The choice of a telescope for a beginner can be tricky. If you check the market, you come across various telescopes of distinct types, sizes, and prices. So the obvious question is which one to choose. Stick to the tips below as a guide for buying a telescope. This is a must-have handbook for beginners, and it consists of following steps.
Telescope choice criteria
- Cost – How much money are you willing to pay? If you are not sure how often you will use it, or for how long, perhaps, the cost is a parameter you definitely consider.
- Diameter (Aperture) – If you exclude budget, diameter of the telescope is the most important thing. It is simple, the bigger the diameter, the better the view. A bigger telescope collects more light, so the quality of your observations improve.
- Physical size – The physical size is also an important parameter. You may buy a big telescope, but note that portability may become an issue.
- Age – Is the telescope for you, or for your children? Children may lose their interest, rather quickly and depending on their age, they may not be able to carry and move a big telescope.
So, if you are thinking of buying a telescope, ask yourself these four questions. It will really help you and your wallet. Below I review two telescopes for beginners as examples, and I hope that you find it helpful in purchasing your own telescope.
Telescope 1. Orion Observer 70mm II AZ Refractor
Size and weight
The telescope has a diameter (aperture) of 70 mm (2.5 inches) and a length of 700 mm. It has a weight of 0.7 kg, and it is made of aluminum. An aluminum adjustable tripod (with an accessory tray) is included, together with the telescope mount, and a counter-weight to balance the telescope. The total weight is 5.0 kg, which makes it easy to carry and handle.
This is a complete package, and it comes with two 1.25 inches Kellner eyepieces. The first is a 25mm (gives 28 times magnification) and a 10mm (gives 70 times magnification). Additional accessories include a red-dot sight, 1.25 inches rack and pinion focuser, and a 90-degree star diagonal.
Finally, in the package the Orion Moon map 260 is included. The latter has detailed maps of the Moon with information about craters, mountains, valleys, and “seas”, together with information about the landing spots of the Apollo missions.
The only thing you need is to find a location, to begin your stargazing sessions. It is ideal to observe the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and his rings, various star clusters, and nebulae.
- Easy to carry
- Fully equipped
- No maintenance
- Good for beginners
- You can use it at daytime for terrestrial observations
- Not good to observe very distant objects like galaxies
- Not suitable for astrophotography
The telescope costs £79.99, and buyers at Amazon.co.uk rated it at 4.4 out 5. Perhaps, one of the best low budgets choices and for this reason my rating is at 4.5 out 5.
Telescope 2. Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector
Size and weight
The telescope has an aperture of 114 mm (4.5”) and comes at a length of 450 mm, making it a very portable telescope. The tube of the telescope is made of steel, and it weighs 1.8 kg. The aluminum mount (5.4 kg) guarantees that the telescope is easy to operate, and combining this with the quality of the mirror, you will enjoy your stargazing sessions. It includes a tray for eyepiece storage, which is convenient during an observing session. A 2.2 kg counterweight is used to balance the telescope, which assists you when you want to move the telescope towards a target. The total weight is 9.4 Kg, which is still within the limit of being easily portable.
The two 25mm and 10mm Sirius Plossl eyepieces give a magnification of 18 and 45 times, respectively. The Orion EZ Finder II reflex sight helps you point the telescope anywhere in the night sky, and the 1,25″ Rack-and-pinion focuser assures that you get a clear view of your target. Finally, with this Orion telescope, you will receive the Orion Moon map described above.
Its size guarantees that apart from Solar system targets, you can also observe star clusters, nebulae, and other galaxies.
- Good value for money
- Good for beginners
- No Barlow lens (this lens multiplies the magnifying capability of the telescope by a factor of two).
- The automated-tracking accessory for the telescope comes at an extra cost.
Orion’s Starblaster II costs £167.99 at amazon.co.uk, and users have given it a rating of 4.5 out of 5. My rating is at 4.5 out of 5, and I would suggest it to anyone above the age of 14.
Which telescope should I buy?
The comparison here looks like trying to compare apples and oranges, but since both are fruits, we can make an attempt. The Orion Observer II is a refractor, while Orion Starblast II a reflector.
Refractors produce sharp images, but design limitations do not allow the production of large-aperture telescopes.
Reflectors, although they are more complicated as a design, it is cheap to produce large telescopes with good optics.
Both have their pros and cons, so the choice should be based on one parameter, and this is age. Who will use it? The refractor is easy to operate, so it will help a young user to build up his/her confidence. If you are old enough to operate the reflector and you would like something more than the planets and the Moon, the reflector may suit you better.
Telescopes are an important tool for Astronomy, so purchasing one, is a great leap forward for transforming from an astronomer enthusiast, to an amateur. Both telescopes are superb choices for a beginner, so the ultimate choice is yours.
All the best