Help with choosing the right telescope if you are a beginner
Choosing a telescope, if you are a beginner, can be a tricky thing. Mostly because if you are a beginner you don't know much about telescopes. And that is a big obstacle. You have to use a few different telescopes before you can get a good feel for what they do, which ones are good, and what makes sense for you in terms of power and cost.
Right off the bat I am going to make a fast recommendation. This is a terrific telescope with a very nice 8" aperture. It is easy to use, made by a qualilty company and it comes set up for beginners. I like this complete system. The only real decision you have to make is based on price. It's your budget :) But, it is a good value so your money is well spent.
The Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope combines powerful optics with the ultimate in mechanical simplicity and stability. It features a precision 8-inch (203mm) parabolic primary mirror, center-marked at the factory for precise collimation and mounted in a cast-aluminum support cell that provides maximum ventilation. The mirror pulls in 73% more light than a 6-inch, enough to tease out dust lanes in nebulas, resolve the cores of prominent globular clusters, and reveal subtle structure in elusive galaxies. You're in total control as you point the telescope effortlessly to your target object anywhere in the sky. The 46-inch-long enameled steel tube glides on its sturdy Dobsonian telescope base. A gentle push or pull on the navigation knob puts you right in the observing pocket. The SkyQuest XT8 Classic features a 2-inch Crayford style focuser that accepts both 1.25-inch and 2-inch accessories. Speaking of accessoires, the XT8 comes with a host of great ones. You get a Sirius Plossl 25mm telescope eyepiece (48x), an EZ Finder II reflex sight, an Orion quick-collimation cap, and a snap-on dust cover. For the intrepid beginner to the veteran skygazer, the SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope lives up to its billing by Astronomy magazine as a "work of art."
One thing to note here is that it comes with something called a "Barlow". If you don't know what this is it is an extra eyepiece that will allow you to magnify the image 2 or 3 times the original eyepiece so you get a 48 power "Plossl" eyepiece and with the barlow you will also be able to get 96 power or 144 power. Having the barlow lens doubles your entire lens collection. You can use it to double or triple the power of every lens you own or buy. And note that Barlow lenses sell for 30-80 dollars so having it wrapped into the price of this telescope is a good deal.
OK, let me give you some more advice on beginner telescopes
Name Brand is Everything!
I do have a very strong recommendation when it comes to picking out a telescope. You really need to stick with a company that has a reputation for building quality telescopes. There are a few reasons for this but the most important reason is the quality of the optics or mirror. Until you start using a telescope you are not going to have any idea what the optics are like. But if you buy from an established, and quality minded company, you will know that the optics are good. A telescope is the optics, simple as that, an inferior lens or mirror can be mounted in a ten thousand dollar telescope and it will be worthless.
So, here are the companies I recommend:
- If money is not so much a factor these are my top three recommendations in order: Celestron, Meade, Orion
- If you are more budget conscious then reverse that order: Orion, Meade Celestron.
Above I gave you my top recommendation for an orion telescope so now here are my recommendations for Meade and Celestron:
This is a nice telescope in a different type. It is a refractor which means it has a set of lenses you look through. When a beginner thinks of a telescope this is the type that more often comes to mind. And the main lens is just a little over three inches in diameter which is a pretty good size for a beginner. You will get some nice crisp views with this telescope.
Aperture: 80mm (3.1-Inch). Focal Length: 800mm. Focal Ratio: f/10. High Precision Internal Clock, GOTO Altazimuth DS-2000 Generation II Mount, #494 AutoStar handbox with over 1400 object library, Tripod, AutoStar Suite Software and Instructional DVD, MA Eyepieces (9mm, 25mm), Red dot viewfinder. The DS-2080AT-TC is a fully GoTo telescope. Its onboard computer knows the night sky. After a short alignment procedure, your telescope will be ready to take you on a tour of the universe. You will see more objects in one night than Galileo saw in a lifetime. See planets like Saturn and Jupiter, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and more. Large 80mm Diameter Refractive Lens captures more light for brighter images and greater detail. Two Premium 1.25-Inch Super Plössl Eyepieces for superior long eye relief and an expansive wide visual field. Includes Red-dot projection viewfinder for easy acquisition of guide stars while star-hopping between celestial targets. AutoStar Suite Astronomer Edition Amazing planetarium software and Instructional Video will teach you the night sky and how to use your telescope. Assembles in Minutes Includes everything you need to explore your universe A first look at the rings of Saturn or the craters of the Moon can inspire a lifetime of exploration. Go to any star party anywhere in the world and you'll see more Meade telescopes than any other.
If you're looking for a dual-purpose telescope appropriate for both terrestrial and celestial viewing, then the AstroMaster Series is for you. Each AstroMaster model is capable of giving correct views of land and sky. The AstroMaster Series produce bright, clear images of the Moon and planets. It is easy to see the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn with every one of these fine instruments. For views of the brighter deep space objects like galaxies and nebulae, we recommend the larger aperture and light gathering ability of the Newtonian reflectors.
There are a lot of factors that go into the purchase of a beginners telescope including price, size of the objective, accessories, manufacturer, quality of the optics and the quality of the mount or tripod. The three telescopes above fulfill all of these requirements very well.
And one last thought. The three scopes I have outlined are three different brand names but they are also three different types of telescopes! One is a dobsonian, one is a reflector and one is a newtonian. Here is a quick look at the benefits and differences of each
- The dobsonian (Orion)is famous for giving you a very big mirror (lots of light gathering power) at a very reasonable cost. You can see that in the meade telescope
- The Refractor (Meade) gives you the absolutel crispest and sharpest images per inch of objective. Costs more per inch though.
- The Newtonian (Celestron) Is a nice middle of the road compromise, you get good light gathering and a good equatorial mount.
If you are considering buying a beginner telescope through amazon.com they do have an excellent guide that will help you decide amongst their offerings: Amazon.com Telescope Buying Guide