How to Choose a Good Telescope

Choosing a telescope can be more difficult than choosing a new car or house. My experience has been mostly negative, until I was able to find a local “star-gazer’s” club and attend one of their sessions for the telescope-challenged.

As a layman, I never owned my own telescope as a child, I too bought into the “hype” many telescopes use to suck you into their trap. Almost all telescopes, no matter how good or bad they are, show beautiful color pictures of objects such as the mooon, Saturn and distant galaxies. On many of them, this is the only shot you’ll get to see such images; on the best of them the color is non-existent! (Silly amateur I am I believed such things!)

My first purchase was through a mail order catalog I was awarded credit to. Big mistake! It was back in the early 90s and I thought that $89 would buy my son, who was 6 at the time, a pretty cool educational toy. Well, the squirrels in the neighbor’s tree was rather cool, but the moon was barely visible more than the naked eye. I assumed, (yeah, I know what that gets you!), that a telescope was going to “work” no matter what and that paying more just got you a better image. Telescope manufacturer’s one, Genine zip.

My next foray into purchasing a telescope came when my middle child was 5. She loved Astronomy and I wanted to nurture her interest and curiosity. This time, I tried to research what magnification I should look for, but the internet was still young and search engines were just infants, so I was not able to locate good sources that I could understand. I decided I would let my money do the talking, and spent nearly $300 on this baby! Yeah, Christmas is going to be sweet this year!

Well, the magnification was fine, if you knew what you were doing. You see, I eventually found that my folly this time was in the sad but true fact that as you increase your magnification, the objects become harder to find and smaller in appearance in your viewer. So again, the “toy” sat in the corner, gathering dust, until I was rescued by the local astronomy club.

I did find out that this telescope was good; it had a large of amount of light gathering capability and after adjusting to the difficulty in locating objects, we are enjoying its rewards. I have now been educated that for the beginner, a good set of binoculars works just as well as some lower priced scopes, and wish I had known that with my son. Reflectors are normally able to gather more light than Refractors and produce a better quality image, but both can perform well if you keep in mind that size does matter, at least when it comes to the amount of light a scope allows in.

Well, off to another night of stargazing….