My name is Jethro Williams and I have always been fascinated by the night skies. During my lifetime I have progressed from a beginner’s telescope, given to me for my tenth birthday, to some of the more sophisticated models. I have used the telescopes of other Interplanetary junkies, and those at astronomy clubs and I have researched the subject buying detailed guides and reviews, all of this in search of the best telescope that I can afford.
I know that choosing a telescope can be a daunting task. There is just so much information out there and some of it may be conflicting. All telescopes operate by gathering light and then concentrating it to a point. The fainter the object the more light must be gathered. Whether you plan to use the telescope for terrestrial or astronomical viewing is an important consideration in what you should look for in a telescope.
Types of telescope
There are three basic types of telescope that you can choose from;
- A refractive telescope – with lenses at the front and back, these telescopes can get expensive as the size of the lens increases. These are the most commonly purchased telescopes, as they are simple to use and require no maintenance. They are good for sky watching and terrestrial viewing.
- A reflective telescope – making use of two mirrors to gather and focus light, this is often the less expensive option but it requires more maintenance as the optics can become misaligned. These telescopes are generally not suited to terrestrial applications.
- Compound telescopes – (Cassegrain Telescopes or Catadioptric telescopes) – these are hybrids making use of both lenses and mirrors. The beauty of these telescopes is that they are light and compact and they make for great night sky viewing. Most are also good for terrestrial viewing.
- Optical quality is the most important feature in making your choice of telescope. This is largely determined by the aperture.
- The size of the aperture is most important. This is the diameter of the scope’s main optical component, the lens or the mirror, and it determines how much light you capture. The downside of a large aperture is that the bigger the aperture the bigger and heavier the telescope, so you need to take into consideration your requirement for portability.
- Magnification – how much larger an object will appear when viewed through the telescope. Even with high magnification if the aperture is poor your view will not improve, since their will be insufficient light. You can change the magnification by changing the eye pieces.
- A stable mount is also important as it will allow you to move the telescope.
- A finder scope makes it easier to find the object that you are looking for as it has a wider field of view.
- Budget– try not to buy entry level telescopes or purchase one in a toy shop as you may regret it.
Once you’ve found your perfect telescope, wait for the best conditions and seek the best spot to start your sky gazing. Read the manual and be gentle with the lens. Enjoy your travels through the universe.