Choosing your First Telescope

There are a majority of people who often are confused when it comes to buying a telescope. When you decide to go out and get yourself a Telescope you are up for a big step! We decided to make this a little easier for you so that you get the best bet for your money!

That being said I personally feel if you are a first timer it can be very intimidating for you to understand and work with a telescope. I suggest it is better to get started with an inexpensive binoculars so that you can understand the night skies better and then decide on how to upgrade to a decent telescope that fits your purpose.

Astronomy can be a lifelong pleasure but with the right equipment. A pair of binoculars allows you to do just that. The common recommendation is to get a pair of 10X50’s spec binoculars. The first number represents the magnification here and the second represents the aperture of each objective lens in mm. Your aim is to get a pair with the largest lens which you can hold comfortably. Most astronomers opt for a 10×50 spec but be informed you must have steady hands for these or a tripod which can support it comfortably. Majority of the astronomers keep a pair of bino’s handy so that they can gaze the sky and lock their targets get a general idea of the sky before setting up their telescopes.

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Celestron 10×50 binoculars

Coming to telescopes we have an array of telescope of different sizes and design. Now if I were to ask people what would be the purpose of a telescope? It doesn’t mean necessarily that telescopes are used to make distant objects seem larger, this maybe the general understanding but what telescopes primarily do is gather light. The more light a scope can gather, the more powerful it is. Well that doesn’t mean we suggest that you go out and get the meanest telescope available in market. It’s more about usability and portability that you should look into. Trust me you wouldn’t want carrying a huge telescope to a far off place and fret with setting it up and lose time, patience and interest over your purpose.


TYPES OF TELESCOPES:

Modern Amateur telescopes are of three classes or segments!

Refractors are the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when they try to project the image of a scope. They gather light with an objective lens at one end and focus the light at the eyepiece at the other end. These had almost become extinct at one point but due to development in modern glass elements and optics refractors are back in prominence.

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Advantages:  Potential for best images, no obstruction in light path.

Disadvantages: Some secondary color often mentioned as “chromatic aberration” makes it’s way into most of these refactor scopes but for a few best units that are available.

 

 

 


Newtonian Reflector, invented by Sir Isaac Newton uses a parabolic mirror at the end of the tube and focuses the light back at the front of the tube. This is where the eye piece sits and there’s a secondary mirror in the light path which helps deflect the light.

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Celestron omni XLT 150 newtonian reflector telescope

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Advantages: Cheapest of the lot in terms of design. more portable as compared to high aperture Refractors and complete absence of “Chromatic aberrations”.

Disadvantages: Secondary obstruction results in a loss of contrast and these scopes require timely Collimation (alignment of optics).

 

 

 


The Schmidt-Cassegrain and it’s derivatives (Maksutov-Cassegrain, Schmidt-Newtonian etc) use BOTH mirrors and lenses to fold the optical path onto itself. This results in a very compact tube setup. These are also referred to as SCT. So basically these scopes are a combination of the Refractor and the Newtonian Reflector while keeping the scope very compact.

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Clestron nexstar Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope
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Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope

Advantages: Most compact of the three designs. less expensive compared to refractors, a good offering on aftermarket accessories and can be used with a computer driven setup.

Disadvantages: More expensive compared to reflectors and potentially lesser quality imaging (not that they are bad).  These are more prone to fogging up in dew conditions.

 

 

 

 


So which one should you spend your hard earned money on?

The answer is a “DEPENDS”. On what? Well, observing habits and ability to spend. Earlier this was an easy choice with the obvious choice being a Refractor from a Store. The Reflector ruled the amateur astronomy scene until late 70’s. Then astronomers opted getting a Schmidt-Cassegrain setup for it’s slight advantage over the other two. Now since the refractors have been brought back from the dead thanks to ED and Fluorite( Advanced Optics I mentioned). These three are famous with their circles appealing to Amateur astronomers in their own ways.

Wait! So are you ready to get out and get a scope? Well I’d love to say Yes! Sadly, there are a few more things to consider before you get out in all glory and think nothing stands between your scope and the night skies. One important thing here is the type of mounts you need! Well now you understand why I said it can be quite Intimidating and how a bino can serve your purpose with more simplicity?

Patience is a virtue they say, is true in case of Telescope shopping. Unless you know what you want inside out there is no point ending up getting a telescope and break your head with it’s non usability. Please don’t go to a local store and get a telescope or order the ones from the likes of flipkart and amazon offering “ Great Scopes” for sub 10-15 Grands. They will just leave you disappointed.