Before buying a telescope for astronomy, consider…
If you don’t want to read any of this, get a Skywatcher Heritage 150P or an Ursa Major 102mm Dobsonian and if they are too much, buy binoculars. If you can afford it, get a 6” or even better an 8” Dobsonian like a StellaLyra/Apertura.
- What do you want to use it for?
- I would stick with visual astronomy, especially if you are starting out. If you want to look at birds and other ground objects, get a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope.
- Taking images (astrophotography) requires different and potentially expensive equipment and it will take time to learn. It’s possible to take smartphone shots but be realistic about the time you might need to spend getting a decent shot.
- What do you want to observe?
- There are lots of things to see and some are easier to see than others. The moon is the easiest, then the larger planets, open clusters and double stars. Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) are going to take time to learn to find and observe.
- How light-polluted are your skies?
- The ability to see DSOs will be diminished if you can’t see the milky way. Other targets such as planets and double stars will be less affected.
- How much do you want to spend?
- Below £150, I’d recommend binoculars. To avoid disappointment, I would recommend allocating £200 to £500 on your first telescope. A good, used telescope is definitely worth considering.
- It is going to take time to become familiar with using a telescope and find your way around the sky. You will keep on learning but the first few weeks and months can be frustrating as you slowly develop your skills. You cannot rush this process.
- Most of the time your telescope is going to sit unused, gathering dust. Depending on where you live cloud cover, observing conditions and/or the moon will severely limit your time at the eyepiece.
- Telescopes can be large and heavy. Check before you buy as it’s no use having something that sits unused because you don’t want to move it.
- Ease of use
- If it takes a long time to set up or align before you can use use it it might put you off observing.
- Do your homework – Read sites like mine and other forums such as Star Gazers Lounge, Cloudy Nights, Reddit and even the Facebook Telescope groups (Everything Telescopes, Backyard Astronomy, Owners Of Dobsonian Telescopes)
- I would recommend getting a copy of the book Turn Left at Orion and a star map for a tablet or phone.
- Telescope Type
- I recommend a Dobsonian telescope for visual astronomy and this is why.