If you are after the best telescope to observe the stars, this is where we can point you in the right direction. Stargazing is an excellent choice for a blocking hobby; you can do this at home, it is suitable for social distance and less air traffic and pollution make the air equally clean at night.
The main barrier to entry is the price of a new telescope, but even that should not discourage you. Yes, you can easily spend a fortune on state-of-the-art equipment, but if you’re just getting started, there are some perfectly decent options that won’t break the bank, and whatever your level (and budget), we have to find them. something that suits you.
Don’t you really know what you’re doing? Follow our guide to
how to assemble a telescope and you’ll be on the market soon, and if you plan on staying late to get the best view of the stars, don’t forget to invest in one of the best waterproof jackets and perhaps one of the best hand warmers.
And if a telescope is a little big, or if you prefer to look closer to home, check out our guide to the best binoculars (some of which can also be used to observe the stars).
Our Top Pick
Last update on 2021-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top 10 Best Computerized Telescope To Buy In 2021
Last update on 2021-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10 Best Computerized Telescope Review
- Computerized star locating telescope: The Celestron NexStar 130SLT is a computerized telescope that offers a database of more than 40,000 stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. The telescope locates your object with pinpoint accuracy and tracks it. Compatible with 2 inch eyepieces
- Compact and portable: This telescope for adults and kids to be used together is ideal for weekend camping trips or excursions to dark sky sites. Its compact form factor makes it easy to transport and assemble just about anywhere.
- Newtonian reflector optical design: The NexStar 130SLT is the largest in the SLT family. The 130mm aperture gathers enough light to see our Solar System and beyond. View Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s cloud bands, and the Moon in brilliant detail.
- Fast setup with skyalign: Celestron’s proprietary SkyAlign procedure has you ready to observe in minutes. Simply center any 3 bright objects in the eyepiece and the NexStar SLT aligns to the night sky, ready to locate thousands of objects.
- Bonus free starry night software: The NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope includes a free download of one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs for an interactive sky simulation. Compatible with starsense technology and Wi-Fi
- Computerized automatic telescope: The Celestron 114LCM Computerized Newtonian Telescope with all glass optics can automatically locate 4,000 celestial objects with its GoTo mount and hand control, using star locating technology found on more advanced telescopes.
- Take the sky tour: If you’re not sure of what to observe, the Sky Tour button will do the work for you. Simply press the button and your computerized telescope will generate a list of the best objects currently available to view in the sky.
- Everything you need: The Celestron LCM telescope comes with everything you need for stargazing, including an adjustable aluminum tripod, 2 high-quality eyepieces (25mm & 9mm), & a StarPointer red dot finderscope. Download the SkyPortal App for added enjoyment.Apparent Field of View:1.6°
- Bonus free starry night software: This Celestron 114LCM Computerized Telescope includes a FREE download of one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs for an interactive sky simulation.
- Unbeatable warranty and customer support: Buy with confidence from the telescope brand, based in California since 1960. You’ll also receive a 2-year warranty and unlimited access to technical support from our team of US-based experts.
- Nexstar computerized telescope: The NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design with updated technology and the latest features for amazing stargazing for beginners and experienced observers.
- 4-Inch aperture: The 4-inch primary mirror in this Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used together packs enough light-gathering ability to observe the best that our Solar System has to offer, while retaining a compact form factor.
- Fully-automated go to mount: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the go to mount built into our telescopes for astronomy beginners automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
- Bonus free starry night software: The NexStar 4SE Telescope includes a FREE download of one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs for an interactive sky simulation.
- German (Publication Language)
- Clever tabletop reflector telescope can lead beginners and experienced amateurs to more than 14,000 celestial objects with its easy to use push-to IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator
- Substantial 6" aperture optics reveal sharp views of the Moon and bright planets like Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn
- 750mm focal length (f/5.0) optics provide contrast-rich views of brighter deep sky objects like nebulas, galaxies, and sparkling star clusters
- Compact design gives the Orion StarBlast 6i great grab-and-go portability - weighs just 23.5 lbs. Age Range-13 years
- Includes IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator, 25mm and 10mm Sirius Plossl 1.25" telescope eyepieces, EZ Finder II aiming device, eyepiece rack, Starry Night software, and more!
