Now that we've covered the keys to shopping for a telescope, let's spend some time figuring out what your specific interests and needs are. Here are the important questions to ask:
|How Much Can You Afford to Spend?|
The answer to the first question will hopefully be $500 or more. That's about how much you should expect to spend on a good first telescope. You can do all right at $350. However, if your budget is less than that, my recommendation is that you consider other alternatives. There is one instance where the $500 rule goes out the window. That's when young children are involved but that's another topic.
|How Portable Does the Telescope Need to Be?|
You should consider several factors when addressing this question. Where will you use the telescope? Dark skies are very important for good views. If the closest dark-sky site is down the block, across town or a thirty-minute drive into the country, you should give serious consideration to getting a scope that can be transported easily to that location. It's more fun to use a small scope under dark skies than a huge scope under glaring city lights.
|What Kind of Observing Will You Do?|
Backyard observers tend to fall into three categories: Lunar/planetary, deep-sky or general. Lunar/planetary observers focus on the Moon and planets. Deep-sky observers seek out star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Generalists do a little of each. It's OK to be unsure of your interest at this point. Just count yourself among the generalists.
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Revised: February 11, 2002 [WDF]