How to Choose the Best Amateur Telescope for Your Needs

What is a telescope?

Before proceeding with the core of our analysis, we must have a rough idea of what a telescope actually is.

Generally, one can define a telescope as an instrument to make distant objects look bigger, but by saying that we not include a wide range of operations performed by a telescope. So, we can better define a telescope as an instrument that collects electromagnetic radiations as visible light and gather them to provide images of the objects under consideration.

There is a wide range of instruments that come under this statement, depending upon different frequencies taken by astronomers to observe a specific body.

23-annual-star-party-image-via-flickr-user-Grand-Canyon-National-Park
Grand Canyon National Park: 23 Annual Star Party / image via flickr user Grand Canyon National Park

 Buying an amateur telescope

Who does not want to have a look at a sky full of stars and count celestial bodies, for nothing but just a mysterious revelation? It is a fact that there are amateur astronomers hooked for exploring galaxies and the wonders of the sky by pointing their instruments towards anywhere in the sky. They keep looking out for the best telescopes to have the pleasure of viewing and to take full fledge experience out of it.

For us the best amateur telescope is the one providing more precise and accurate observations as required by the observer. That really sounds cool to whom that has an inherent interest in life: exploring galaxies.

You’re better stop daydreaming about owning an unprecedented telescope and go to the market to have a fantastic new one.

Kiev Amateur Telescope Exhibition - image via flickr user Fermion

Kiev Amateur Telescope Exhibition – image via flickr user Fermion

The Three Classes of Amateur Telescopes

The best starter telescopes today are mainly classified into three categories depending on different functions, mechanisms and views. These three classes are briefly defined below:

Refractor

The first starter telescope we have is called a refractor. It works on the principle of gathering light with an objective lens at one end, and focusing the light at the eyepiece at the other end. Refractors were almost becoming outdated at one point, but modern glass elements have brought them back to prominence.

Refractors are highly advantageous for there is no obstruction in the passage of  light, resulting in best images.

There might be disadvantages, like chromatic aberration, and pricing, as they easily are the most expensive of all the three classes.

 Newtonian reflector

Invented by Isaac Newton, the next telescope we have is a reflector. It uses a parabolic mirror at the end of a tube and focuses the light back at the front of the tube once they are deflected by a smaller secondary mirror in the light path.

The advantages are: no color aberration, cheapest of all three designs and its portability.

Since there is secondary obstruction, it results in a loss of contrast and will require occasional collimation of optics.

Schmidt-Cassegrain

The third type of telescope works on the principle of using both mirrors and lenses to fold the optical path back onto itself, which results in a compact tube called catadioptrics.

The advantages are: less expensive than refractors and totally computer driven, offering the most compact of the three designs.

Grand Canyon 23 annual star party image via flickr user Grand Canyon Park

Grand Canyon 23 annual star party image via flickr user Grand Canyon Park

Choosing an amateur telescope

If you are thinking about buying something of your own choice,  you must have an ample knowledge of its facts and figures. Otherwise, all your roaming and searching would go in vain if you don’t find the actual information about it. With telescopes is the same case.

When you decide to buy a beginner telescope you must have an idea regarding your location and then the darkness in the sky. You should also keep in mind the level of observation you want to obtain and how good of an observer are you. The cost of the item must also be known before buying the telescope for long lasting services.

The above factors should necessarily be considered while you are up for buying a telescope. That will then provide a better path to get involved with astronomy and its powerful experiences.

There are some basic key features that every telescope shows, and here we list them in order to give you a basic idea. A good beginner telescope would definitely come with all of these elements satisfying requirements of the user.

Aperture – one significant factor

One of the most important and key factors to keep in mind when buying a telescope is its aperture. It’s basically a name given to the diameter of the main optical component of the telescope, like that of a lens or a mirror. It is a fact that the bigger the aperture is, the better would be. That is because of the fact that a bigger aperture will mean a bigger surface area, allowing it to collect a greater amount of light as compared to the telescope with smaller apertures.

The basic purpose of aperture is that it will determine the resolution and the gathering of light. The ability of light gathering will influence the brightness of the resulting image. Resolution refers to the sharpness of the image.

Good amateur telescopes will come up with big apertures, according with the requirements of the user.

Magnification

There is a general misconception when people ask how much a telescope can magnify. They usually refer to magnification as the criteria of a telescope for being good or not. But in reality, it’s completely up to you how much you want to magnify, depending on the eyepiece you decide to use.

There must be an optimal magnification maintained to see the objects clearly and to prevent the spreading of the light to bright objects, making them blur. Astronomers, therefore, usually prefer low magnification power for faint objects, like galaxies and nebulae. Medium to high power are set to see objects like the moon and planets.

A good telescope would provide optimal magnification that is less for faint bodies and medium for bright bodies without making them blur.

Magnification Vs. aperture

The scope has a focal length. Focal length is the distance from the primary lens to the image it forms. Depending on the type and scope of aperture, focal length large number are usually printed on the front or the back of the scope. It usually ranges between 400 to 3,000 millimeters.

When going for a telescope, make sure that you are looking for the quality of aperture diameter rather than the magnification.

Keeping in mind the above key points, you can own a perfect amateur telescope and start your practice today with  enthusiasm and spirit.

Looking at planets through your telescope will become a long lasting joy and possibly one of the most wonderful experience of your life.

An example of good telescope for beginner

The best starter telescope to view the planets and to make the most out of an experience of astronomy, for us is the Celestron Cosmos 90GT Wifi. This is the best personal telescope with all the stated features available at a really competitive price.

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