- LARGE APERTURE: Get a bright, bold viewing experience at a fraction of the cost of other optical designs.
- INNOVATIVE COLLAPSIBLE DESIGN: Unique strut design allows for optical tube to collapse for ease of portability while keeping collimation.
- BUILT-IN WIFI: Control your telescope using a smartphone or tablet with Sky-Watcher’s proprietary built-in wifi signal.
- ALL METAL GEARING: Using all-metal gearing on a pair of DC servo motors, the SynScan Dobsonian combines the precise automated tracking of a computerized GoTo telescope with the bright large-aperture viewing of a Dobsonian.
- 94% REFLECTIVE MIRRORS: Fully multi-coated borosilicate primary and secondary mirrors deliver exceptional views.
- COMPUTERIZED TELESCOPE WITH WIFI FUNCTIONALITY: Explore the Universe and control your telescope with the free Celestron SkyPortal app for iOS and Android! Select any object from the app’s database and the telescope locates and tracks it automatically.
- CELESTRON’S LEGENDARY 8” SCHMIDT-CASSEGRAIN OPTICAL TUBE: See the difference! Compact, portable 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube with StarBright XLT optical coatings provides stunning views.
- SUPERIOR TRACKING ACCURACY: This computerized GoTo mount with high-performance brass worm gears and motors tracks objects smoothly as they appear to drift across the night sky. Ideal for star parties and astroimaging.
- BUILT-IN 10-HOUR LITHIUM IRON PHOSPHATE BATTERY: Forget about buying an external power supply. Celestron’s LiFePO4 battery is built right in for the safest, most reliable power anywhere.
- EASY TO USE IN THE FIELD: Enjoy the improved industrial design with manual clutches and integrated carry handles, plus the added convenience of two accessory trays and a USB charge port for your phone.
- INNOVATIVE MODULAR DESIGN: Customizable design allows for the EQM-35 to be used as a standard EQ mount or as a lightweight tracking platform using a dec bracket (sold separately), making it the perfect grab-and-go telescope mount
- ALL-METAL CONSTRUCTION: Beefy, all-metal construction provides 22-pound payload capacity, perfect for all but the heaviest optical tubes
- 42, 000 OBJECT DATABASE: SynScan hand controller with 42, 000+ object database will keep even the most experienced astronomer busy for countless observing nights
- 180-TOOTH RA GEAR: A large, 180-tooth RA gear on the EQM35 provides users with smooth, accurate tracking
- BEGINNER AND INTERMEDIATE USER: Meade Instruments guides tours and desirable views with the AudioStar Hand Controller equipped with 4 hours of audio presentations and 30,000 plus programmed celestial objects guiding your eyes to easier viewing
- INCREASED VIEWING: Provides a promising view with a 102mm aperture and 660mm focal length
- EASY TO USE: Quality nighttime view with vixen-style dovetail receiver, allowing you to use a variety of optical tube assemblies
- DURABLE EQUIPMENT: Includes a full size aluminum tripod with accessory tray and 2 1.25 MA eyepieces, measuring at 9mm and 26mm each
- SPACE ADMIRERS: Presents an on the go computerized, single-arm mount with 12V DC Servo Drive
- 11 inches Schmidt cassegrain telescope with celestron’s Premium Star Bright XLT optical coatings
- Optical Tube Length: 24" | Optical Tube Diameter: 12.3" | Optical Tube Weight: 65 lbs (with mount) | Tripod leg diameter: 2" | Mount Head Weight: 65 lbs (with optical tube) | Tripod Weight: 19 lbs | Total Telescope Kit Weight: 84 lbs
- Height adjustment range (includes mount and tripod): 55" - 70"
- Fully Computerized dual Fork arm altazimuth mount with internal GPS and database of 40, 000+ celestial objects
- 9x50 finderscope to help accurately find objects
- Perhaps the best beginner Dobsonian reflector telescope you can buy - big 6" aperture at an amazing price
- A beginner may use a 60mm telescope for a few months or years before deciding they need to upgrade to a better telescope - a 6" Dobsonian will give you a lifetime of wonderful views
- Simple navigation and no need to polar align makes this Dobsonian reflector telescope extremely ease to use for the whole family
- The 6" diameter f/8 parabolic mirror is fantastic for Moon and planetary views, and also has enough light grasp for deep-sky viewing of nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters
- The stable Dobsonian base provides a vibration free image even when viewing at a high powers, and features smooth enough motions to make tracking of celestial objects a breeze
Last update on 2021-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Different Types of Telescopes
When shopping for a high-quality telescope, you’ll find three major styles, and to find the perfect telescope for your needs, you need to understand the differences.
