Should I Buy A Telescope?


No, not straight away. After spending time familiarising yourself with the sky you will be ready for the next step - observing with a pair of binoculars. A pair of 7x50 binoculars is considered to be quite satisfactory, revealing thousands of stars that cannot be seen with the naked eye. So, on a clear, moonless night get out your waterproof picnic blanket and some appropriately warm clothing, then lay back and relax with your binoculars and a basic sky map. Enjoy such sights as the star clouds of Sagittarius, ω Centauri, the nebulae of Orion, the Magellanic Clouds and the star fields around the Southern Cross. If you find your interest increases with each passing evening spent outside, then you should consider buying a telescope. It may also be wise to try looking through someone else's telescope or attending an astronomy society meeting where you will be able to find out as much as you want about telescopes.

Refracting telescope on altazimuth mounting

All telescopes are designed to collect light. The amount of light collected depends on the area of the collecting surface, which can be either a mirror (Reflectors) or a lens (Refractors). The bigger this surface is the more light that can be gathered, and therefore the fainter the objects able to be viewed and, within limits, the greater the magnification which can be applied. The degree of curvature of the mirror or lens determines the telescopes focal length and this, in combination with the focal length of the eyepiece, determines how much the object being viewed is magnified for you. A common misconception is that the more magnification used to view an object the better, but this is not always true. Some astronomical objects, although faint, cover areas of sky as large as that of the full moon or larger.

Newtonian reflector on equatorial mounting

Your decision to purchase an astronomical instrument will also involve a decision about what type of telescope mount best suits the type of telescope and your areas of interest.

At this point a word of caution is necessary. It is true, especially with retail astronomical instruments, that you get what you pay for. The wisest approach is to seek the advice of others with appropriate, impartial experience prior to purchasing your instrument. There is nothing more frustrating or discouraging to a budding amateur astronomer than an inferior telescope or one which is not designed for the uses to which it is being applied. It is important to remember that the type of telescope you buy will depend a lot on the type of objects you are interested in observing. If this is all starting to feel just a little too's not really! We're here to help, if you'd like us to. Now, read on........

Also see : Buying your first telescope in Australia.