Choosing the Perfect Used Telescope — When you’re new to stargazing, a used telescope is the ideal place to start. Buying a second hand telescope offers you the opportunity to you try your had at what can, after all, be an expensive hobby, but without committing a huge amount of money.
Used telescopes offer great value for money for both the novice and more advanced astronomer alike, allowing you to get your hands on the top brands and high spec models without being lumbered with an off the shelf pricetag. Second hand telescopes cost a fraction of their retail price.
Just as a new car loses value the minute it leaves the garage forecourt, new telescopes diminish in value from purchase. There is therefore great scope to snap up a bargain, with many examples at rock bottom prices and in as new condition, barely having been out of the box.
With most purchases, our primary consideration is usually our budget. With a telescope, however, you should consider exactly what you want a telescope for. If you live by the ocean and have a passing interest in maritime vessels, or if you live in the countryside and are keen on nature, you will be able to get away with a much lower spec model than if you’re interested in astronomy.
Beware the limitations of the low spec model, which may drastically reduce the usability of your telescope and ultimately spoil your enjoyment of your new hobby. The last thing you’ll want is to realise your telescope isn’t fit for purpose and six months down the line, and find yourself abandoning it and leaving it to just gather dust.
So far as lounge ornaments are concerned, a modern telescope makes for a pretty expensive object d’art in itself, which may not be to everyone’s taste! Having said that, some of the brass vintage telescopes certainly are aesthetically pleasing, making a wonderful focal point to any classic drawing room or study. If in good condition, a vintage telescope makes a perfect spotting scope too.
So, for those keen on astronomy, which model makes the best starter scope? To the beginner, Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain may just seem like gobbledygook. A perfect starter’s used telescope is the Dobsonian. Most reflector telescopes are fairly straightforward to operate too. Orion, Meade and Celestron do a great range of beginner’s telescopes, and when you buy a second hand telescope you can find yourself a real bargain.
When browsing the used telescope listings it may seem tempting to plump for as high a spec as possible, sacrificing a quality brand name for bells and whistles. It always so much better to select a second hand telescope made by a reputable brand rather than be dazzled by the all singing, all dancing model, produced by an unknown manufacturer. Functionality is key.
Bells and whistles are great, for those who know how to operate them, but for a beginner he or she will probably find they get in the way and complicate everything, drastically reducing their enjoyment of their new hobby. The telescopes produced by wellknown brands are backed up by a wealth of experience, built up over decades, sometimes centuries.
These manufacturers put their all into producing top notch products, in stark contrast with the here today, gone tomorrow producers. They strive to attain and retain a loyal customer following, and their longevity reassures the customer that should they need add ons or replacement parts in the future, they won’t come up against a brick wall.
Those new to stargazing are often lured by the outlandish magnification claims made by some producers. Don’t be duped into thinking bigger is always better. A magnifying power of 75-100x will provide very impressive results for stargazing. 200x will offer amazing visuals, but only works well with a sky free from atmospheric haze and light pollution.
Instead of being dazzled by impossibly high magnification promises, the beginner should look at the diameter of the lens or mirror. This is the key feature to consider in selecting a telescope, and here big really does mean better, and in some cases, very expensive.
The Meade ETX range is a good one for the beginner to start out with. These telecopes are reasonably easy to understand and highly functional and are perfect for those who want to try their hand at stargazing without breaking the bank.
For those who want to do some serious stargazing, you’ll be looking for a high spec refractor or Schmidt-Cassegrain, though as we’ve established, it’s best not to go jumping in with both feet and buying a telescope that’s so complicated it’ll have you tearing your hair out after the first hour.
This is where it’s helpful to have a friend interested in the hobby to teach you. There are numerous clubs and associations you can join – why not see what’s going on in your area? You’ll find thousands of online astronomy forums.
Buying a telescope for the first time can be quite intimidating. There are hundreds if not thousands of products to choose from, and distinguishing what you need from what you don’t can be challenging. However, doing the research is well worth it; a good telescope can offer satisfaction for a lifetime, while a bad one can cause frustration after only a few minutes.
There are three major types of telescopes: reflecting, refracting and hybrids. Reflecting and refracting are by far the most common types, but hybrid telescopes are also frequently used. I will go into the details of each in the second part of the article.