The Refractor Telescope
The first type of telescope using a refractor mechanism, and it features a shape that most people are familiar with. The front of this product has a large lens, and as the lens collects light, it beams it into the mirror that is positioned in the back of the telescope.
• Great for objects on Earth
• Very simple design and easy to use
• Requires almost no maintenance
• Sturdy design
• Sealed tube keeps optics safe
• Not a great choice for faint objects
• Holds less value than a reflector telescope
• Tends to be bulky and heavier than other styles
The Reflector Telescope
Reflector telescopes operate differently than their refractor counterparts, and they have a mirror built into the end of the tube.
The purpose of the mirror is to gather light, which is sent to another mirror before it hits the eyepiece. We recommend reflector telescopes for viewing faint objects, and they offer images of a higher quality than refractor telescopes.
• Features a compact, lightweight design
• Ideal for looking at faint objects
• More expensive than refractor telescopes
• Produces a high-quality image for you to look at
• The optics tube is open and vulnerable to dust
• Not a good choice for Earth objects
• Needs regular maintenance
The Compound Telescope
The third major style is the compound telescope, and it’s also known as a catadioptric telescope. Unlike the other styles, this telescope features two mirror, which are located in the front and back. The two mirrors work together with the lens to produce a high-quality image.
• Optics tube is sealed to prevent dust accumulation
• Best choice for astrophotography
• Works well for Earth objects
• Good choice for viewing faint objects
• Tends to be large and bulkier
• More expensive than other choices
• Image brightness is reduced by the additional mirror
Choosing the Right Style of Telescope
With three different styles to choose from, many consumers aren’t sure how to pick the best telescope for their individual needs.
If you’re just getting started with this hobby, then you can get a reflector or refractor telescope. For consumers who want to avoid maintenance, a refractor telescope is a great choice to consider.
Refractor and compound scopes are great for observing birds and similar Earth objects, and to view faint objects in the deep sky, compound and reflector telescopes are best.
For astrophotography, a compound scope is a great choice, and if you just want to get the most value for your money, we recommend reflector scopes.
The process of finding a great telescope to buy should be fun, and to get the best value, you need to understand the basics. The first major component is the aperture, and it represents the diameter of the lens or mirror in the scope.
To find out exactly how much you’ll be able to see with the telescope, this factor is more important than all other features. In almost every situation, a bigger aperture is better.
A telescope with a huge aperture allows more total light to flood into the eyepiece, and with more light, you’ll get better image quality for faint objects.
If you’re on a budget, you should always try to get the biggest aperture that you can afford because it will make a huge difference in image quality.
The Focal Length
Another basic feature is the focal length, and it represents the total distance from your telescope’s focal point to the mirror or lens.
The focal length isn’t nearly as important as the aperture, but it’s important enough to be considered. With a bigger focal length, objects will look much bigger than they would with a smaller length.
