Choosing Your First Telescope

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Choosing Your First Telescope<br />By Joshua Roth<br /><br />Sky & Telescope<br /><br />So you've decided to take the plunge and get a telescope. Congratulations! That alone is a big step. But what comes next? Not an impulsive shopping trip to the nearest mall! Buying a telescope is very different than buying a television, and department-store salespeople rarely understand what amateur astronomers need. <br /><br />Rule Number One: shun the flimsy, semi-toy, "500 power!" department-store scopes that may have caught your eye. The telescope you want has two essentials: high-quality optics and a steady, smoothly working mount. You may also want the telescope to be nice and large, but don't forget portability and convenience. Your first telescope shouldn't be so awkward heavy that you can't tote it outdoors, set it up, and take it down reasonably easily. <br /><br />Those are the basics. But to choose a telescope that meets your needs, you need to ask some questions — of yourself, of other amateur astronomers, and finally, of the people who make and sell telescopes for a living. <br /><br />Aperture: A Telescope's Heart <br /><br />All astronomical telescopes, large or small, are designed to do two things: to brighten and magnify your views of celestial objects. Refractors, reflectors, and compound (catadioptric) telescopes do this in different ways, each with its benefits and drawbacks. <br /><br />Whatever the telescope, its most important spec is its aperture: the diameter of its main, light-gathering lens or mirror. (This lens or mirror is called the telescope's objective.) The bigger the aperture, the sharper and brighter the view will be. <br /><br />Therefore, a bigger aperture allows you to use more magnification. You can actually make any telescope provide any magnification at all (just by changing eyepieces), but without large aperture, high magnification is worthless — it just shows a blurry, dim mess. A telescope that can only be pushed to 50x (50 times magnification) be <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="1" color="#3366ff">www.siriuslookers.org</font> </div>
 
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