Tip & How-To about Optics

Buying your first telescope

So you got the Astronomy bug or a young child and you want to buy a telescope. Here are some suggestions:

1. Never buy a telescope from Wal Mart or CostCo, or Ebay unless you know EXACTLY what you are buying. Most of the scopes on Craigslist.com are also junk or toy telescopes. (I have bought two telescopes from craigslist.com; BUT I knew exactly what I was buying!)

2. Do NOT buy an equatorial mounted scope as your first telescope. You must polar align the scope to use it, and most cheap low cost EQ mounts are shaky and not actually built to support the telescope. Can you find Polaris, and point the EQ mount toward Polaris? Unless you polar align an EQ mounted telescope, it cannot be used!

3. Locate a local Astronomy club and attend their meetings and star parties. You will get to look through the member's telescopes and ask questions. Do this BEFORE you buy your first telescope.

4. Usually we recommend a small Dobsonian mounted reflector as your first telescope. See this web site: http://www.telescope.com/control/dobsonians/classic-dobsonian-telescopes Try to buy one that is at least 6 inches in aperture. An 8 inch Dobsonian would make a great beginner telescope! The 4.5 inch makes a good child's telescope.

These are easy to use and POINT at objects in the sky, and you get the largest aperture for the least amount of money.

5. Buy several Astronomy books. For example, "Turn Left at Orion", and "Nightwatch". Read these before you spend your money. Also download a free monthly star chart at www.skymaps.com You can also subscribe to Astronomy magazine, or Sky & Telescope magazine.

6. NEVER buy a telescope that advertises MAGNIFICATION. This is the least important quality of a telescope, which is made to gather the light from dim and small sky objects. 575 power magnification written on the outside of the box is a LIE! Also, the pretty pictures on the box were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope! You will NOT see color in that 70mm telescope you are planning to buy.

7. The MOUNT is just as important as the actual telescope. A cheap department store toy telescope on a shaky mount will frustrate the beginner. You CANNOT buy a usable telescope for less than about $200. Sorry but that's just the way it happens to be!

8. A nice pair of either 7x50mm or 10x50mm binoculars should be considered as your first TELESCOPE purchase, along with a Star Chart. Learning your way around the sky is a big part of the hobby. A pair of 10x50mm binoculars is almost the same aperture as that 60mm telescope you are thinking about buying! The binoculars have a wider field of view which will help beginners SEE and LOCATE more sky objects.

7. The Astronomical League has a list, by State, of Astronomy Clubs on their web site:
http://www.astroleague.org/societies/list Join a local Astronomy club!

Again, DO NOT buy a telescope until you learn a little bit about the different types of scopes (Refractor vs Reflector) and their strong and weak points for each scope design.

Here are example of scopes NOT TO BUY!

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=12538000 EQ shaky mount

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=8402684 Cheap GOTO computer scope- plastic gears

http://www.opticsplanet.net/meade-114eq-ast-model-45-f-88-equatorial-telescope-04056.html another shaky EQ mount

http://www.opticsplanet.net/tasco-50x50-telescope-and-microscope-combo-red-49tn.html I don't know about the microscope, but the telescope has the same aperture as a pair of binoculars!

http://www.opticsplanet.net/tasco-novice-402x60mm-refractor-telescope-30060402.html You might be able to see the moon and a few of the planets but with 60mm of aperture it's just too small and the mount is very shaky

Read this web site to learn about the different types of telescope designs.

If you are buying a telescope for a child buy a 4.5 inch or 6 inch Dobsonian. If the scope is for YOU, then buy an 8 inch or 10 inch Dobsonian. Like one of these:

Or one with a computer hand controller like these:

AND WATCH this video- the $800 telescope-- you will learn a lot about telescopes by listening to Andy talk about telescopes.

Notice how much stronger the equatorial mounts appear on this video, and his final recommendation of a Dobsonian reflector as a good beginner's scope in the largest size (aperture) you can afford. Remember-- objects in the sky are VERY small. Your scope and it's finder scope must be lined up exactly pointed at the same spot in the sky; or you will not see anything!

I cannot emphasize this point enough! Telescopes have very small fields of view, no bigger than the tip of your finger held at arm's length!

Here is a free monthly star chart that you can download every month:

Clear Skies!

RSS Link to all of TelescopeMan's Audio & Video Astronomy Podcasts

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1 Answer

i can see out of it i just cant get the 5mm lense out of the case

You mean out of the diagonal? If you heat up the diagonal with a hair dryer you may be able to expand the metal a little bit and get the eyepiece out.(?)

I must tell you though that this scope is NOT suitable for Astronomy. We receive many complaints about it here on FixYa. We call it a toy telescope.

Read my TIPS on my profile page and do not buy telescopes at Wal Mart, CostCo, Ebay, or craigslist unless you know EXACTLY what you are buying.

Dec 18, 2010 | Vivitar (1607225) Telescope

1 Answer

I bought a used Tasco Galaxsee 45-060525 for my next door neighbor's young boys who are home-schooled to study astronomy. The lens are all foggy/cloudy. Any suggestions?

Wish you DID NOT buy this scope. Tasco, Bushnell, are both what we call "department store" telescopes.

Also the mount is called an equatorial mount. It must be polar aligned in order to use it. Read my TIP on polar alignment on my profile page.

The eyepieces can be cleaned with any eyeglass cleaning kit or photographic lens cleaning kit from a camera store. Be gentle when cleaning.

Next time buy them a scope like this one called a Dobsonian mounted reflector.


Read these two web sites:



Aug 31, 2010 | Tasco Galaxsee 45-060675 Telescope

1 Answer

HI. I have the 45-300 Power Equitorial reflector telescope magnification 45-150x(90x300)and I am not sure how to put it together. I am wondering if there is a manual available somewhere on line or something. Thank you Dennis

Not for JC Penny!

This is a reflector style telescope on an equatorial mount. The mount must be POLAR ALIGNED in order to use it. Never buy a telescope from Wal Mart or JC Penny etc etc-- these are usually "toy" telescopes that are NOT suitable for Astronomy.

Return it if you can and buy THIS telescope:


Read these two web sites:


Aug 23, 2010 | JCPenney Optics

1 Answer

I just bought a 60mm star tracker II. The eye pieces do not secure into the telescope. THe little screw that should secure the eyepiece just pops out when you try to tighten it in to secure the eyepiece. Is this normal? Wondering if I should exchange it at the store.

No, it means the focuser set-screws are broken. Hate to tell you but we receive the most complaints from THAT telescope brand, which is being sold by Toys R Us. It is TERRIBLE. I would suggest you return it to the store and never buy another telescope from a toy store, or Wal Mart, or Craigslist. Most of the scopes sold there are junk- toy telescopes.

The scope you bought is NOT suitable for Astronomy. Next time buy one of these:


and read these web sites:



Aug 22, 2010 | Edu-Science (10166) Telescope

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