It’s always best to look for products that have a big focal length and aperture, but if you have to choose between these two features, pick the scope with the bigger aperture.
All telescopes are capable of magnifying the objects in the night sky, and the level of magnification that you’ll have is determined by the focal length and eyepiece.
Some people say that more magnification is better, and many cheaper telescopes emphasize the scope’s magnification. However, if you can’t get a clear image, a high level of magnification is almost useless.
The Electronic Control
Not too long ago, all telescopes required manual operation, and there was no way to automatically set them for specific constellations of stars.
Today, you can find a variety of electronic scopes, and with the help of a built-in computer, these telescopes can automatically find certain objects in the night sky.
The average person doesn’t need this feature, but if you’d like to get into astrophotography or need a way to follow moving objects, then an electronic telescope is worth considering.
Things to Look for When Buying a Telescope
The decision to purchase a telescope is huge, and if you choose the right product, it can completely change your life and how you view life on Earth. The ability to see deep into the cosmos has a profound effect on most people, and fortunately, it’s much easier to do than you might think.
It’s one thing to see the planets in our solar system on a piece of paper or through a computer animation, but once you’ve seen the planets through the eyepiece of a high-quality telescope, you’ll gain so much more appreciation for the night sky.
Once you’ve had this experience, there is a good chance that you’ll want to dive even deeper into the majestic wonders of the universe and never put the telescope down.
Understanding How Telescopes Work
Before you find a product to purchase, you should know how it works. The main purpose of all types of telescopes is to collect light, and each type of scope collects light in a different way than the rest.
When you look up at the moon with your naked eyes, you’ll see a large white sphere, but you won’t be able to decipher any of the finer details.
By collecting light, telescopes allow you to unlock the finer details of objects in the night sky, and Galileo said it best when he chose to describe telescopes as tools for revealing the invisible.
Why Bigger Is Usually Better
When it comes to gathering light, bigger is almost always better, and a four-inch mirror is four times better at gathering light than a two-inch mirror.
It’s best to purchase the telescope with the biggest aperture that you can afford because larger scopes gather more light. With more light, you’ll get a higher image quality, and it will be much easier to see faint objects.
Do I Need Extra Items for My Telescope?
After purchasing their first telescope, many beginners want to know if they need to purchase additional items to make it work. Fortunately, most modern telescopes are sold as complete systems, which is why they don’t require extra items or purchases.
Once your new telescope has been removed from the packaging and set up with the included components, it should be ready to aim at the sky. However, there are some high-end optics that are sold without a tripod, mount and accessories.
If you decide to purchase a refractor telescope, you might want to consider buying a star diagonal with it because it will help to bend the light from your target object, which makes it easier to see certain things in the sky.
The Different Types Of Telescopes
The ease of use and how often you use a telescope will also be affected by the type of home telescope you choose. You would be forgiven for looking at ads in the astronomical journals and thinking there was an infinite variety of telescopes.
In reality, all types of astronomical telescopes, with their varied shapes and sizes, can be categorized into three classes: refractor scopes, reflectors or catadioptric.
A refractor telescope looks most like what you would expect a good telescope to resemble. They’re also some of the easiest telescopes to use. A large glass lens on the front of the telescope is used to focus the lens, which is then sent through a smaller lens.
High-quality refractor scopes are often the preferred choice of lunar and planetary observers, who appreciate the crisp, high contrast images. The images can also be magnified to a greater extent without losing clarity through the magnification of the eyepiece.
The downsides tend to be the cost and the bulk. A smaller lens can be cheap to make, but larger lenses increase rapidly in price can become very expensive, especially with quality glass. Refractor tubes can also be unwieldy, with a 4-inch refractor being 4-foot long or more.
- A fixed lens makes it a simple “pick up and go” telescope.
- The sealed tube keeps the optics safe.
- Ideal for viewing objects on Earth too.
- Sturdy designs can be more durable, with less to go wrong.
