There are a lot of activities and hobbies that could give joy and excitement to people. One of these is the interest in space, constellations, the moon, planets, and galaxies. For beginners, one must need a telescope to see a detailed view of the mesmerizing night sky.
Exploring space is a passion, especially for people who love to observe the sky. Stargazing helps you learn and familiarize the different constellations and planets. It also broadens one’s view of the stars and space.
Finding the right telescope to start your stargazing hobby can be challenging due to the thousands of telescopes available on the market. However, there are tips for a faster and more convenient search. To know more, here are tips to help you find a suitable telescope for beginners.
Choose a Specific Type of Telescope to Buy
To start your astronomy journey, you must know the specific type of telescope to buy according to your preference. We have listed the three basic types of telescopes to help you pick your first purchase.
Refractor telescopes are also known as optical telescopes. They use specific glass lenses to refract or bend light into focus and form an image for you to see. The telescope tube is typically long, as the light must travel from the objective lens through the telescope tube and into the eyepiece lens.
Most night sky gazers prefer refractor telescopes because of their advantages. They are lightweight, portable, and easy to store. The optics in refractor telescopes are bright, sharp, and crisp. They are also low maintenance and easy to use which is suitable for beginners.
However, refractor telescopes have limited sizes and are only available in apertures under 130mm due to the cost and difficulty of producing larger-sized lenses. Refractor telescopes may also have chromatic issues (they sometimes show colors incorrectly), depending on the lenses utilized for the optics. In addition, the image can get blurry.
Reflector telescopes use mirrors instead of glass lenses. These mirrors reflect light from different points inside the telescope tube to form an image focusing on the eyepiece. And because light does not have to pass through a straight path, most reflector telescopes are shorter than refractor telescopes.
Reflector telescopes offer a lot of benefits that are valuable to astronomy lovers. They come in different sizes and are often made bigger and sturdier. They are also less expensive because mirrors are easy to manufacture and cost remarkably less. Reflector telescopes have less chromatic and spherical aberration.
Although; reflector telescopes provide convenience, they also come with possible issues. They can get expensive in terms of maintenance. Most designs have an open tube and can get dusty. Occasionally, cleaning, polishing, and realigning the mirrors is a must to avoid blurry images. Large reflector telescopes are not easy to store. They should have their own space for you to enjoy stargazing.
Catadioptric telescopes are a combination of lenses and mirrors in an optical system. The benefits of refractor and reflector telescopes are both in this telescope. They use a lens called the corrector plate that folds the light path, and the secondary mirrors focus the light to form an image. They come in different models; Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain are the most popular designs for beginners.
Catadioptric telescopes are lightweight and portable, which is perfect for amateurs. They do not take up much space and are easy to store when not in use. And because of their focal length design, they capture more detailed images and can focus on a specific object, which makes viewing more enjoyable. Even if catadioptric telescopes use mirrors, they do not need frequent cleaning and realigning.
However, catadioptric telescopes are at a higher price than other telescopes. Some designs could have secondary mirror obstruction issues that could affect the image. Users may encounter a narrow field of view due to its focal length, which could result in poor galaxy and space viewing.
Learn the Different Parts of a Telescope
For you to understand how a telescope works, you need to know the different parts of a telescope and their significance.
Refractor telescopes and some designs of reflector telescopes use at least two lenses, one of which is the objective lens. Objective lenses magnify objects, which allows you to see them in a more detailed manner. Objective lenses are located at the end of the telescope and pointed toward the sky.
Reflectors and catadioptric telescopes use mirrors to collect and focus light to form an image for you to see through the eyepiece. There are two types of mirrors, spherical and parabolic mirrors. They help improve and enhance the features of the image, making your experience pleasurable.
The eyepiece is where you look through to see the image. It magnifies the picture of the object focused by the lenses and the mirrors. They have diverse focal lengths that control the field of view, enhancement, and comfort while looking at the night sky.
The telescope tube serves as the body which holds the lenses and mirrors. The telescope tube increases the focal length to magnify the object and makes the image appear sharp and detailed.
The telescope mount supports the telescope for stable and precise positioning. It also provides you comfort and ease while enjoying the sky. There are two kinds of support: altazimuth and equatorial mounts. Altazimuth mounts are inexpensive and easy to maneuver, perfect for beginners. The telescope can move up and down, right and left, with an altazimuth mount. Equatorial mounts, on the other hand, are more advanced and complicated; they could be challenging for first-time users. They move parallel to the Earth’s axis, which makes them suitable for astrophotography.
Telescope tripods function the same as the telescope mount; in terms of stabilizing and supporting the telescope. There are a variety of tripods on the market that you can choose from. Make sure that it can carry the weight of your telescope.
Keplerian refractor and Dobsonian reflector telescopes are the most popular and suitable models for beginners. They are easy to maneuver, and the parts are adjusted easily to your preference.
Decide on a Budget
Stargazing is not an inexpensive hobby. Before engaging yourself in this interest, set a budget for your first telescope purchase. Telescopes are available in different designs and models, from the cheapest to the most expensive brands. When buying your first telescope, start with a price ranging from $100 to $500. With this price range, buyers would have a good quality starter telescope.
Telescopes around $100 are ideal for people that are on a budget. This price range cover 70mm to 90mm aperture and 500mm to 900mm focal length. They are attached to Altazimuth mounts. You can select whether you’ll purchase a refractor or reflector telescope. Both types of telescopes are available in these specifications. They are also perfect for kids who want to start their astronomical interests.
$200 to $400
Telescopes in this price range are available in refractor and reflector types, and you can expect high-quality designs. Refractor telescopes offer a 90mm to 102mm aperture and 500mm to 700mm focal length. They use an Altazimuth mount. Reflector telescopes are available in 90mm to 130mm aperture and 500mm to 700mm focal length. They use an Equatorial mount for support. Some of these models offer a feature that can connect to smartphones.
$400 to $500
Telescopes of this category have specifics similar to the previous price range but with sturdier and more durable support. Other features offer better quality lenses, mirrors, eyepieces, and telescope tubes. Depending on the model, they are either computerized-hand control or smartphone-controlled.
In conclusion, telescopes have gone a long way. They have evolved through time and have advanced features for better astronomical observation. Nowadays, novice telescope enthusiasts have more options, whether on a budget or looking for an advanced type of telescope, depending on the features and qualities they need. Before purchasing your first of many telescopes, research and consider the factors that suit your preference.