Now is as great time as any to shop for a telescope. I myself took advantage of the way manufacturers of quality telescopes have tried to outdo each other with their various products. The buying process was both fun and challenging, but I did my homework sufficiently to know I got a top-of-the-line instrument and nothing less.
It has become an exciting time for novice astronomers because of the many choices of telescopes and accessories. However, to ensure I was getting a device that would fit my needs, I first needed to determine what was important to me.
This meant knowing how dark the skies could become at night where I live, or what celestial objects I would be predominantly observing up close. Since I am not yet an expert, I also took that under consideration, so I wouldn’t be getting an overly complicated tool that would probably only end up in the closet than on the lawn.
I wanted something light but not overly so to prevent the instrument from toppling over with the slightest accidental bump. After I had gotten familiar with what the market had to offer, the buying process became somewhat easier.
I had read that a telescope’s aperture is its most vital specification. The aperture denotes the diameter of the scope’s primary optical element, which can be a mirror or a lens. The dimension of this element is an indication of the instrument’s ability to collect light for viewing a faraway object.
The resolving power of the scope depends on the aperture too. I decided early in the day that it was critical to know as much as possible about the aperture of a scope if I was to optimize night sky viewing. A bigger aperture is always better than a small one. A 3-inch scope may not be able to let me distinguish the craters of the Moon in a manner that a 6-inch scope can.
Of course, this is under the same conditions and using identical magnification. With the surface area of a 6-inch scope being four times larger than that of a scope that is half smaller, the bigger aperture scope is more capable of gathering four times as much light to make the galaxy look four times more brilliant, or 1.5 magnitudes brighter.
I knew beforehand I should not be fooled by the seemingly stupendous magnification of some devices on the market. Magnification varies according to the eyepiece I use on the eye end of the scope, so that element is not constant, to say the least especially if you are looking to buy the best telescope for a beginner.
Of course, there was also a need to factor in aperture as well as the conditions of the atmosphere when assessing the magnification. What was more important was to know how much detail is delivered by the lens or mirror of the scope to enable me to find the optimal magnification to support the viewing of that much detail. This is without scattering the target’s available light.
This is something I didn’t need because it would render the object too dim to see or too blurry. To enable me to look at nebulae, galaxies and other faint objects, I should use low power objectives. Medium-high power objectives are ideal for observing bright objects such as the Moon and planets.
Excess magnification will only cause blurry views. To find the top useful magnification, I just needed to figure out the aperture of the scope in inches multiplied by 50, which would be the same as twice the aperture in millimeters.
This means a high-quality 4-inch scope cannot be pushed beyond around 200x. I got a small device with good optics that enables me to view the rings of Saturn or the main cloud belts of Jupiter, which can be seen even with just a magnification of 75x.
I steered clear of department store scopes that promised silly things like 700x power or something to that effect, as it would all simply be hype.
That’s how I got my beautiful telescope.