- Top quality refractors are ideal for astrophotography, with fewer optical distortions
- Tend to be heavier and bulkier than other styles of telescope.
- A good quality glass lens can be very expensive.
- Not enough light grasp for viewing fainter objects.
- Mid-range or cheaper refractors can suffer from smaller apertures and/or poorer quality glass.
The idea of using mirrors to gather light and images before diverting them to be viewed by the human eye was developed by Isaac Newton. The most common form of reflectors still bear his name and use a specially curved concave mirror at the base of the scope.
A secondary small diagonal mirror near the top of the tube directs the light from the primary mirror to an eyepiece. If you want the most aperture from a telescope, reflectors provide sharp images at a fraction of the price of an equally sized aperture refractor.
The tube of a Newtonian will also be much more manageable than a refractor. The length of a reflector scope will rarely be more than eight times the diameter of the primary mirror—often less.
However, the mirrors will occasionally move out of alignment and need adjusting for peak performance, especially if the telescope is moved frequently. The open design of the tube can also mean dust accumulation on the optical surfaces.
- Lightweight and compact design.
- Best aperture for the cost, especially with Dobsonian telescopes.
- Ideal for looking at faint, distant objects.
- Produces a “correct-reading” image, rather than the mirror image of other astronomical telescopes.
- An open optics tube makes it vulnerable to dust.
- Anodized surfaces of reflector mirrors may need re-coating if used in badly polluted air, or by the sea.
- Non-fixed optics will need re-adjusting occasionally, which can be taxing for the less technically minded.
- Not a great choice for observing Earth objects.
Catadioptric Or Compound Telescopes
As the name “compound” suggests, these telescopes offer the best of both worlds, using both lenses and mirrors to form an image. The main advantage of these telescopes, especially the common Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain models, is that they are very compact.
A glass lens at the base of a compound telescope draws in the incoming light before bending it to a large mirror. A small diagonal mirror, attached to the lens at the base of the tube, then reflects an image to an eyepiece located opposite the smaller mirror.
By using a combination of the first two types of telescopes, a compound eliminates many of their viewing issues. Mirrors in a reflector often block some incoming light, which is corrected by the mirror in this model being at the end of the light path. The color fragmentations, or halo effect, of a refractor is also eliminated by the mirrors.
Scopes of this type will tend to feature the most technology, with options like computerized pointing or photographic extra features. This all comes at a cost, with quality compound telescopes also being some of the most expensive on the market.
- Available in very compact forms, with a long focal length in a shorter tube.
- A sealed optics tube means dust accumulation is prevented.
- Best choice for astrophotography.
- Works just as well for Earth objects and fainter, more distant objects in the night sky.
- Ideal for examining star clusters and other galaxies.
- Can be more difficult to maintain, with the optics needing occasional collimation or adjustment.
- Field of view can often be too narrow, especially when viewing larger objects like planets or the moon.
- More expensive than most reflectors and all but the high-end refractors.
Telescopes For Beginners
Even armed with all the information above, it can be confusing to work out which telescope is the ideal choice for beginners. Fortunately, there is a wide range of affordable telescopes that are ideal for beginners who may have commitment issues.
For more advice on choosing your first telescope, like the celestron 127eq, read my Best Telescope for Beginners guide elsewhere on this site.
Telescopes For Kids
Why should we adults have all the fun? Quite often my six-year-old nephew wants to look up at the stars with me. Having his own telescope would make him feel special—and stop him hogging mine, of course!
Looking at telescope reviews, you may wonder what makes the ideal telescope for children, especially younger children. Don’t just buy that cheap telescope from the toy store, very often it will be junk. Many reputable brands now make refractor telescopes especially for kids, which are smaller and more durable.
Elsewhere on this website, I have looked at the Best Telescopes for Kids, even those of six years old or younger.
Best Portable Telescope
You don’t always want to be gazing at the universe from your lounge window or rooftop. Sometimes it’s nice to escape the city for a smog-free view of the night sky.
