How to Pick a Suitable Telescope for Stargazing

Stargazing is a fun and fascinating hobby that can be enjoyed by kids, teenagers, and adults every night. For you to do this activity, you would need a telescope, which is a device that allows you to see different objects from afar, and these include heavenly objects like the moon, the other planets in the solar system, and the stars. Because there are already thousands of different models of telescopes to choose from today, it can be very difficult for beginners to pick which telescope is the most suitable for them. If you are one of those beginners in stargazing, here are some tips for picking the best telescope for you.

Set a Budget

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Your first telescope does not need to be pricey for you to enjoy astronomy and astrophotography as a pastime. A telescope can cost anything from $100 to more than $10,000. A respectable telescope for visual observation will cost approximately $300, while a telescope capable of deep-sky astrophotography will cost approximately $800.

It is impossible to purchase a quality telescope for less than $100, and attempting to do so may result in a frustrating user experience and a sleepless night. You may have seen these types of inexpensive telescopes for sale in a big-box retailer; they are constructed of plastic and have an unsteady tripod. These are the telescopes that can deter a beginner from pursuing astronomy. You may discover fantastic deals on secondhand telescopes on an astronomy classifieds website or in the ‘used’ area of a telescope merchant, but it is unrealistic to buy a quality telescope for less than $100.

A telescope with sufficient aperture (which influences the total size and weight of the telescope) for viewing night sky objects such as our solar system’s planets or even a galaxy will cost approximately $300. If you have a budget of approximately $250, you may still purchase a telescope capable of displaying the moon and larger planets such as Saturn and Jupiter in exquisite detail.

I prefer a tabletop Dobsonian telescope in the sub-$250 category of telescopes. These models have a significantly smaller aperture than their larger siblings, but the base and mounting method make it easier to identify and maintain focus on your target. Moreover, the reflector design permits more light to enter the eyepiece, resulting in brighter vistas.

As your budget increases to between $500 and $600, you can take advantage of telescopes with larger apertures and enhanced accessories such as Plossl eyepieces and finder scopes. Modern models, such as the Celestron StarSense range, even incorporate mobile applications designed to assist in locating objects in the night sky.

Due to the fact that each individual has unique wants and expectations, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution available at any price point. Choose a telescope that works within your budget.

Pick the Kind of Telescope

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Prior to making any purchases, you must define your priorities. What do you wish to observe the most? How dark is your sky? How experienced are you as an observer? How much are you willing to invest? How much weight are you willing to carry, and where will you store your telescope? You’ll be well on your way to picking a telescope that will satisfy you for years to come if you answer these important questions and educate yourself with the available options. Refracting telescopes, reflecting telescopes, and catadioptric telescopes are the three primary types of telescopes. Each kind has numerous variants and hybrid designs.

Refractor Telescope

A refractor telescope collects light at the front of a long tube using an objective lens made of glass. This lens typically consists of two or more lens components that bend (or refract) light as it passes through the tube to generate a clean image and reduce distortion.

There are two types of contemporary refractor/refracting telescopes: achromatic and apochromatic. Each of these designs is intended to eliminate chromatic aberration (i.e. color fringing or color distortion/dispersion) differently, which is a prevalent issue with lenses (i.e. refractors) when colors are improperly refracted/bent.

A refractor telescope is the best option for a beginner’s astrophotography telescope. The small size, sharp optics, and wide-field imaging capabilities make this camera ideal for beginners.

Reflector Telescope

In a reflector telescope, light that has gone down a tube is reflected by mirrors that curve inward. This light is then sent to the eyepiece by a secondary mirror at the top of the tube.

A reflector telescope is said to have the largest aperture per dollar, making it the most cost-effective option. A 6-inch diameter refractor telescope, for example, can cost up to 10 times as much as a 6-inch diameter Newtonian reflector.

Many reflector/reflecting telescopes are great for observing at planets like Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn. Their simple design makes them easy to build.

Newton’s invention, the Newtonian reflector, is the most popular type of this telescope.

This sort of telescope is susceptible to falling out of alignment (collimation), and its optics require frequent cleaning due to its exposed/wide-open tube.

This mirror is capable of producing diffraction effects if a secondary mirror is used to guide light into a more suitable viewing area.

Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope

Ritchey Chretién (RC) telescopes employ a two-mirror configuration to concentrate an image. This set of mirrors classifies the RC telescope as a reflector.

RC telescopes are excellent for astrophotography of distant, small objects in the night sky with extended focus lengths. The Hubble Space Telescope is actually a Ritchey Chretién.

As with a Newtonian telescope, the secondary mirror of a Ritchey Chretién is supported by four struts (spider vanes) in a Ritchey Chretién telescope. This causes diffraction spikes in the bright stars of an astrophoto, which, according to the majority, enhances the aesthetic value of the image.

