Our universe is huge and there is so much we don’t know about what’s out there. If you’re interested in studying the night sky, you’ll need to invest in a quality telescope, and make sure to read about the best telescopes before you buy as there are so many types of telescopes for different needs. With a vast range of telescopes available to purchase, the prospect of making a big purchase can often be quite daunting. If you are an amateur hobbyist or an experience stargazer, these simple six things will help you make the right purchase and find a telescope that will last you a lifetime.
1. More magnification isn’t necessarily better
A telescope’s product description may boast “300X” power or more. Be wary of such claims as more magnification doesn’t necessarily correlate to a better image quality.Whilst a higher magnification may make an object appear larger, it also means that light gathered through the lens will be spread over a wider space resulting in a less clear image in the eyepiece. For a beginner, lower magnification might in fact provide a better stargazing experience particularly if you are interested in viewing clusters of stars which are more spread out.
2. Multiple eyepieces
Telescopes should come with several interchangeable eyepieces or ‘oculars’ of both high and low magnitude. As you will be looking at many different kinds of objects in the night sky, some close, some more distant, some clustered and some spread out, it is important to have a few eyepiece options as each will require a different magnitude. Larger eyepieces require less light and make it easier to locate dim objects and keep them in view. Smaller eyepieces provide a higher magnitude and are useful for viewing very bright, far away objects.
3. Know your terminology
There are two common types of telescopes: refractor and reflector. A refractor telescope utilises two different lenses, a large one at one end and a smaller one which the one you look through. A reflector uses a curved mirror at the bottom of the telescope to gather light. Make sure you know which telescope suits your needs.
4. The larger the aperture, the better the image quality
The size of your telescope’s aperture determines its power and affects how far and how clearly you will be able to see objects. The aperture size impacts the telescope’s ability to collect light. The larger the aperture, the more light the telescope can collect and the better quality the image you will see. If you want to see crystal clear objects, go for a larger aperture.
5. Consider the size and weight
Think about exactly how and when you will be using your telescope. Telescopes with larger focal ratios and high apertures can be extremely heavy to transport. If you will need to carry your telescope around with you then consider a smaller instrument which will be more portable and could fit in the trunk of your car.
6. Invest in a high quality mount
Whilst it might not be the most exciting component, the mount is by far the most important element of a good telescope. The mount is the stand that ensures the telescope remains steady whilst you are looking through it. It will be extremely difficult to keep anything in focus if your mount is shaking. A high quality mount will keep your telescope stable and secure against vibrations and wobbles so you can view remote objects with precision.