Knowing what to look for in a telescope can be quite difficult, especially if you’re new to the field. At first, you might assume that any telescope can show you the deep space, but once you’re hit with the fact that there are strong and weak telescopes, the rosy world-view shatters and the anxiety creeps in. What if you buy a useless piece that barely shows you the details of the moon? This article is here to put an end to all of that.
Here is all that you could ever want to know about buying a quality telescope.
The aperture of a telescope stands for the width (diameter) of its lens or its mirror, depending on whether the telescope is a refractor or a reflector. It matters because the wider those components are, the more light they’re able to gather and direct towards your eye, and the better vision they offer. While an amateur might tell you to focus on the magnifying power of a telescope, such is much less important than a telescope’s light-gathering ability. Without enough light to support a clear view of far-away objects, no amount of magnification can help you.
If you’ve paid attention during physics class, when the teacher was talking about lenses, you’d know that the focal length is the distance between the lens and the point where the image comes into focus. If you divide that length by the aperture of a lens, you’ll get to the focal ratio (f/number) which tells you how powerful your scope is when it comes to magnification. The higher your number is, the better your scope is at bringing faraway objects closer. However, if you’re intending to use your telescope for wide views, a smaller f/number would serve you best.
There are three main types of telescopes with the main difference being in how they work. First, there are refractor scopes that collect light through a lens at the end of the telescope, and they are known for providing a high-quality image. Second, some reflectors collect light using a mirror at the bottom end of the telescope, and according to the current telescope reviews, they are cheaper than the refractor scopes which makes them perfect for a newbie. The last type is a compound design that combines both optic systems. It contains a lens and mirrors which makes it lighter than a reflector with an image-quality close to that of a refractor scope, it’s the best of both worlds.
Any telescope comes with one eyepiece, but as you get more involved in the hobby, you’re going to want to have control over what you see. See, each piece comes with a set focal length which controls how many details you see in your frame and the width of your view. If you observe the moon with an eyepiece that has a short focal length, you will see the details of its surface, but you might not be able to see the whole moon all at once. On the other hand, a longer focal length can show you a nebula or a star cluster as a whole instead of limiting you to an up-close view of the object.
It’s quite difficult to get an object right in the center of your lens just by staring into the telescope itself. Even if you can see the object, a high magnification can throw you off. A finder is a little scope that’s attached to the top of your telescope, and it helps you coordinate between what you’re seeing with your naked eye and the telescope. A red-dot finder does that by shining red light, much like a sniper’s laser, to help you aim and focus on your desired stellar targets.
While underrated, a good mount is a critical component when it comes to purchasing a telescope. There are three types of mounts to consider and none of them includes a standard photography tripod. The first is the altazimuth mount which allows a telescope to move along the vertical and horizontal axes. The second, and deemed much better, is the equatorial mount as it can move in a singular axis to track the movement of a star or an object across the sky. The third, and most impressive, is the motorized equatorial mount. As the name suggests, it’s fitted with a motor, but not just that, the motor is sometimes connected to a computer that can be used to point your telescope towards your desired object for you at the click of a button.
Having read all of the above, you must be aching to browse the shops, online or on-land. Before you go, remember that people can’t help being subjective. While a salesperson might pitch you a product they think is good while turning you off from another, they’re only doing so based on their personal opinions. Ultimately, what you need matters the most so, make sure you communicate your exact needs to your salesperson. Last but not least, be sure to take your time and ask as many questions as you want, a telescope is an investment that’s worth the hassle.