Choosing the Right Telescope
Choosing the right telescope can seem tricky at times mainly because there are a dizzying variety of telescope types, models available for your perusal. The important thing is to remain calm and examine the options available to you with a critical eye.
The single most important thing you can keep in mind when choosing your first telescope is: Do not buy telescopes from a department store. Very often, the people there have no idea about what they are selling, and will make exaggerated claims in order to sell you on a product that is more likely than not to be, simply put, Christmas trash (cheap, poorly made telescopes intended to be given as gifts). Instead, it is better to shop at a dedicated telescope store, which will probably make less grandiose claims, but their products will most likely be able to deliver on them.
With that out of the way, the next thing you should look at in a telescope is the aperture. The aperture is the size of the lens, and in general, a larger lens will give you a brighter and clearer picture. However, smaller telescopes with good optical quality can outperform larger telescopes, so this is not a rule that is set in stone. Magnification is not worth considering at all, simply because one will not need massive amounts of magnification to see most objects in the sky. For example, the Great Galaxy in Andromeda only requires a 20-40x magnification to view, but since it is dimmer, a larger telescope aperture will be needed to produce a clear, bright and sharp picture.
The next thing to consider is the ease with which the telescope can be used. There is no point in buying a big telescope with all the accessories that you can think of if setting it up is a pain. Generally, the smaller a telescope is, the more it will be used, if only because a smaller telescope can go more places and be more easily transported.
Another thing you might want to think about is whether you will be taking photographs through your telescope (i.e. astrophotography). If that is the case, it would be wise to invest in a telescope that gives you the option to attach a camera or a CCD.
Finally, the mount for your telescope is just as important as the telescope itself. The key property for mounts is stability – there’s no point in having a wonderful telescope if the view shifts all the time and you can’t focus on what you want to look at.
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