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.http://www.texasastro.org/telescope.php
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:http://www.telescope.com/control/dobsonians/classic-dobsonian-telescopes
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.http://www.andysshotglass.com/800Dollar.html
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:
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