What is the best telescope for you? That’s a difficult question to answer because everyone’s situation is different. There’s two questions you should ask yourself. First, how much do you want to pay? Your budget will certainly bring some focus into the options available to you. The best telescope for someone with a $500 budget is not the best for someone else who wants to pay $5000. Price range of telescopes alone vary immensly. You can get a telescope for $60 or you can pay as much as $40,000. The second question to ask yourself is: what will I use the telescope for? Certain telescopes are not great for astrophotography while others are difficult to transport. Think about what you want to do. Below, you’ll find key areas which may be of interest to you, with some recomendations and options for various budgets.
Beware of “trash scopes”. These are the telescopes found in large department stores. They are typically given and received as gifts for someone’s first telescope. Telescopes for sale in department stores are a complete waste of money because of poor construction, cheap plastics and materials. You can usually spot a trash scope just by the way it’s advertised. When the advertisements focus on pretty pictures and on magnification capacity, that’s a huge red flag. Telescope magnification is actually not that important in the overall picture. Additionally, magnification range/capability is NOT determined by the telescope alone, but with the actual eyepieces used with your telescope. There’s more info on telescope power here. These ads are designed to make you think magnification is important because that’s the first question that uneducated telescope users will ask.
An example telescope advertisement could be: This $200 telescope offers 600X magnification! For just $50 more, the next model offers an additional 650X magnification, and for only $325, you’ll get the 800x magnification capable telescope!
The reality is this: most backyard astronomers use magnification ranges from 30X to 250X for 95% of their viewing. Magnification is NOT a significant factor to consider when you purchase an orion telescope. What is most important is “aperture”, the size of the telescope opening. The bigger the better.
Buying your First Telescope
If this is your first telescope, I encourage you to limit your budget. The reality is that astronomy is not for everyone. It requires patience, it requires flexibility in schedules, and you may not like it. Instead of spending $2000 on gear you won’t use in three months, why not look for a good beginer scope in the $300-$600 range?
A 6″ or 8″ Dobsonian mounted Newtonian Reflector telescope is the ideal telescope for beginers. It grant you years of exploring the night sky, allows you to learn the basics of astronomy while beind able to look at a wide range of celestial objects including the moon, the planets, stars, double stars, galaxies, nebulas and other fascinating things. Additionally, if you find that you do enjoy astronomy, you can upgrade your equipment by purchasing additional eyepieces, a barlow lens and other telescope accessories.
The Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian reflector telescope is an ideal choice for beginers looking to learn about astronomy. This 8″ newtonian telescope is very versatile. You’ll get a great look at the moon and planets as well as stars, double stars, star cluster, nebulas and galaxies. This type telescope is extremely popular and provides the best value for your money. It will provide you with years of stargazing enjoyement. Best of all, you can one with some accessories included for just under $330!
If your budget allows it, we do encourage you to consider the Orion SkyQuest XT8i Computerized IntelliScope Telescope. The XT8i telescope will save you a lot of time as it comes with a database preloaded with 14,000 objects to view in the sky. Just enter the code and follow the directional arrows displayed on the hand controller by moving the telescope until the object is right in the eyepiece field of view. This is not a full “GoTo” scope in the sense that it is not motorized and will not position itself automatically. However, it will tell you exactly how you can manually position it to spot the object you keyed in. You’ll pay about $200 extra, but it is well worth the money. The motorized GoTo version, the Orion XT8g Telescope, is also available, but now you’re in the $850 price range.
A nice addition to this telescope would be the following accessories:
NightWatch Book, 4th Edition
1.25″ 2x Orion Shorty Barlow Lens
7-21mm Orion Explorer II Zoom Eyepiece
The Nightwatch book is a must for anyone new to astronomy. The Zoom eyepiece is the inexpensive way to get a wide range of magnification. When used on the XT8 telescope, this single eyepiece provides magnification ranges of 57X to 171X. Adding the 2X barlow doubles the magnification and will give you a range from 57X to 342X. These are of course inexpensive telescope accessories, but this is how you get the best bang for your buck, especially when you start out.
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