“What kind of telescope should I buy?” If you’re like me and you meet any number of novice astronomers, this is a question you hear a lot. My answer is the one that allows you to see clearly. Why else does one buy a telescope. In order to feed the developing passion, the user has to be able to clearly see an object. Typically the Moon is the first target and most telescopes can clearly show crater and mountain definition.
Growing up I had a Bushnell Banner Astro Telescope. Having spent many night looking with the naked eye, this was a major upgrade. I remember the first time I saw the moon up close. I was amazed by the detail I couldn’t see with the naked eye. I was also dissapointed by the inability to see Jupiter or Saturn (besides the rings) with any clarity.
This just fueled my passion even more. Fast forward to summer 2017 and I ordered my 20 year gift from the company website. Yep I ordered a Bushnell Voyager Skytour Telescope and all it did was drive me to buy a bigger telescope, an Orion Astroview 6 Reflector. You can see both of them here.
The difference between the two is the aperture and focul length. The aperture of Bushnell is 70 mm vs the 150 mm of the Astroview. The additional 80 mm meant I’m now seeing deep sky objects like the Andromeda Galaxy. The Bushnell was also light so slightly windy nights kept the objects moving in the scope. No fun.
The focal length of the Bushnell is 800 mm vs the 900 mm of the Astroview. This gave me more clarity on the moon and I could see Saturn quite well.
The lesson learned…a multitude of factors matter in choosing a telescope. For simple night viewing, the Bushnell is great, light and portable. I wanted to take photos so I needed a steady scope and chose the Orion Astroview 6. It’s not as portable, but I was able to get pictures like this of the Moon that is virtually impossible with the Bushnell. The larger aperture provided greater light gathering capability and the greater focal length added improved detail.
This doesn’t mean that you have to have the largest aperture telescope you can buy. Small aperture scopes have one great advantage over their larger cousins and that’s size. My Astroview 6 is more than 30 lbs to carry before anything else is included. Smaller aperture scopes with huge focal length will give you great detail in the cloud bands of Jupiter and will weigh less than 20 lbs.
Imagine wanting to take a short 30 mile drive to a great spot for viewing and because of the size of your telescope you have to walk several times between your car and viewing spot just to set up. It also takes a long time to set up your large scope. By the time your set, Venus has dropped below the horizon and the clouds start rolling in. Who wants that?
This led me to my next purchase, the Meade EXT-125 (shown below). It has a 125 mm aperture and 1900 mm focal length. It’s compact and I carry it in a clear storage bin from Home Depot. It was removed from it’s original mount and fitted with a dovetail bar. This works great on my Astroview mount.
With the Meade I took this photo of Jupiter in Opposition, May 2018. Look at the detail in the clouds and red spot.
This scope is my go to scope for planetary and solar viewing. It has a smaller field of view vs. the Astroview 6. Since the Astroview 6 has the larger field of view, I’ve made it my go to for deep sky objects.
Just in case you’re wondering a currently use a 1st Generation Google Pixel for all my photos. I’ll explain more in my next post how I get them with this phone.
So in order to determine your first telescope join your local association and attend a start party or two. Experience what they have and use that to determine what will meet your needs as your start your observing journey. Good luck and Clear Skies!