Part 1 showed you where to look and what to expect when buying a telescope. Part 2 showed you the telescope types and how much they typically cost. Part 3 will go over the main things to consider when purchasing your first telescope.
The Bigger Your Telescope, the Less Portable It Is
Yes, aperture is the most important thing to have on a telescope. But one must also remember, the larger tubes require more storage space, thus are harder to transport if being taken to a site far away.
Fully assembled large telescopes are heavy and bulky. Because larger telescopes require more trunk space, they often need to be disassembled to fit and be safely transported without being damaged.
Fully assembled smaller telescopes on the other hand can practically fit in your arms.
There’s two types of mounts, alt-azimuth and equatorial.
Alt-azimuth mounts are easier to use; you simply can just move and point your telescope to the object and viola! You got it! If you are viewing at a higher magnification, though, then you notice it’s harder to stay with the objects moving in and out of view.
Equatorial mounts may require some learning, but they are designed to match your telescope to the earth’s rotation and move along with it. This makes manually tracking the object much easier when it starts getting out of view.
Filters and High Magnification Eye Pieces
Barlow Lenses – They can double or even triple the magnification to any eye piece, thus making your views much closer in the telescope.
Eyepiece Filters – There are filters that reduce the sky glow from light polluted sites, provide more contrast to help your view of faint nebulae, and there are filters that help reduce the amount of light from the moon when looking through a telescope.
Solar Filters – Proper filters are made for the front end of the telescope, covering the entire diameter of the tube to block the light from entering. Some of them can be constructed, others can be bought. These will block enough light from the sun and provide safe views through your telescope without blinding your eyes!
Some cheap “trash telescopes” come with a solar filter made of welder’s glass that screws onto the eyepiece. DO NOT USE IT! The focused light will heat up and may crack the filter, thus allow dangerous sunlight towards your eyes.
When you add a motorized clock drive to an equatorial mount, it automatically does the tracking and moving with the earth’s rotation for you! This makes it possible to see objects at high magnification without constantly dealing with the object flying out of the view.
Some models automatically come with the clock drive, which is easily to assemble, attaches to the fine adjustment controls, and only requires a few batteries to use.
If the telescope doesn’t automatically come with it, they will require a little more out of your wallet to buy separately. But from personal experience, I will definitely say they are worth it and are a must have!
Just make sure that the clock drive is compatible with the specific telescope model you are using.
Go-To Telescopes can be made with any type of telescope that was discussed in Part 2.
Go-To drives are available for both equatorial and alt-azimuth mounts, which makes any telescope able to stay centered on your desired object. They have built in GPS locators, and have built in software filled with thousands of objects in the database, making almost anything available at the push of a button.
In theory, this means they’re great for beginners, right? Well….
- In order to get the telescope tracking properly, they require alignment procedures and thus a knowledge of stars in the night sky to make it work.
- They are NOT a substitute for learning the night sky. If you don’t know your way around the night sky, and your Go-To telescope isn’t properly pointing at an object, how are you going to adjust and find it?
When I have to use my skills and knowledge of the night sky in finding a deep sky object, there is always a sense of accomplishment each time I spot it.
For me personally, a beginner non-experienced astronomer getting a a Go-To Telescope is like someone using cheat codes or “pay to win” micro-transactions to beat a video game without any learning or work involved.
I’m not against them, but I only recommend the Go-To Telescopes if you are a serious astronomer with experience of the night sky, if you are into astrophotography, or if you nave enjoyed your non-electronic telescope and are now looking for an upgrade.
This concludes the series of articles made in order to help guide a first time telescope buyer. I hope this has given enough information without going too overboard with things involving the world of telescopes and astronomy. Telescopes are like delicate instruments – each type is meant for different things. But all in all, just owning one and using it makes you part of any Astronomical “Society” or Club, and everyone has a place in it!