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Choosing A Telescope

How to choose the right telescope for you

TelescopeAre you interested in Astronomy? Do the stars in the night sky fascinate you? If so, then you need a telescope.

A telescope is a device that allows you to see things that are very far away from you, such as the moon, the planets, stars, nebulas and galaxies.

A telescope that you can look through and see images directly is called an optical telescope. Owning a telescope literally opens up the heavens for your exploration.

There are three basic types of optical telescopes:

  1. A refracting telescope uses two convex lenses working as a pair to gather and focus light in a way that makes distant objects appear much closer than they actually are. This process is called refraction.

    An objective lens is the larger lens on the end of the telescope opposite the user. This is the lens that gathers light. The eyepiece is the smaller lens that you actually look through. It focuses the light that the objective lens gathers.
  2. A reflecting telescope uses concave mirrors to "bend" the light together at the focal point. This also makes far away objects appear closer than they actually are.

    A parabolic mirror at the far end of the reflecting telescope focuses the light at the eyepiece end after it has been deflected by a smaller mirror located somewhere in the middle of the telescope.
  3. Schmidt-Cassegrain style telescopes use both mirrors and lenses to "fold" the path of the light back onto itself. This allows the telescope to have a large magnification capability yet still be housed in a compact tube.
There are several things to consider when deciding which telescope to buy:
  1. The most important consideration when choosing a telescope is the aperture. The larger the aperture the more light the telescope will gather. The more light gathered the fainter the object that can be seen.
  2. The least important (and most misunderstood) factor is magnification. You'll see ads for telescopes boasting a magnification of 200, 500, or whatever. Take this information with a grain of salt.

    A telescope cannot magnify an object that it cannot see, and a smaller aperture gathers less light which in turn limits the distance of the objects that can be seen.
  3. If you are concerned about getting a good value for your money, do not purchase a telescope from a department store or discount store. Do your shopping where serious astronomy equipment is sold.

    Good deals on quality, really useful telescopes can be found in scientific retail stores, in ads in the major astronomy magazines and of course online.
  4. Don't spend too much money. How much is too much? More than you can really afford to spend.
  5. Don't spend to little money. How much is too little? Less than you can afford to spend, and certainly do not spend less than $300 as a general rule.
The bottom line is this: buy as much telescope (the largest aperture) you can afford, don't worry about magnification, and buy from a reputable source.

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