Consider how big a telescope is, which can offer the most aperture in a smaller package and how durable will it be?
For more details on what to look for in a portable telescope, read my article elsewhere on this site.
Telescopes For Astrophotography
Wouldn’t it be nice to share your stargazing experiences with other people? Maybe you have already tried taking photos with your smartphone but without too much success. Astrophotography is a skill, and having the right equipment is essential.
Many of today’s telescopes have optional adaptations for photography, and some types of telescopes are more suited than others. Read my guide on the best telescopes for astrophotography for more advice.
How Many Stars Can You See With The Naked Eye?
It’s all very well quoting the numbers of stars in the universe, but how many can you actually see? If you have ever looked up on a clear night, it may seem like there are thousands, but you couldn’t really count them all, could you?
Fortunately, Dorrit Hoffleit, an astronomer at Yale University has done the hard work for you. The Yale Bright Star Catalog tabulates every star visible from Earth by the naked eye with a magnitude of 6.5, to be 9,110 stars across the entire sky.
Since that is across both hemispheres, with only half the celestial hemisphere viewable at one time, we simply halve that number. In the clearest of skies, depending on the season, that equates to 4,550 stars from a good viewpoint. (Except at the poles, but we assume you won’t be looking from there too often!)
How Many More Stars Can You See With The Best Home Telescope?
You might be thinking the best home telescope will open up the rest of those trillion billion stars to you, but this is not quite true. For that, you would need a large radio telescope, the likes of which you find at an observatory.
A home telescope works on gathering light; the more light it can gather, the more chance you have of seeing the fainter stars. The brightness of stars is measured by magnitude, but here’s where it gets confusing—the magnitude scale counts backward.
The larger the magnitude number, the fainter a star. A pair of 50-mm binoculars will have a limit of 9th magnitude, or about 217,000 stars. A small 3-inch telescope increases that number to 5.3 million stars, with a limit of 11th magnitude.
You may never see all those trillion billion stars, but a good astronomical telescope will help you see the fainter stars in faraway galaxies.
How Much Does A Good Telescope Cost?
That’s the million dollar question—fortunately the answer isn’t a million dollars too! Telescopes are available at all price ranges, from under a couple of hundred bucks to a thousand dollars or more for some top-end scopes.
Pick a budget and try to stick to it—consider what you really need. If you’re only going to be using it at home, it doesn’t need to be so portable, although a computerized telescope is nice, is it really necessary? All the extra features can soon add up and may result in a more expensive telescope but with a smaller aperture and poorer image.
The Differences Between Small, Medium and Large Telescopes
The market is filled with telescopes of different sizes, which can make it difficult to know what size is best for your needs. When someone refers to the size of a scope, they’re usually talking about the size of the aperture, and any telescope with a four-inch aperture could be called a small scope.
Medium telescopes tend to have an aperture between four to 10 inches, and they’re great products for beginner astronomers. One of the best medium scopes on the market is the Schmidt-Cassegrain, and it’s available for an affordable price.
A large telescope is any product that has a 10-inch aperture, and since people have become much more interested in space and astronomy, large telescopes are more popular than they’ve ever been.
What About Eyepieces?
After purchasing a new telescope and using it for the first time, a lot of people completely overlook eyepieces, which are important pieces of equipment. Some of the worst eyepieces are tiny pieces of glass, and with such a tiny size, they’re extremely difficult to look through.
A low-quality eyepiece will have you constantly squinting, and you still might not be able to see the object you’re looking for. When shopping for eyepieces, you have many options to choose from, and the best products are very comfortable to look through.
Finding the Right Mount
Another piece of equipment that is regularly overlooked is the mount, and every telescope needs a solid foundation to support it. Many modern telescopes are sold as complete systems and come with a mount, but depending on the product, you might want to consider getting a better mount.
Some consumers purchase just the optics tube and try to mount it to a standard camera tripod, and although this might seem like a good idea, many camera mounts aren’t sturdy enough for a telescope.
