It’s a pretty confusing world out there when you try to find out what is the best telescope to buy for beginners.

There’s a lot of information to take in and when you’re not used to astronomy terms and lingo, you don’t quite know what to think or who to believe.

Stargazers Club WA to the rescue! If you’re a beginner, read on and I’ll give you 7 easy tips to help you understand the lingo, know what to look for and know the questions to ask so that you buy the perfect telescope for you.

During the five years that I owned and operated Gingin Observatory I used a variety of telescopes and learnt the differences between them.

At the Observatory we ran regular beginners’ “BYO Telescope Classes” to educate and instruct on the use of telescopes and astronomical equipment.

Now, at Stargazers Club I help teach people about a variety of telescopes, what problems there are, what is easy to use and what new equipment there is to make using telescopes easier.

So here are our 7 tips on what is the best telescope to buy for beginners

does size matter?

1. Don’t get tempted by claims of magnification

Some telescopes come with claims of high power and huge magnification. Let’s demystify magnification when it comes to telescopes.

Magnification is the number of times greater in size an object appears when viewed through a telescope. If magnification is 100, the object will appear 100 times larger. Remember though, objects that are further away (like planets and stars) will appear smaller than those closer to you (like the Moon) even though the magnification is the same. Magnification of the image changes when you use different sized telescope eyepieces in your telescope.

Lingo alert: magnification = how many times larger an object appears when viewed through a telescope.

2. Does size matter?

Funnily enough, telescopes are one product where size does matter!

It’s not how long the telescope is, but how big the diameter of the telescope’s mirror is that’s important. The larger the diameter of the primary mirror, the larger the telescope’s aperture or opening will be and the more light collecting power you have. This means the image you can produce will be brighter and sharper when you increase magnification by using a different sized eyepiece.

Lingo alert: aperture = the size of opening of a telescope that allows light to be collected onto the primary mirror.

3. Solid tripod

Telescopes always sit on a tripod or a base of some sort. A solid tripod or base is always an advantage. Many telescopes come with very light, flimsy tripods that move easily when bumped or when a light breeze catches the telescope tube. It makes the image in the telescope shake which makes viewing more difficult. The image may be lost altogether if the tripod is easily bumped out of position.

4. Good finder scope or red dot finder

When buying a telescope, make sure it has a good finder scope or red dot finder attached. This makes it so much easier to pinpoint objects in the night sky. The finder scope is the smaller piece of equipment that sits on top of and parallel with the telescope tube.

When you look through some finder scopes you’ll see an infrared dot which helps line up your target object. Others have cross hair markings. Another type of infrared finder called a Telrad, has an infrared bullseye ring to help you pinpoint your telescope to an object in the night sky.

Some finder scopes or red dot finders can be very frustrating. They can be tricky to align with the telescope tube, hard to look through, might not have solid fixings to attach it to the telescope or are just plain fiddly and difficult to use.

Lingo alert: finder scope or red dot finder = the piece of equipment that sits on top of the telescope tube. It has a wider field of view and should be in line with the telescope tube to make it easy to pinpoint objects in the night sky.

Mike Whait - Freelance Astronomy Guide
Mike Whait - Freelance Astronomy Guide

5. Portability

Astronomers have been known to succumb to “aperture fever”. Always wanting the next size up! Be wary when it comes to size! Remember, the larger the aperture, the larger the telescope. Large telescopes can be time consuming to load into the car, set up and pack up. When you’re deciding on a telescope, think about your convenience as well. Will it be easy to carry and load into the car? Will it be too heavy? How long do you want to spend setting up the telescope? Is it relatively simple to pack away?

6. Try to buy from a specialist telescope retailer

The person who is selling you the telescope is an important part of making your decision. Someone who has expert knowledge with relevant training on how to use telescopes is going to be able to help you much more than someone who hasn’t had training or doesn’t specialise.

Second hand telescopes can be a great option to save some money. A lot of people who buy low end telescopes get frustrated because they are hard to use, so best to avoid buying these. But if it’s cheap enough, it’s a good insight into what not to buy later on down the track!

If you’re thinking of buying a second hand telescope, make sure you do your research first and figure out roughly what type of telescope you’d like to buy. Then keep an eye on your favourite website or newspaper. Or, check in with “Galaxy Girl”! I can send a message to the local amateur astronomy groups I belong to and see if any members have upgraded recently (due to the above mentioned “aperture fever”) and are keen to sell equipment they no longer require.

7. Start with binoculars

If you’re still worried about buying a telescope and are not quite sure, a pair of binoculars is a great way to start. It’s amazing how much you can see just by using binoculars. Amateur astronomers often say that if your budget is less than $200, buy a pair of good binoculars instead of a telescope!

Carol Redford Celestron Telescope - Stargazers WA

If you are still confused or have any questions, please join one of our telescope classes! They’re fun and really do help demystify the wonderful world of telescopes and the night sky!

Want to learn how to properly use a telescope or work out which one to buy?

Whether you own a telescope or not, Stargazers Club WA runs lots of events for beginners. Easy classes can help you decide which telescope to buy or how to use a telescope you already own.

We look forward to welcoming you to our friendly community of Stargazers & Astronomy Lovers where we thrive on making learning about the galaxy easy & fun!

Carol Redford - Founder Stargazers Club WA


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