Beginners Guide to Telescopes
Telescopes: There are many different types of Beginners Telescope available. For the Beginner, selecting one can be a bewildering experience. Before buying a Telescope it is important to ask yourself; What do you want to do with your Telescope? How much can the person buying it afford to pay?
Not all Beginners telescopes are the same or give the same results.
Many amateur astronomers have two or more different telescopes. Each telescope specific for different types of observing. However, there are some which offer a good compromise and most objects can be seen through them.
Once you have decided on the telescope’s main purpose, choosing a beginners one can become much easier. With the exception of the Moon, planets and stars, night sky objects are faint! In fact most will only appear as points of light. As a beginner, you may be mainly interested in viewing bright objects such as the Moon and planets. If this is the case, a beginners telescope with a small objective (primary mirror or lens) will be sufficient.
Most beginners quickly graduate to galaxies and other faint objects. Therefore, you will require a telescope with the largest aperture possible.
Below are the 3 main types of Beginners telescope worth considering:
Newtonian Reflector Telescopes
Newtonian reflector telescopes are a popular choice for beginners due to being good all rounders. Observations of faint deep sky objects such as Galaxies and Nebulae, can be achieved at a relatively reasonable cost. Reflectors usually have mirror diameters of 150 to 200mm (6 to 8 inches). More Info
Refractor telescopes are good for achieving high power and contrast when viewing bight objects. Such as planets and the moon. They have a reputation of providing crisp, sharp-quality views. Since they are virtually maintenance free, they are easy to operate. However, due to high costs for the large aperture scopes, most Beginners will choose a Newtonian reflector. Short-tube refractors are another low-cost option for beginners. Their smaller size makes them an excellent choice for a portable or beginners telescope. They provide beautiful wide-field star vistas which are great for beginners learning their way around the night sky. More Info
Dobsonian Telescopes are one of the best beginners choices for a general telescope! They have many advantages including simplicity, economy and large light gathering ability. Dobsonians are actually large Newtonian telescopes on a simple manual Alt/ Az (Up, down, side to side) mount. Due to the mount and optical tube assembly being so simple, Dobsonian telescopes are the most user-friendly for beginners. Dobsonian’s are also the most economical on a cost per inch basis. This enables massive apertures being made affordable, bringing fainter objects within the grasp of beginners and seasoned astronomer alike. These telescopes have massive mirror diameters from 150mm to 400mm(6 to 16 inches) or much larger. More Info
Another consideration when choosing a beginners telescope is the mount. The part the optical tube assembly sits on. Usually a tripod with a head containing manual or motorised controls. These either manually or automatically point the telescope and track an object observed.
The three main types of mount are:
Equatorial – Usually found paired with most beginners and advanced telescopes apart from Dobsonians. These mounts enable the telescope to follow the rotation of the sky. They can also be used in a basic manual mode. Manually moved by hand in the Altitude (up/down) and Azimuth (left/right) axis. This is good for beginners or ad-hoc observers. Many higher end mounts have computers and GoTo systems incorporated which are above all essential for astrophotography.
Manual Alt/ Az Mounts
Hand operated Manual Alt/ Az (Altitude/ Azimuth) – Usually found on very cheap beginners, small telescopes, Dobsonian telescopes, binocular mounts and photographic tripods. Simple and easy to use, however they do not track objects across the sky.
GoTo or Computerised Mounts
GoTo or Computerised – Found on many mid to high range telescopes of all sizes. Extremely popular with astrophotographers and imagers.
Unfortunately many beginners are drawn to the sexy marketing of scopes that are computerised and this can be an expensive mistake.
Personally, I believe it better to use manually guided telescopes for beginners starting out. Many beginners jump in straight away with computerised ones and can actually struggle with them. Personally, I would recommend large optics for visual observing and a solid manual mount. It is much better to concentrate on good optics and a solid mount rather than waste lots of money on often complicated and unnecessary electronics. GoTo really is only suitable for those wanting to do a lot of astro imaging. Or can afford many hundreds or thousands of pounds for a good telescope; this is not for the beginner. For more info on mounts and GoTo Systems see the Beginners Guide to GoTo
Hopefully, this guide has given you more insight into the complicated world of beginners telescopes. It should enable you to make a better decision when buying your new telescope. If you have found this guide helpful, please visit Beginners Telescopes – The Best Telescope Guide and Review for a more in depth guide with the best telescopes reviewed.
Your new telescope should be one that you can enjoy and get the most out of for many years.