Looking for a new telescope can be very confusing. There's a bewildering array of telescopes and telescope accessories out there. In fact, it seems as though you almost need to learn another language to understand the field. You'll need to consider cost, portability, versatility, usability and appearance, and a host of other factors. Truly, the task can seem daunting.
It's important, therefore, to know some important ground rules. The knowledge will help you better understand the different types of telescopes and aid in choosing the scope that's best for you.
First Things First A Word About Magnification. Magnification or "power" is one of the least important factors to be considered when you're choosing a telescope. The single greatest misconception about telescopes is that you need to have lots of magnification to see objects. Not true. The telescope's light-gathering ability, referred to as aperture, plays the most prominent role in determining how much you see. Magnification level has much less to do with it. Be particularly cautious of outrageous claims of 500X or 600X magnification on inexpensive telescopes. It's true that magnification levels can be pushed sky high with certain eyepieces and optical appliances. However, image quality suffers severely to the point where it can be difficult to make out any detail at all. It's far better to view with a telescope of larger aperture and moderate magnification than to push a smaller scope to ultra-high magnification levels. Image size will be a bit smaller with less magnification. But because the image you do see will be of far better quality, you'll actually see a lot more! Some manufacturers of "department-store-brand" telescopes take advantage of this number-one misconception among first-time telescope buyers that magnification is everything. It isn't. So beware!
Ok. So a telescope's ability to gather light is paramount. Should you, then, look for the largest telescope you can possibly afford? Not necessarily. You don't want to forget about portability. After all, what good is a monster telescope if you don't use it? You will need to ask yourself Where will I want to use my new telescope?If the answer is nearby in the backyard, then having a great big telescope will be of great advantage to you. On the other hand, if you'll need to take your telescope away from city lights in order to get good viewing, you need to be concerned about size and weight. You'll have to wrestle your scope into your car or truck, so, beyond a certain point, bigger and heavier is definitely not better. It's also good to remember you have to assemble and set up your telescope in the dark, and that also makes ease-of-use a premium commodity. "Dark-sky commuters" should think, therefore, in terms of the biggest scope they can handle comfortably, rather than the biggest scope they can afford. They'll get little enjoyment of a new telescope if it just gathers dust in the garage because the thought of moving it outdoors makes them cringe. Sometimes more of a good thing is just too much. Beyond aperture: Your first major decision - What Type of Telescope should you buy?
Refractors, reflectors and catadioptrics demystified.
There are three basic types of telescopes refractors, reflectors, and catadioptrics. All three designs have the same purpose, to collect light and bring it to a point of focus so it can be magnified with an eyepiece for examination by the eye. Each does this work differently, though. And each has advantages, as well as disadvantages. We offer a discussion to help you choose among them.
Refractor telescopes are what the average person identifies with the word "telescope". These consist of a long, narrow tube in which light passes in a straight line between the front, objective, lens and a rear-mounted eyepiece.
The Maksutov is heavier than the Schmidt and, because of the thick correcting lens, takes a long time to reach thermal stability at night in larger apertures.
The Maksutov optical design typically is easier to make, but its corrector lens requires more material than the Schmidt Cassegrain's.
Now that you have read about magnification, aperture and the different types of telescopes, you can browse our site more informed. The choice of what telescope to buy or whether to buy one at all is up to you. Make it based on your individual circumstances and needs. Meanwhile, remember we are here to help! You can always send us an email or contact one of our telescope specialists at 1-800-303-5873. We don't just sell telescopes. We're interested in astronomy, and we're interested in helping others learn about it. Happy viewing from Telescopes.com!
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