Telescope Buying Guide

Sky-gazing has become a favorite hobby of many these days and a telescope is a useful instrument for those who know what to do with it. Before moving on to choose your first telescope, a bit of groundwork is necessary to determine what exactly the need is.

Initially one should know to read an astronomy map or a star chart. A pair of good field glasses will easily pick up the moon and a few neighbor constellations. If the person is more interested and serious in his or her hobby, a good and practical telescope is the next step for finding more details and extending the vision on the celestial objects.

It is advisable and appropriate to join an astronomical club or a society, where there will be a lot of initial support and guidance in using the telescope and pointing it in the right direction. This may help the person to know more about telescopes, their uses, their parts, and their function.

What is a Telescope?

The basic telescope is the refractor which uses a lens to gather and focus light. Gathering and focusing the light is the main function of a telescope and so the aperture found in the scope is of high importance.

As the surface area of the aperture gets wider, the amount of light gathered also is more. This will also produce a sharp image which might give you more details to watch. The focal length of the telescope usually determines the size of the image.

A Basic Telescope
A Basic Telescope

The longer the focal length, the larger the image can be seen. The refractor makes a good starter telescope for the juniors and the amateurs in usage and cost.

There is also the reflector telescope which is used by the observatories and by those who are more serious in sky watching. The mirror used in this telescope helps better reflect and focus light and results in good images to view.

Main disadvantage found in the maintenance and frequent realignment that is vital in a reflector telescope.

Telescope Buying Guide

1. Where to buy

Remember never one should buy a telescope in a department store where lot of cheap advertisements runs along with the purchase.

Make sure that one should go through the catalog and find the shop which deals with all the related astronomical accessories and tools and the after-service that is provided.

These days one can find cheap telescopes that are flooded in the toy sections and the racks of electronic stores during Christmas and other celebration days.

These telescopes appear like one but in reality, they are mere junk or could even say trash pieces. They have hazy eyepieces made of cheap plastics and claim to have a magnification of 400x or 640x and up to a maximum of 1200x.

Different Telescope Parts
Different Telescope Parts

2. Budgeting your Instrument

It is well know in the market that telescopes are relatively costlier than a binocular. With a limitation of 150 dollars, it is a good choice to purchase a well functioning binocular.

A cheap telescope with a larger magnification that is advertised is never worth the money spent on it. One can only see a fuzzy or a pale image with the cheap plastic or a low-quality lens found in them.

A distorted and poor image is the obvious result of these purchases. A young person who views through it can easily be disappointed and may never want to see through another scope.

The higher the amount you spend in buying a telescope, you get real good starters. A 60 mm refractor or a 4.5 inch reflector is better to start with star gazing.

Once initial identification of the moon and other celestial objects and familiarization of the star charts has been established, more investment can be done to purchase a high-quality telescope.

These telescopes have motorized drives that help in tracking stars and some have computerized options which locate a galaxy or a nebula easily.

Buying an expensive telescope is not merely enough as a lot of patience and time should also be used in using the telescope.

3. Lighting

Where there is a lesser lighting, the telescope gives you a better image. Darkness always helps you see with more clarity through a telescope.

A huge scope that is placed in a polluted city backyard gives you poor image than a small and portable telescopes which can be carried to dark and remote country sides with a clear night sky.

A 2.7-inch telescope used on a dark night in a field gives more to see than a 10 inch larger scope that is used in a city block.

4. Magnification

Magnification of the object that can be seen is as important as the size of magnification that is advertised. Falling for a larger magnification is always falling in usage.

It is better to find or compare the magnification of the telescope with its aperture. If the aperture of the lens or the mirror is 60 mm or 2.5-inch then the best image that can be delivered with it is 50 times its size. So a 2.5-inch mirror or lens will have a magnification of just 125x only.

So make it a rule to always find out the real magnification with the aperture size. It is found frequently that a low magnification usually gives a sharper image. The larger the magnification, the image has less clarity and is usually fluffy and distorted.

