Our telescope buyers guide will walk you through everything you need to know about purchasing a telescope and provide recommendations for the best telescopes for beginners.
Is it you or is it your little one developing the love of stargazing? Whoever it is, we have you covered. We will explain you all you need to know to See Clearly when viewing Other Earths!
First and the foremost thing to understand is not to rush to buy a telescope as soon as you realize you need some equipment for viewing Other Earths. Buying a telescope requires a basic understanding and knowledge of how telescopes work and what you need to consider before you make your first purchase.
That's right, we recommend starting out with a pair of high powered binoculars. While this seems contrary to what you may think, it's advised by astronomy experts. This is because there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using a high powered telescope. This learning curve can be overcome best with a pair of binoculars, Additionally, binoculars are more affordable than a decent telescope.
Here are a few recommended binoculars that will allow for a great transition into a hobby of star gazing.
Now that you have had a good crash course of viewing outer space with your binoculars, now it's time to acquire a suitable telescope.
Telescopes function by gathering the light at a single point, this help you look at the distant faint objects clearly compared to when you look at them with the naked eye. The mirrors and lenses in the telescope gather the light and focus it at a single point called the objective. The larger the diameter of the lens or mirror, the larger the image will appear.
Download a complete PDF of how telescopes work by the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
There are three different types of the telescopes and all vary on the types of lenses, mirrors or the combination they use to make the image. We will discuss these three types briefly in here.
This is the most basic type of the telescope and is the one most commonly used as well. it makes use of a tube and two lenses. The light enters in the tube from one lens called the objective, travels all the way to the lens at the other end of the tube and falls back at the point of focus, enlarging the image and making it clearer and crisper for you to look at. Our favorite refractor telescope is the Orion ED80T.
The reflector telescope is quite similar in structure to the refractor telescope with only the difference that it makes use of the mirrors in place of lenses. The light enters the tube from the one end and is reflected by the primary mirror and travels through the tube and falls at the secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then reflects the light to the eyepiece and you can see the image of the objects quite larger. This telescope is comparatively low in price than the reflector telescope. We have selected the Orion StarBlast as the top reflector telescope for the money.
The catadioptric telescopes are the ones that act as the hybrid between the refractor and reflector telescopes as they make use of both the lenses and mirrors to create the image. They are often called the compound telescopes as well. The catadioptric telescopes work as the light enters the tube from a correcting mirror so that the aberrations could be minimized. The light then falls on the primary mirror that reflects it and the reflected light fall on the secondary mirror, the secondary mirror is mounted on a corrective lens. The light is again reflected from here at the primary lens from where it comes out to the eyepiece. Since these telescopes make use of both the lens and mirrors, so they are the best all purpose telescopes. The Celston NexStar is our top pick for the best catadioptic (compound) telescope.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR – TERMINOLOGY TO KNOW
Now that you have learnt about the three types of the telescopes, you must also understand the basic terminology used to describe a telescope so you can make the decision to purchase the best telescope an not waste your money.
Aperture of a telescope is the most important thing to consider when you are out to buy the telescope. The aperture of the telescope refers to the diameter of the lens or the mirror that is used to create the image. The larger the aperture, the more you will be able to see. The larger telescopes gather more light and hence the visibility of the celestial objects increases.
Focal length is not something as important as aperture but it is important to magnify your image. The focal length is the distance from the focal point to the lens or mirror of the object. The larger the focal length, the larger will be the object that you will see. So make sure to check the focal length as well but when you cannot decide on either, go for the larger aperture.
As the name implies, magnification refers to the amount to which the mage will be enlarged. The magnification is determined by adding the focal length of the telescope and the focal length of the eyepiece. To start stargazing, use the eyepiece given with the telescope, later for better gazing you can switch to an upgraded one.
The computer control is an added functionality that is not a must for all the telescopes. However, it can be a very interesting thing to have in the telescope for the kids who are over 6 years in age. The computer control helps you look at the celestial bodies and the moving ones as well. it tracks the highlights and interesting objects in the space and directs the telescope on to them. The computer control is an amazing thing for studying the skies.
REVIEW OF THE MOST AFFORDABLE TELESCOPES – OUR VALUE PICKS
Enough of the technical stuff. Here are our top recommendations based on design, simplicity, quality, and affordability.
Voted the best telescope for kids
With the 4.5"-aperture, wide field optics, decorated body in bright colors with famous celestial objects, a compact body and a sturdy base that helps the fine telescope turn up, down, left and right easily is our top pick for the kids. This telescope has been designed specifically for the amateur gazers and works perfectly well for the whole family.
Rated the best smart telescope
Standing second in our list is this telescope that operates with the smart devices, so it excites the young gazers a lot. You can easily and happily control the telescope with the integrated WiFi system that connects well with any smart devices such as iPhone, iPad and android devices via the free Celestron Sky Portal app. It comes with 2 x 1.25” eyepieces, and several other accessories such as star pointer and finder that make the sky exploring experience much more fun.
Rated the best computerized telescope of 2017
Look at the amazing specs of this telescope and decide for yourself whether or not you want it for your little explorer. With a compact body, aperture of 130mm,focal ratio of 5, focal length of 650mm; compatibility with 2 inch eyepieces and several amazing features, this telescope stands third in our list of the most desirable telescopes for kids and beginners of astronomy.
Rated the best value telescope for the money
This telescope is an amazing option not only for the amateur stargazers but also for those who are experts of this field. With a clever tabletop reflector and push-to IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator, this telescope enables you to look and observe around 14,000 celestial objects without fail. The 6 inch aperture helps you look at the moon and other bright objects as clear as the fingers of your hands. The telescope is light in weight, is very compact and portable so you can take it along easily on your camping tour or some other adventure.
Rated the best value telescope for the money
One of the most fascinating thing about this telescope is that it is very affordable compared to the others but the functionality and the features are quite match able to the others. This is a rough and tough Dobsonian telescope that can live a long life adventure to the whole family. The 8" diameter reflector optics and a very firm base helps you enjoy star gazing for hours to come.
All in all, it's best to stay away from the cheap telescopes. Phil Plait said it best when he said,
a cheap telescope is a "sure-fire way to grind someone's enthusiasm into the ground.
If you must find a "budget buy" (telescopes cheaper than any of the ones on this list) go with a good pair of binoculars. You'll be much happier all the way around.
To conclude, we would like to summarize the things you need to know before you buy a telescope for a newbie. First, get a good pair of binoculars to start your exploration of the sky. Next, understand which of the three types of the telescopes suits your needs best. Then check the four major factors from the focal length, aperture, and magnification and computer control to decide which is best. The video below provides a more in-depth overview.