Telescope Buyers' Guide


Knowing What You Want

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]