Read these 8 Novice Telescope Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Space-Astronomy tips and hundreds of other topics.
A telescope mount steadies the telescope, and helps it to track celestial bodies across the night sky. Mounts come in many different versions: alt-az, equitorial, GOTO, and motorized. Alt-AZ mounts are the simplest, and they are often found on cheaper and beginner telescopes. The alt-az mount is totally manual, requiring you to find and track objects by hand. The equitorial mount is also manual, but it makes tracking objects very easy, because the movement of the mount is designed to follow the curved paths of celestial bodies. GOTO mounts give you tracking information for celestial bodies, telling you where to move the mount. Motorized mounts automatically track objects by moving the telescope. GOTO motorized mounts will automatically track and find objects for you.
GPS guidance systems can add a lot to the price tag of a telescope. However, a GPS system is only necessary in certain situations. A telescope equipped with GPS will use the guidance system to perfectly calibrate the telescope's automatic computer location and tracking functions. This is most useful for professionals who need incredibly accurrate guidance information and for any telescope user who frequently transports their telescope to many different locations. If you are a first time buyer, then a GPS system is unnecessary, unless you plan on taking your telescope to many different viewing sites.
Strangely some of the most expensive telescopes are actually the easiest ones to use. Take for example the Meade LX 200 8 inch telescope that retails for just over $2000. This telescope can be set up and have several planets in view within a few hours. The trick is that this telescope has a GPS system and the user does not have to do anything buy soak in all the great views and choose which one to see next based on a inputs to the hand controller. The problem is that most beginners do not want to spend $2000 on their first telescope. As a beginner, you'll have to determine your needs and tailor your buying choices to them. Selecting a manual telescope that is cheaper but slightly harder to use may be your best bet.
There are several components that you need to look at when you are buying your first telescope. You need to be sure of what kind of use you will get out of the telescope -- do you want to take photos? Do you want to look at the sun? Do you want to gaze from a single spot, or do you want to be able to transport your telescope to other locations? You should take some time and research several brands of telescopes -- go to a local telescope retailer and read reviews online. It also helps to set a budget for yourself, it will keep you from overspending, and help to narrow down your choices. Once you determine your budget and needs, focus on researching telescopes that fit in to those categories.
It's a good idea to set a budget for yourself when you're buying your first telescope. This will help to keep you from overspending, and allow you to narrow down your options. As a rule, beginner telescopes tend to cost less than $300, and vast majority of them cost less than $200. If someone quotes you higher prices than this, chances are they are trying to sell you a telescope that is too complex for your needs. With the proper amount of research, you can even find telescopes below $100. Manufacturers such as Meade offer factory stores that sell older models at great discount.
First things first, remember that as a novice, the higher the magnification of the telescope that you buy, often the harder it will be to use. Most observing is done at around 200 power magnification, and to do reasonable observing you don't need to buy a telescope that provides much more than 350 power magnification. Now, often small telescopes will advertise extreme levels of magnification. This comes primarily from the telescope's eyepiece, which can also have a magnification rating, which drives up the telescope's overall magnification rate. Remember, a small telescope will probably not be able to collect enough light to utilize these large amounts of magnification -- if you're looking for something with 500 power or above, make sure you look at larger telescopes.
The field which combines photography with telescopes is called astrophotography. Properly equipped, an astrophotographer can take beautiful photos of celestial bodies. Even amateur telescope enthusiasts can create beautiful astrophotography using digital cameras. When taking pictures of celestial bodies, the camera shutter must remain open for a long period of time -- since celestial bodies are constantly moving, the telescope and camera must move with the body in order to create an accurrate picture. In order to accomplish this, you will need a telescope with a computerized mount -- one which can hone in on a celestial body and track it as it moves. Additionally, you will need a mounting device for a camera -- these can be easily purchased from your telescope's manufacturer.
Telescopes break down in to two main types: reflector telescopes and refractor telescopes. The two differ in the way they focus light in order to form an image -- refractors use lenses to focus light in to the eyepiece, and reflectors use a set of mirrors to project an image in to the eyepiece. There are additional types of telescopes that combine the technologies of the two. The Schmidt-Newtonian telescope focuses light with a lense before sending it on to a mirror, allowing it to be shorter than many reflector telecsopes. Schmidt Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes also use a corrector lens in conjunction with mirrors to produce a sharper image in an overall smaller telescope.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|