Imagine being a child that’s into things having to do with space and the solar system. Then one day, you meet a person with a telescope and he shows you something cool, like the moon or a planet. Instantly, you know you want one yourself and think about how many other awesome things you’ll be able to see in the sky! This series of articles will help guide you in the right direction!
Avoid the Department Stores!
Experienced telescope users will tell you that nearly all telescopes that you see in a department store are “trash telescopes.”
Sure, we can appreciate the sentimental thought. Often times, these telescopes are found in toy stores, sporting good stores, or are on sale at Wal Mart; thus they are spotted by generous grandparents and think, “hey, our grandchild is into space, this would make a great birthday present!”
The packaging makes them seem too good to be true, with emphasis on “500x high power magnification” and pictures on the box that are taken straight from the Hubble. Don’t let the packaging fool you! Don’t let the price fool you!
These telescopes that you can find in department stores are usually made of cheap materials with poor optics, and a horrible mount that’s so shaky it’s near impossible to keep the tube steady to observe anything!
While there is a slight chance your little astronomer may already have a “trash telescope” and still loves to use it, usually these telescopes end up being given away at yard sales. I wouldn’t be surprised if the seller PAID YOU to take it off their hands!
Buy from Trusted Stores or Websites Only!
My first telescope was bought from a camera store in 1997 long before online shopping became a thing. Physical stores that specialize in optical equipment and telescopes still do exist, but that requires some searching on your desired search engine based on your location.
Sites like EBay, Craigslist, and even Amazon are always a gamble. You never know if what you ordered is going to match what arrives on your door step.
Thankfully, all it takes are simple internet searches, such as if you specify “6 inch telescope,”you will get directed to the trusted online vendors. These online shops will have a wide selection of the best brands and specific types of telescopes you’re looking for, thus you are sure to get exactly what you have ordered!
Understand That You Get What You Pay For!
It should be common sense at this point. Telescopes that are made with higher quality materials, and the higher quality the accessories and the set up is, the more money they’re worth.
It’s not uncommon for good beginner telescopes that are in the $150-200 price range. Any less and chances are it’s not going to wow you on your first night out with it. If your budget is less than $100, I would personally consider investing in binoculars instead!
The professional quality telescopes, depending on the type and whether it has a larger tube with a sturdy mount, better optical equipment, or has some form of a clock drive that enables your telescope to automatically stay on an object, can set you back three to four figures.
My 8 inch telescope with just the normal set up was about $700, but because I wanted to add a clock drive to it, that made the overall cost almost $1,000. And believe me, I have seen telescopes go for way more than that!
Telescopes also have accessories that are sold separately such as eyepiece filters and higher magnification lenses While that does mean more cash, the accessories are something to worry about AFTER you have used your telescope and feel the need for them.
Yes, telescopes can be pricey. But it’s just like the difference between a cheaply made pair of ice skates versus a pair with a sturdy boot and enough ankle support.
You don’t need to go super crazy with the spending, but you want your first telescope to be decent and reliable enough.
Part 2 will help guide you towards that telescope which has just enough quality at a sensible price.