Each telescope is defined by three attributes, the ability to gather light, resolution power and magnification. Most cheap telescopes advertise super high magnification, DO NOT fall for this. Of the three attributes magnification is the least important and without proper light gather and resolution power, high magnification will ruin the view.
The most important aspect of the telescope is its light gathering power.
This is based off of how large around the telescopes mirror or lens is; it is referred to as aperture. Aperture dictates how much of the night sky you will be able to see, a high aperture means very faint objects will be visible, while a low one means they won’t.
Resolving power is the ability to see small dots instead of a blurry smudge, it is also based off of aperture, the higher the aperture, the higher the resolving power. Finally, magnification is determined from the focal length of the telescope and the focal length of the eyepiece, the smaller the focal length of the eyepiece the higher the magnification and the larger the focal length of the telescope the larger the magnification.
Before you buy your first telescope you might want to consider getting a pair of nice binoculars instead. With a pair of good 10×50 binoculars you will be able to see a lot of the things you would with a telescope. Binoculars are also a lot easier to use, so if you are unfamiliar with the sky they are an excellent way to start learning about it, plus they are a lot cheaper than a telescope.
The view through binoculars can also be much more thrilling. Telescope views often look 2 dimensional while binoculars really pull the third dimension into the picture. However, even if you buy binoculars you will eventually want to view more distance objects and for that a telescope is the only option. To read about the different types of telescopes click the link below.
The historical background of the invention of and development of the telescope is more than adequate for me to take but there is little time to present it here, other than to reference of course the inventor Hans Lipperly, and certainly the earliest developer Galileo Galilei.
It must be stated here thought that arguments aside as to invention and development of this marvelous instrument, it is but one of many areas of science, and it is this science subject matter that must be considered at this point. There are so many science subjects important in our daily lives that do not necessarily make it to early classrooms as Astronomy does. What then gives the stars and star gazing a level of popularity that goes beyond the other sciences available in pre-college classrooms.
Well, as Stephen Colbert might say, “It’s time for truthiness.” But, for me it would have to my kind. Now, logically, most folks would look to the Soviet-U.S. space race that did this, but (and since this is my writing) my “truthiness” gives the credit from a time and characterization before the fifties and the cosmonauts and astronauts.
It had to have been Robert Louis Stephenson and his character, the cook aboard the Hispaniola, Long John Silver headed for the Caribbean and Flint’s Gold. So, it would be my opinion that it was Long John’s Spy Glass that put the telescopes’ popularity (excuse the PUN) on the map. So, onward…
There are three types of telescopes out there on the market: the Refracting Telescope, the Reflecting Telescope, and the Cassegrain (or the tougher name to call it Catadioptric) Telescope. In this article, we will touch base a bit on each.
Overall the role of the telescope is to see light at a distance, focus it to a point on a lens (or mirror), the objective lens at the wide end of the Refracting Telescope or to the primary mirror on the Reflective Telescope, then to take that point of light and aim it towards the eyepiece of the Refractor or the primary mirror of the Reflective, where that lens (or mirror) enables the viewer (you) to have the point of light spread across the retina (that back wall) inside the eye.
So if you want to see the list of ingredients on a package of processed food in the supermarket from across the street, you’ll need to enter the store to bring it closer to your eye to see, but you technically could see those ingredients from a greater distance with a telescope.
Then there is the Catadioptric Telescope (sometimes known as Cassegrain). Most on the market look much like a tin can on a pedestal, but they are a whole lot more. For some, the cost can be prohibitive, but this type of scope combines both the lens and the mirror to provide both reflection and refraction.
The wider planets in the sky-demonstrating the most give off of light are best viewed with a lens based devise (Refractor or Cassegrain), while distance viewing of stars, constellations and astronomical formations are best suited with a mirror based devise (Reflecting or Cassegrain). See what I mean with regard to the Catadioptric/Cassegrain?
Because this is a teaching article, clearly you would want to consider something less than an investment at this point. There are many lesser costing beginner models out there that I will recommend at a later point in our discussion of telescopes, so for now, focus your viewing at a nearby planetarium or online in the two ranges of (1)Planets in our solar system; and (2) Astronomical formations at a distance.