In this article, we go over the major things to consider when not only buying your first telescope, but for things to look forward to when the time is right.
Part 2 went over the telescopes. But what about the mounts? They are just as important, if not more!
A good and sturdy mount is absolutely necessary to hold the telescope steady. You can have extremely high quality optics, but if you can’t keep them still, then the telescope is worthless.
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.
Dobsonian Telescopes are popular reflector telescopes with alt-azimuth mounts, and are great beginner telescopes for the simple ease of set up and movement.
Dobsonian and other alt-azimuth Mounts also have huge difficulty staying with objects at or near the zenith, which is why that patch is nicknamed “Dobson’s Hole.”
Equatorial mounts are designed to match your telescope to the Earth’s rotation. This makes manually tracking the object much easier when it starts getting out of view.
Equatorial mounts need to be precisely polar aligned to track properly, which can take a bit of time. But when done right, after the moving vibration stops at high magnification, your views will be very nice!
Equatorial mounts have difficulty tracking objects near the celestial poles.
Your telescope will usually come with one or two eyepieces, often a 25 mm for wide views and a 10 mm to zoom in, both barrels being 1.25″ in width.
But if you want closer views, or need a wider FOV, then you can get other eyepieces that do what you need it to do. Individual eyepieces can cost a lot, so it’s advised to get them in a kit to save money. Larger telescopes can also accept 2″ eyepieces, which give you wider views, but make sure yours can before you get one!
Since nearly all telescopes accept 1.25″ eyepieces, this makes eyepieces interchangeable in the long run!
Filters and High Magnification Lenses
Barlow Lenses – Depending on the model, they can double, triple, quadruple, or even quintuple the magnification to any eye piece, thus making your views much closer in the telescope!
Eyepiece Filters – Color filters bring out details on planets that were harder to see with normal light. There are also filters that reduce sky glow from light pollution, and help bring out detail in nebulae.
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 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?
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 only recommend the Go-To Telescopes if you are a serious astronomer with experience of the night sky, 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!