The Ritchey-Chrétien design is intended to provide an experience free of coma and chromatic aberration due to its well-corrected optics.

Catadioptric Telescope

A catadioptric telescope, also known as a compound telescope, utilizes both lenses and mirrors. The major advantage of this sort of telescope is its small size, with tubes that are two to three times longer than they are wide.

The result is a transportable telescope with a large aperture and a long focusing distance. This type of telescope requires occasional optical collimation. Like refractors, these telescopes have tubes that are sealed to keep dirt and dust out. This is a huge benefit if you live in a place where dirt and dust are common.

These telescopes are ideal for daylight terrestrial use as well as seeing the moon and planets. This type of telescope’s slower focal ratios results in less light reaching the eyepiece (or your camera) than other telescopes with faster focal ratios.

Other Factors to Consider

front part of a telescope image

There is no “ideal” telescope, just as there is no “perfect” automobile. You should instead select a telescope according to your viewing hobbies, lifestyle, and budget. A telescope should have both high-quality optics and a stable, smoothly functioning mount. If all other factors are equal, larger scopes display more information and are easier to use than smaller ones.

Additional considerations are noted below:

Aperture

A telescope’s aperture — the diameter of its light-gathering lens or mirror, also known as the objective — is its defining attribute. Its size is a major determinant of how much light a home telescope can collect, and so has a direct bearing on the quality of the image seen via the eyepiece.

Several manufacturers incorporate the aperture straight into the name of their telescopes due of its importance. For instance, Celestron’s PowerSeeker 70az has a 70mm aperture (2.7 inches). Obviously, the larger the aperture, the higher the price.

Focal Length

The focal length is the distance (in millimeters) that light travels within the telescope from its entrance (the aperture) to its departure (the focus). The focal length is one of the few crucial measurements on a telescope that has a significant impact on the visual experience and picture quality seen via the eyepiece. Individuals who are interested in the myths about space should make it a top priority to learn how focal length impacts a telescope’s performance. This will allow you to purchase or upgrade your telescope with greater knowledge.

Magnification

The telescope and the eyepiece work together as two optical systems to generate the magnification that a telescope is capable of. To calculate magnification, divide the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece (in millimeters) (in mm). The telescope’s magnification can be adjusted by changing the eyepiece to one with a different focal length, allowing the user to see more or less detail. For instance, a 20 mm eyepiece on a 1000 mm focal length telescope would result in a 50x magnification (1000/20 = 50). While a 10mm eyepiece on the identical instrument would result in a 100x magnification (1000/10 = 100). Since its eyepieces are interchangeable, a telescope can be utilized to magnify or reduce the size of objects.

There are practical limitations to telescope magnification. These characteristics are dictated by the laws of optics and the characteristics of the human eye. In ideal conditions, the maximum useable power corresponds to 50-60 times the aperture of the telescope (in inches). Powers above this typically result in a dull, low-contrast image. For instance, the highest magnification range of a 90mm telescope (3.6 in aperture) is between 180x and 216x. As power increases, perceived clarity and detail will drop. Observations of the moon, planets, and binary stars are the most common applications of magnifying lenses with greater magnification.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of the telescope you are willing to transport is likely the most important factor to consider. Telescopes can weigh up to 15 pounds. go well beyond 300 pounds. Most telescopes can be transported in three sections: the optical tube assembly, the telescope mount, and the tripod or base. Recall that if the scope is too heavy, it cannot be used.

Mount Type

The quality of a telescope is dependent on its tripod and installation. The purpose of a telescope is to magnify the sky, but it also magnifies vibrations. The major tasks of a telescope mount are to support the telescope securely so that objects can be viewed and photographed without vibrations, and to provide a method for effortless control used to point and direct the instrument.

If it is not put on a solid and stable mount that allows exact aiming anywhere in the sky, even the most expensive and painstakingly manufactured telescope is of little value. The optics of a telescope are critical, but the stability of the telescope mount is just as crucial. Mounting hardware is included with the vast majority of telescopes, especially entry-level models. High-end refractors, may only come with mounting rings or plates that enable them to be mounted to a separate mount. This is especially the case with less expensive refractors. In addition, you will need a stable mount if you are thinking about doing any astrophotography.

Every telescope mount can be categorized as either alt-azimuth or equatorial.

To summarize

As a result of advancements in technology that make it simpler to observe the night sky, astronomy is a niche hobby that is experiencing rapid growth in popularity. While selecting for a telescope, be sure to keep these tips in mind. After that, you should go to a dealer that you can trust. You can discover all of the accessories, as well as a scope that is brand new and untouched, as well as the greatest brands at this location, with the most informed staff.