Stargazing and amateur astronomy are fantastic hobbies that can be enjoyed by everyone everywhere. But taking the plunge and purchasing your first telescope can be a daunting task, as different telescopes are perfect for different people. This checklist will help you determine the right type of telescope for the next step in your cosmic hobby!
What am I using the telescope for?
Understanding what you are using your telescope for is a great first step for deciding which type of telescope to buy. Are you wanting a telescope for casual backyard observing every now and then? Or are you interested in astrophotography and imaging the cosmos through your telescope?
Where am I using the telescope?
Is your telescope going to be a “stay at home scope”? Or are you looking to tour the dark skies of WA? Depending on where you plan to use your telescope, you may need to consider things like:
- Is the telescope too heavy for me to carry?
- Is it too big to store in the back of my car?
- Will I be able to power the telescope when not at home?
How often will I use the telescope?
Knowing how often you will use your telescope is important for deciding how much to spend. If you’re going to spend hours under the stars, then an expensive set up with quality optics and mount might be best, but if you’re only using it “once in a blue moon” telescopes like Dobsonians are much better bang for your buck.
What do I want to look at?
There is no such thing as a perfect telescope, different types are better for different objects. If you’re chasing planets and close-ups of the Moon, a Schmitt-Cassegrain Telescope will give you the best views. But if you’re looking for vast nebulae and stunning star clusters, then a wide-field telescope such as a refractor or reflector is much better suited for the job.
Do I want a manual or a go-to?
Manual telescopes are great for casual usage, but will require knowledge of how to find objects in the sky, patience and time (at least to begin). Go-to telescopes sound great on paper, but still require knowledge of the night sky to set up as well as extra time in the assembly process. The hard work is worth it for a telescope that drives itself however!
What accessories do I need?
There are many useful and essential items that every astronomer should have in their kit. Here are a few of our top picks:
What to look for when buying your telescope
Telescopes have a few important measurements associated with them, and understanding what these measurements mean can be very useful knowledge when purchasing a telescope. Aperture is how wide their largest optical surface is, and correlates with ‘light gathering potential’. Telescopes with large apertures will be able to see faint objects better than telescopes with smaller apertures. Focal length is how far light travels through the telescope after hitting the first optical surface and reaching the eyepiece. As a rule of thumb, the longer the focal length, the more ‘zoomed-in’ your telescope will be.
So what telescope should I buy?
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ telescope, but the perfect telescope does exist! The perfect telescope is the one that you’re going to get the most use out of. To help you find your perfect telescope, here are our picks for good beginner scopes, and what they’re best at:
Dobsonian telescopes were designed for beginning stargazers! A wide mirror and a simple mount system makes these telescopes great scopes for learning and exploring the night sky for the first time!
Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes (SCTs) are designed to give close up views of night sky objects. These telescopes are great at observing the planets and getting close-ups of the Moon. They work best on a go-to mount, as the high focal length makes finding night sky objects a little tricky.
Reflecting and Refracting telescopes make great wide-field views of the cosmos. If you’re chasing views of vast clusters and sweeping nebulae, these telescopes are the type for you. If you’re thinking of getting into the technical hobby of astrophotography, then these scopes make for a great starting off point.
What about astrophotography?
If you’re thinking of getting into astrophotography, you have to think about what you want to image. Fortunately, the type of objects you can see best through a telescope are the same objects you’ll image the best through a telescope! If you’re after planets, go for an SCT. If you’re looking to snap star clusters or nebulae, a reflecting or refracting telescope is best for the job. The most important part of a telescope used for astrophotography, however, is the mount. If you want to take stunning images of deep sky objects, you’ll need an equatorial mount to help you account for the Earth’s rotation. Find out more about equatorial mounts here.
Riley is an experienced astronomy guide who has been working within the astronomy community for several years. He is incredibly passionate about the night sky and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, Math and Education.
Ready to take the next step on your astro-hobby?
Visit Binocentral in Joondalup to for expert advice in picking your first telescope!
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!