People always want to know why I love astronomy so much and I always tell them the same story, when I was young, I was always fascinated by the fact that we are living on a rock orbiting a sun that is only a speck of dust in the grand scale of the universe (Imagine how incredible that sounds to a developing mind).
Something about that realization sparked a natural curiosity in me about the cosmos and I wanted to see everything the universe had to offer. So, as soon as Christmas came around for 7 year old me, the first thing on my list was a telescope. When I finally got my hands on it… oh boy was I astounded, now I didn’t only have library books showing me what space really looked like, I could see for myself!
Now, a telescope doesn’t need to cost millions like the one you see at your local observatory, but the prices and quality of telescopes in general can be very diverse, so here are some things to be aware of when purchasing your next telescope.
#1 Where you are buying from
The first important tip I can give you, is to avoid department stores or camera stores. These places are generally staffed with employees that don’t know the what’s and why’s of telescopes, they really only know as much as you do.
The best place to buy is online because of the wide selection and the convenience of having the telescope mailed directly to your house but you have to know exactly what you’re looking for.
which brings me to my next piece of advice…
The mount of a telescope is not something many people would give much thought to but it is considerably important enough to be on this list. You will see a few types of mounts when looking for a new telescopes, some pivot, some swivel, and some look high tech or alien to someone who isn’t experienced when it comes to astronomy.
The two common ones are Altitude-Azimuth and Equatorial.
To give you a basic idea, the Altitude-Azimuth can move up and down (Altitude), or left and right (Azimuth). This type of mount is great for the casual observer because it is simple to use, very sturdy, and is mainly for star gazing and bird watching
The Equatorial mount is more complex in design and is specifically built for the tracking of celestial objects as the earth moves, and sometimes incorporates motorized tracking. The way this mount achieves such precision is by being able to counteract the earth’s rotation. This is great for anyone wanting to take amazing pictures of the galaxy and is easy to use despite how complex it may look.
Aperture is the single most vital specification of a telescope because this tells you how bright and sharp it can make images appear.
Technically speaking, this is the diameter of the main lens or mirror in a telescope and the bigger the size (millimeters), the more details you’ll be able to see like the moon’s craters or a planet’s rings.
#4 “Go To” Telescopes
A “Go To” telescope is a type of telescope that comes with a built-in computer that is used to automatically track stars and many other space objects with the push of a button.
These are really great for people want an easy viewing experience, some models with even give the user a guided tour of the best celestial showpieces the night sky has to offer.
Of course, you don’t need to get this fancy computerized telescope, as a manual telescope will get the job done just fine but if you have the money, a “Go To” is worth every cent.
Finally, we get to the last thing you should be looking at when buying a telescope, and that’s weight. You really need to think about the time it is going to take to put together a telescope, especially If you plan on taking it on a camping trip (away from city lights) or with you on vacation.
When talking about portable astronomical telescopes, the heaviest optical tubes should:
- weigh less than 30 pounds
- should be able to fit into the trunk of a car
- can be put together without much physical strain.
Whether you choose a mid-range model or low-cost model, all the telescopes reviewed on this site are portable, easy to use, and light enough to be assembled without hassle.
check out our review page if you haven’t already.
Any telescope has the key to unlock the wonders of space for your own eyes, and with these little tips you can be prepared for a life-long experience of touring the night sky!