The best mounts will allow you to swing your telescope in any direction, and once you’ve locked onto the target object, the mount will hold the optics tube perfectly still.
If you have a lot of money to spend, consider buying a motorized mount. A mount with a motor is also likely to be controlled by a computer, and it will allow you to program the mount for specific objects in the sky.
Choosing A Finder
Many consumers purchase a new telescope and completely overlook the accessories. A finder is something that every amateur astronomer should have, and it will allow you to point your telescope at specific objects in the sky.
By pressing the side of your head against your telescope, you might be able to aim it towards the moon or bright stars, but when you need to find small, faint objects in the night sky, you’ll need to use a finder.
A finder is a great accessory to have, and there are three major styles to choose from. The peep sight is the simplest, and it’s great for beginners.
The next best finder is the reflect sight, and it projects a tiny red laser towards the sky. The third option is like a miniature telescope, and with the help of crosshairs, it allows you to find even the faintest objects.
Tips to Properly Care for Your New Telescope
Any telescope is an investment, and it needs to be properly cared for. One of the major aspects of care is cleaning the optics, and since you’ll always be pushing the limits of your scope, proper optics cleaning should never be overlooked.
The whole point of using a scope is to see faint objects in the sky, and you’ll find it nearly impossible to accomplish this task if the optics aren’t clean.
The fine details of many objects can be lost to a few particles of dust. When dust accumulates on a lens or mirror, it distorts the light and makes it harder to see planets and stars. One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to practice preventive maintenance.
A telescope that isn’t being used should always be covered with a lens cap, which protects the optics from dust. If your scope doesn’t come with a protective cap, you can cover it with a homemade cap.
It’s also a good idea to leave your scope pointing towards the floor because this position will prevent dust from settling onto the optics. Extra eyepieces should be stored in a plastic bag, and the lens or mirror within your telescope should never be touched.
Cleaning the Lens or Mirror
The lens is very important, and the way that you choose to clean it is also important. A brush made from camel hair is great for removing dust from a lens, and you can find many of these products in stores that sell many different types of cameras.
If you ever manage to spill some sort of residue onto the lens, there are special solutions that you can use to clean it. Many popular cleaning solutions for lenses are made of pure methanol.
If you own a reflector telescope and need to clean the mirror, you should be confident in your ability to disassemble and reassemble the scope.
Tips for Beginners
One of the best tips that we can give to beginner astronomers is to have realistic expectations. Most people have seen images of distant galaxies and star clusters, but the images were taken by the Hubble space telescope.
It’s impossible to get the same quality images with a typical consumer telescope. Some of the best telescopes on the planet required millions of dollars in funding to build, and they can’t even display distant stars with as much detail as Hubble.
The good news is that modern consumer telescopes have plenty to offer, but you must have realistic expectations, and you must know that the objects you’re viewing won’t look like what you’d see in space magazines.
This simple tip is commonly overlooked, and it can make or break your viewing experience. When using a telescope, you should always stay clear of buildings and large objects because they release heat during the night, which makes it very difficult to see distant stars and planets.
The air currents produced by heat rising off of large objects significantly reduces your telescope’s ability to see distant objects. Some of the best places to use your scope are large, open areas.
Another common mistake that people make is trying to use their telescope to see through a window. For the same reasons buildings should be avoided, windows can make it very hard to see distant objects, and you’ll have an especially difficult time if there is a major temperature difference between indoor and outdoor air.
If you’re forced to view through a window, you must understand that the window will become a part of your lens, and for the best results, you should always aim the telescope directly through the window.
New telescope owners believe they’ll get a better image if they aim the scope through the window at an angle, and unfortunately, this isn’t true.
Make Sure to Adjust Your Eyes
The human eyes are incredible pieces of biological machinery, and to get the most out of your telescope, you need to give your eyes time to adapt to the darkness.
