Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Choosing a Telescope

If you are off to buy your first telescope, here are some reminders as to your choice of telescopes:

1. Always take a look at the power, image brightness and portability against the cost.

2. A common misconception is with magnification. This is not the most important specification, so do not use this as basis.
Interchangeable eyepieces are a solution to variety in magnification.

3. The most important specification of telescopes is the aperture (the diameter of the main lens/mirror).
The aperture is usually written in mm (the larger the aperture, the brighter and sharper the images).

4. For beginners, look for a telescope with an altazimuth mount.
A variation to this is the Dobsonian mount which is easy to use.
But if you plan to buy a motorized telescope, these telescopes use the equatorial mount.

5. Plastic is a negative thing. It’s preferable to have metal or wooden construction.

6. Look at the quality of the finder aid. A finder aid is helpful in looking for variety of objects in the sky.
Poor finder aids make it hard to point at objects.
There are new finders called reflex finder which uses a red LED at your target.

7. Think of your storage area and where you plan to use your telescope. Large and bulky telescopes would most likely be kept in one are alone. Lighter and smaller telescopes are easier to bring around.

8. Check the mount for sturdiness. It helps to check this before making a purchase.

9. Try out other telescopes. It is best to be familiar with the different kinds of telescopes and how to use them so that you would find out what is best for you. Joining amateur astronomy groups during stargazing events can allow you to get a look at other telescopes.

No matter how big your telescope is, you won't be able to see nebulae and galaxies in full color as depicted in long-exposure and computer-enhanced photographs.
Although a telescope will show you more, the eye is not sensitive enough to see the colors.
Also, you cannot see flags and footprints on the moon.
No Earth based telescope is powerful enough to do such.

Beginner's Choice: 6 inch (150mm) - 8 inch (200mm) reflector with Dobsonian mount.

For a variety of telescope choices visit: