Choosing a telescope can be a difficult thing but the nerd will help
Being a beginner in astronomy is about the same as being a beginner in just about everything else. You don't yet even know what you don't know.
This problem is magnified by the fact that you probalby want to buy a telescope which means money! And it can be difficult to buy a telescope (As a beginner) because you don't know how it will perform under the night sky because there is no night sky in the store or online!
And if you buy a telescope that is not very good it may give you a bad impression of what the hobby of astronomy is all about. It is a wonderful hobby and getting the right telescope (which doesn't mean expensive) will make all the difference in how much you enjoy it.
I will guide you through some important things and help you find a nice little telescope that you as a beginner will be happy with - both in how it performs and in how much money you spend
Avoid the Cheap Refractors by unknown names!
You may have seen these types of telescopes. They come in a box and make claims like 500 Power or 500X. This is not a reasonable claim for a small telescope. Usually a nice white telescope with an included plastic tripod. While the telescope can actually magnify to that power the image is absolutely unviewable.
The first thing you have to do is stick with a maker of telescopes. A company that has real experience with telescopes and most importantly optics. I will list the more popular ones for you.
I am not going to cover all the different types of telescopes in this guide for beginners. I do have a great tutorial on that. What I am going to do here is point you toward some great telescopes that are reasonably priced and perfect for beginners that want a decent telescope at a low end price. I will point out some of the differences between these telescopes and some of their strong points.
A great place to start if you want to invest almost nothing before deciding if you want a bigger telescope. Get this telescope if budget is your number one concern.
Celestron 21024 FirstScope Telescope If you are new to telescopes and are looking for something at an extremely reasonable price yet want something that works pretty well then this might be the perfect choice for you. First off, it is made by Celestron, which is a premiere telescope making company. This also comes with two eyepieces which is a valuable addition. It is very portable and I can't say enough about this scope being a great way to dip your toe in the night sky. They call this a firstscope and they have got it exactly right.
What they have to say about it: ( I agree 100% with all of this) and you really can't go wrong with this telescope. It is an extremely good value.
FirstScope Telescope Official Product of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. Ideal astronomical entry level telescope. The FirstScope Telescope pays tribute to Galileo Galilei and may of history's most notable astronomers and scientists. We honor these men and women for their contributions bringing us one step closer to understanding the universe around us. The compact design makes it easy to take with you on your next outdoor adventure. The FirstScope is also stylish enough to be used as a decorative fixture on your bookshelves or desk.
Made by one of the best telescope companies around. This is a nice beginners telescope and it is in the configuration that we often think of when we think telescope. It is a refractor with a lens and a tripod. The primary (big) lens at the front is 2.76" in diameter which is pretty decent. The mount is sturdy and it is a nice dual purpose telescope because it comes with an erecting prism that will allow you to use it for plain old terrestrial viewing. Nice first telescope and a bit more than the first scope I have listed here but you get more telescope. The firstscope listed above has a 3" primary but this one, while a bit smaller will actually perform better.
(The nerd recommends this telescope if you also want to use it to view earthbound stuff)
A telescope is often referrred to as a light bucket. It draws in light and the bigger the bucket the more light that can be drawn in. So, the bigger the bucket the better the viewing - pretty much as simple as that. This next telescope has a primary mirror that is six inches in diameter which is twice as big as the previous two scopes. And this means a whole lot more light that will be gathered.
The Orion company has done some really nice things with this telescope. They put in the good sized 6" mirror and they paired it up with the easy to use and less expensive dobsonian mount. The dobsonian mount is the bottom part of the scope that holds the tube up. This mount is sturdy, easy to use and inexpensive. So what you get here is generous light gathering at a low price.
The nerd recommends you get this telescope if you want to get good power at a beginners price. This is the most powerful telescope on this page.
Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope - It's no wonder customers heap 5-star ratings on this "gentle giant." For not only does its jumbo-sized optics and uncomplicated design bring a "new level of joy to simple observing," raved Astronomy magazine, but it's also one of the most affordable quality Dobs on the market. The SkyQuest XT6 Classic isn't just good bang for the buck, it's a supernova of telescope value! The XT6 Classic gives you the deep-space thrills without the deep-pocket frills. We've kept it lean and mean to keep its price low for tight budgets. But rest assured, it comes fully equipped for adventure, whether you're a beginning stargazer or are graduating to a more capable instrument. It features an expertly figured parabolic mirror housed in an enameled steel optical tube. The tube rides on a stable Dobsonian base that allows easy point-and-view navigation and has a convenient carrying handle. A 2" Crayford focuser, EZ Finder II aiming device, 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece (1.25"), and quick-collimation cap are all standard equipment. Setup takes only a minute, leaving the rest of the evening to marvel at the planets, the Moon, and a myriad of deep-sky treasures. Enjoy the fantastic views - and savings! One-year limited warranty.
This is a terrific little option if you are looking for a beginners telescope. It is the Celestron Explorascope. There are a couple of really nice things about this telescope. First off it is very portable and can fit in a backpack. If you travel a lot or want to lug a telescope around with you this is a good choice. It won't be an issue at all. And secondly, this telescope is a tad diffent than the othe ones I have talked about in that it is a rich field telescope. It gives you wider viewing of the sky and is very well suited to seeing deep space objects like nebulae and galaxies. It isn't optimal for planetary viewing but is still good for viewing planets.
I have used one of these and I have to say that it is just an amazing little telescope. It is very easy to use, has a nice 3 inch mirror for good light gathering power, comes with two different eyepieces, and most importantly gives a very rich and a very wide view of the night sky. This makes it very easy to use. One of the biggest hurdles any would-be astronomer faces is the tunnel that is created when looking through a telescope. It's kind of like trying to find things through a narrow tube. You have to hunt around. But with the incredibly wide field of this telescope the problem disappears.
The nerd recommends if traveling, backpacking and ultra convenience are a big factor for you then this is a great beginners telescope. The price is higher but getting this compact size requires better and more complex optics.
Here is Celestrons description of this scope:
Sky's the limit with this portable and easy to use Newtonian reflector. A perfect gift for kids & families, the impressive aperture allows users to explore the craters on the moon, marvel at rings of Saturn or, with the built-in erect image lens, use it as a land based spotting scope to view the wonders of nature. And best of all, you can bring this scope anywhere you feet can take you!The ExploraScope is packed with cool features that make it easy and fun to use. You can use your ExploraScope on the included swivel base, hold it on your lap or mount it on a photo tripod with the included adapter to observe your world. This durable scope comes with a protective dust cap and carrying strap that make it the perfect companion for hiking and backpacking.
Here is a list of companies that the Nerd endorses. If you stick with these you are guaranteed a good quality telescope.