Over the last 12 years my role as planetarium director, astronomy educator, advisor to my high school astronomy club, and president of a local public astronomy club, has made me the target of a very common question. Which telescope should I buy?
" I almost always start by asking a number of questions."
Maybe you are new to the hobby and are reading this to help you answer this exact question, or maybe you are a skilled amateur astronomer and are asked this question yourself. The reality is, after asking this question, (especially when you ask on the various online forums) many beginners are quickly overwhelmed with reasons to buy or not to buy a specific telescope. Even worse, you just bought your first telescope, and you are so excited to post about it online only to have people tell you 100 reasons why you made a bad decision. In this blog post, I will do my best to provide some simple guidance on how I approach this question when I get it. I almost always start by asking a number of questions.
The type of telescope you purchase needs to take into account your particular use case. There are multiple types of telescope for this very reason, and there really is no "perfect telescope". Each telescope design has its strengths and weaknesses. However, there are certainly examples out there that are not worth getting. The classic issue around the holidays each year is the terribly made and notorious "department store telescopes" which are certainly one of these cases. I am all about being positive and solutions-based, so you are welcome to search elsewhere if you want to hear about how bad they are and why.
What type of astronomy do you want to do, visual or astrophotography?
More and more I am finding out that many beginners who are interested in the hobby today are interested in doing astrophotography.
Astrophotography, for those who are new to this term, is the use of a camera to take images of things in outer space. For many, it is one of the most rewarding types of astronomy that can be done from your backyard.
"More and more I am finding out that many beginners who are interested in the hobby today are interested in doing astrophotography."
For others, visual astronomy is the most rewarding, as your eyes are seeing the actual photons of light that have traveled hundreds, thousands, and even millions of years through space. Finally, that photon lands on your eye, impacts the photo-sensitive cells of your retina, is transferred into an electrical signal, is sent to your brain by the optic nerve, and processed by your brain as an image of the celestial object in its true form. Check out my recent blog post "Which is the best type of telescope for Visual Astronomy?" for more on this topic.
Whatever your choice here may be, the importance of the answer to this question cannot be understated. Making the wrong choice in telescope for astrophotography vs. visual is probably the most common mistake I am seeing today even after people get the "help" they need in making their first purchase.
"My hope is that through all of my failure I can help you not make the same mistakes as I have."
I am currently working on some upcoming blog posts that will go in-depth with how to make the right choices the first time. I have the experience (known as failures) to know what to do and not to do in amateur astronomy. My hope is that through all of my failure I can help you not make the same mistakes as I have.
I have some really amazing stuff coming your way soon, and am in the process of bringing my experience in both visual astronomy and Astrophotography to you in the future. I also hope to bring my passion for teaching the science of astronomy to the online world. Please consider subscribing to this blog at the bottom of your page.
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