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Fun Fact with Angus Burns: What to consider when purchasing a telescope

If you decide on a telescope, consider the aperture of the scope, as this will determine its light-gathering capabilities.

A number of readers have contacted me for advice on purchasing a telescope for themselves or their children.

As we head into the colder winter months, the skies will become clearer, and I am sure many more queries will come my way, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on what to consider when purchasing a telescope:

  • Portability is best; the telescope that is used the most is the one that will be most enjoyed. In this regard, buying a massive telescope for a beginner simply doesn’t make sense. Rather, consider a good pair of binoculars as a starting point (preferably with a stand), and if interest is peaked, then move onto a portable telescope as the next natural progression.
  • If you decide on a telescope, consider the aperture of the scope, as this will determine its light-gathering capabilities. The wider the aperture, the more light will get into the scope and arrive at the eyepiece. A 3–4-iinch aperture telescope is a good start for a beginner, and if budget allows, a 6–8-iinch scope is even better.
  • Consider quality optics and parts; the better the make and quality of the scope, the more it will be enjoyed because it will reveal more to the observer (and will last a lifetime if properly cared for). Cheap telescopes generally deliver “cheap” results. It makes more sense to invest in well-known brands than an unknown brand with poor quality parts.
  • A good-quality mount is just as important as the optics; there are some excellent manually controlled mounts from reputable manufacturers that are sturdy, accurate, and durable.
  • If budget allows, consider purchasing a computerized “goto” telescope; this will make teaching a beginner about the universe really easy and hopefully inspire an even greater interest in the future.
  • If your long-term goal is to photograph planets, our moon, and/or deep-sky objects, you will need to budget substantially more to pursue this interest, but as a starting point, follow the advice I have given as an introduction to the wonders above. I hope this provides adequate guidance for future astronomers and wish you clear, night-time skies and loads of inspiration as we head into winter!

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