Part 1 dealt with where to look for a telescope and what to expect regarding the spending possibilities. Part 2 will briefly go over the important aspects of a telescope, the types, and where they are on the pricing spectrum.
Most Important Aspects
- The bigger the aperture, or its ability to collect light, the sharper and brighter your view will be. In this case – size DOES matter!
- It’s focal length will determine how well your eye pieces can magnify an object without getting blurry.
- The magnification power – the thing that most people think is most important but actually isn’t – will be determined by how big the aperture and how long the focal length is.
The Three Types
- Refractor – uses lenses. They are low maintenance, tend to be smaller and very light weight, hence they are very portable. Smaller refractors are good beginners telescopes due to their ease of use and longer focal lengths. However, the flip side is that larger refractors have a huge spike in their prices due to the materials required to make them work properly.
- Reflector – uses mirrors. They are capable of being wider, hence gathering more light, and are much cheaper than refractors with the same aparture, hence you get more bang for your buck. Some cons are the upside down images, and that they require a bit of maintenance and care to keep working properly.
- Catadioptric – uses both. They are capable of having long focal lengths of a refractor and large mirrors of a reflector without having to be that big, hence you can get the high magnification power of a larger telescope in a smaller, more portable size. But their main downside is because of how complex they are made, they can be on the expensive side, especially when we go into the large aparture Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes.
Where to Start For Beginners
A beginner’s telescope should NOT be the crazy high powered large telescopes with computerized functions (I describe them more in Part 3). However, as we went over before in Part 1, they should NOT be the small telescopes that are sold in toy stores. You need to find that balance.
They should be just big enough to collect the light needed to see the details on objects, but they should also be portable enough to easily set up and transport. Essentially, we want to get the most out of our dollars for the first time, and then upgrade to bigger and better telescopes later.
100mm, or about 4 inches, is a good aperture to start. Any less, and your views won’t be as good. 100mm aperture telescopes will easily give you great views of the moon, and you’ll easily see the cloud bands on Jupiter plus the four Galilean moons, the rings of Saturn, the phases of Venus and Mercury, and some surface details on Mars if it’s close enough. You’ll also get great views of the brighter deep sky objects.
100mm refractors usually go for about $4-500 on average, though I have seen them in the $200 range if they have shorter tubes and thus shorter focal lengths.
100mm catadioptric telescopes will also be above $300 on average.
100mm reflectors on the other hand will usually average around $150-200 at their lowest! You can get a 150mm reflector (6 inches) for the same price as a 100mm refractor!
So because of this, I personally recommend getting a 4 inch reflector as your first beginner’s telescope!
However, you must understand that these prices are usually for telescopes that don’t have special mounts, higher quality eye pieces, special filters, nor anything electronic that can be added to it.
We will go over those components to consider in Part 3!