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.
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.
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 and involve more of a learning curve.
Learn more about mounts and decide what suits you best by reading: Should I Get an Alt-Az or Equatorial Mount?
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!
To learn more and decide if you want one, check out: Pros and Cons of Barlow Lenses.
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 more contrast in deep sky objects.
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.
To help you decide on getting a Go-To telescope, check out: Should I Get A Computerized Go-To Telescope?
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.