Depending on the location, it can take your eyes up to 30 minutes to become completely adapted to the darkness of the viewing area. On the flipside, it only takes a few seconds of staring into a bright light to reverse the effects of standing in the darkness for 30 minutes.
Most astronomers use red light because it’s much easier on eyes that have adapted to the darkness. You can find many flashlights that use red light, or you can purchase a lens for a light you already own.
Practice Using Averted Vision
Another great tip for beginner astronomers is to practice observing distant objects using averted vision, which involves looking out of the corner of your eye.
By observing objects from the corner of your eye, you’ll find it much easier to see faint objects, which might otherwise be invisible.
Start with The Lowest Eyepiece
You can find a variety of eyepieces for your telescope, and many modern scopes come with several. When we say lowest, we’re talking about the power of the eyepiece, and it’s usually the piece that is marked with the largest number.
The images viewed through a low-power eyepiece will be sharper and brighter, and in most situations, you’ll get the best viewing experience from your low-power eyepieces. Once you have some experience, you can experiment with other eyepieces.
What To Look For In A Astronomical Telescope?
So, for a good telescope, you just need one that can see stars with a higher magnitude figure, right?
Well, not really, as there are so many different types of telescopes available and so many factors which can affect which magnitude of stars you can see.
You can find a calculator for the magnitude limits of telescopes here, which shows just how difficult it can be to get the right telescope.
Factors you need to consider include the aperture, the focal length, and how easy it is to use.
The best home telescope is one which will be used, not just stuck away in a cupboard.
You have probably heard the phrase “aperture” when talking about cameras, but it is just as important for a good telescope.
The whole point of a telescope is to gather in light and focus it to a viewing point. The aperture determines how much light is collected for a brighter image and the resolving power, or how sharp an image is.
To see fainter objects in greater detail, your scope will need to collect more light. A 6-inch lens will allow you to make out craters as small as a mile across, half the size of those you could see with a 3-inch telescope lens.
When choosing a telescope, you should in most cases try to select the scope with the largest aperture in your budget range. Reflector telescopes, known as Dobsonian, tend to offer the most aperture for your money, and are sometimes called “light buckets.”
The Focal Length
If you want to gaze at planets more than stars, you should consider the focal length of the telescope. The focal length is the distance the light travels from the mirror, or lens, to the eyepiece.
A longer focal length will give a smaller field of view which can be more important when viewing brighter objects, like planets. The planets and the moon will be the brightest objects in the night sky, meaning light-gathering qualities are not always the most important thing.
Astronomical telescopes with a larger focal ratio (the focal length divided by the aperture) are often referred to as “slow” telescopes. These are the best for viewing planets, but for general stargazing you should still choose the largest aperture you can afford.
The following YouTube video gives some more useful advice for viewing planets with your astronomical telescope.
Ease Of Use
If you are a beginner in astronomy or just looking for something which is simple to use, a computerized telescope or “GoTo” telescope is ideal. When I was first starting out on my stargazing adventure, I was never sure what I was looking at or where to find anything in the sky, even with a guide to point at the sky with a laser.
Although many “true” astronomers would argue built-in computers are not essential, they are certainly a useful feature, much like GPS in a car. Without the assistance of a computer, I may have never found that star I named for my wife.
A “GoTo” system will have a steady mount that is controlled by either an external PC or a built-in computer. Many even link to a smartphone nowadays and will help you direct the scope to any object in your electronic database.
It may sound too good to be true and sometimes they don’t work as they should, or they can be over-complicated. A cheaper telescope with computer assistance will still need aligning to two bright stars which you need to know the names of—practice makes perfect.
The universe is full of mesmerizing wonders, but since they’re so far away, these objects are barely noticeable to the naked eye. With help from a high-quality telescope, you can unlock the finer details and observe things that most people will never see.
Modern telescopes are equipped with incredible optics, and even if you can only afford a cheaper telescope, the ability to uncover and observe celestial objects is something that will never get boring.