘Go To’ telescopes support keypad button-powered motors to help you automatically track celestial objects. These motors are found in the most advanced telescopes and are controlled by computers. Choose stable mounts for the best results.
Consider the field of view, size, and magnification (focal length) of eyepieces for the best celestial image focusing. Coupling the right set of eyepieces with a good lens offers high-quality and clear views of objects in the universe. The material used to make a telescope should be strong for durability and easy to clean.
Performance and Ease of Use
Choose a telescope with a large aperture or optical diameter, built with a stable mount, and that supports high magnification and use with powerful eye pieces for fine-detail viewing of celestial objects. The finer you want the objects to be, the more powerful your telescope of choice needs to be. Opt for lightweight telescopes in small sizes if you want a portable one for use on-the-go.
The materials should be durable for prolonged use and easy cleaning. Also ensure that you choose a telescope that’s easy to maintain, has readily-available parts, and comes with a warranty.
When shopping for telescopes, you need to find one that has the right magnification power and aperture size to meet your astronomical needs for exploring the universe. Whether you’re a beginner and need an easy-to-use telescope or you’re seasoned in the astronomical field and seek a complex telescope, there’s definitely one to suit your needs. Find out if one of our recommended telescopes is what you need.
Whether you want a telescope designed for novices or experienced astronomers, there’s one out there with the right set of features to meet your needs for celestial exploration. We hope that with our review of five of the top telescopes, you’ll choose the right instrument to support your astronomical journey. In case you want something slightly or totally different, check out our other telescope reviews.