Telescope Magnification
Telescope Magnification

The Andromeda Galaxy is one of the greatest and poses a highly majestic sight in the sky for celestial viewers. It has a size that is eight times more than that of a full moon but a lot dull to see. A mere 20- 40 x magnification is pretty sufficient to view this as clearly as could be seen.

So it is highly important that one should give too much of importance the magnification size and should not be held up in the opinion that higher the magnification, larger the image will be. Only experience gives the inner knowledge regarding the optimal magnification that is correct for different types of objects.

For a wide view, just a 50 x magnification is more sufficient to look at the nebulae and galaxies. The Saturn can be clearly seen with a 100 x and the surface of the Mars is quite a visual treat with just a 200 x magnification.

A larger magnification would simply distort the otherwise beautiful vision. So estimation of the magnification comes with larger experimentation.

5. Usage

Size always matters and it corresponds to usage. It is funny to see that most of them who purchase a heavy telescope with a higher cost price and takes large measures to install it with all the right up-to-date technology, do not find the time to make use of it.

They are mostly not easy to move and do take a lot of preparation time to set up each time. Times devoted to these larger scopes are quite less.

On the other hand, smaller scopes are frequently used and to their maximum. They are less heavy and easily mobile. They can be just taken off during a long country walk or on a clear night sky easily.

For the casual and not too serious observer, it is highly commendable that they go for an obvious choice of smaller telescopes that are easy to carry around.

A 2.7 inch Pronto or a 4 inch Tele Vue Genesis comes out quite often as it takes hardly few minutes to set up. But a 10 inch Newtonian with all its heavy tube and steel mount will see the walls of storage or a garage more than the clear night sky on a warm weather.

Generally, You buy a telescope for two uses

  • for viewing planets and galaxies
  • for Astrophotography

6. Mounting

Buying a telescope is not complete without a mount and it is always as important as the telescope itself.

Focusing in a telescope is not perfect without the right mounting to it. A simple Dobsonian mount gives more stability than all the scientific tinsel that comes with a cheap telescope.

A Mount
A Telescope Mount

A good tripod with the right Upswing is necessary for a 2.7-inch scope. So don’t compromise on buying a good mount as you will miss the purpose of a good visual.

The mount should not be undersized as it will be very shaky when you wield the instrument. To tackle the wind which is the one solid disturbance, a pretty good mount is of absolute necessary. The damp down factor which is nothing but the time taken to settle down after the telescope is refocused or moved, normally takes 5 seconds.

General Tips before Using a Telescope

Right before starting upon using a telescope, one has to make sure that going through the literature or the user manual that usually accompanies the instrument is mandatory. There may be some simple and useful tips that are different for the various types of telescopes.


  • Spending some time over-adjusting and balancing the telescope on its mount will definitely avoid undue frustration when it is actually in the use.

Don’t Look at the Sun

  • Looking at the sun through a telescope should be strictly avoided, even if some instruments accompanied by a set of solar filters. They are advertised to be useful when looking into the sun, which is absolutely harmful with or without the filters. The filters never always prevent out the ultraviolet rays from the sun which are highly harmful.

It’s an outdoor Instrument

The fact that a telescope is an outdoor instrument. When it is used inside the confines of a house and poked out through a window, the images tend to blur and remain unsteady.

This is mainly because of the thermal heat that radiates from the house. Set the telescope on a perfect patch of a grassy area outside on any good weather for a better see through.


Check the temperature outside well enough before a viewing. Allow the instrument to cool for about 20 minutes on a cold night. The images then received will be clearer.

Adapting the Eyes

Adapting the eyes to the amount of light or darkness is yet another key factor to see more through the telescope. The eyes have a natural tendency to adjust to the amount of light and also accustom to see through the darkness.

Also, a dim or dull object would appear clearly if looked around it rather than seeing it directly. Averted or side vision gives a better image than a direct one.

Final Words

We hope this article will help you choose your first telescope. Also apply the tips given if you are a beginner in using a telescope for viewing planets, galaxies, or astrophotography.

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