So, you are looking for the perfect telescope.  Maybe you want to give your child a new hobby that’s beyond our earth’s atmosphere.  Perhaps you want to have a look at the moon on one of your summer neighbor-parties together with your spouse and friends.  You just visited a public observatory or you had a look though a telescope on a star-party.  And then you start looking in local shops and on the internet for the perfect beginner’s telescope.  Very fast you give up because the number of cheap telescopes is just overwhelming.  So, let’s look at the options.

Rule # 1: you get what you pay for.

Face it: in every telescope you will see the craters on the moon.  But maybe you want to show your friends something more.  Maybe you want to view the rings of Saturn or the Galilean moons of Jupiter.  If you want to look at faint nebula you need a more expensive telescope.  Fact is the quality of the image and the ease of use will go up together with the price.  I can immediately tell you that a telescope of $60 will disappoint you.  In my opinion, the price of a usable telescope starts at $150.  You can go as expensive as you want.  Several amateur astronomers have hundreds thousands of bucks of equipment in their backyard.  Do you need that as a beginner?  No, you just need some basic material to explore the heavens.

So, what to choose?

You have basically 3 types of telescopes. 

  1. Refractors: these telescopes have a lens in front that gather the light and they look like a long pipe.  They are not so good for beginners because they give image aberrations and they are usually more expensive.  However, your neighbors will be impressed by it!
  2. Reflectors: these telescopes work with a mirror at the back to gather the light and you look in the side of the tube to view your object.  Reflectors are esthetically not so nice to look at, but looking though it; they will provide you with the most pleasant views for the less bucks.  If you want a real performer for a low cost this is the way to go.
  3. Catadioptrics: these are telescopes with a lens and with a mirror.  They are usually very compact and they give good images.  But they are also the most expensive.  If you want your new scientific instrument as small as possible you may want to go with this type.

I still don’t know what to choose…

The best option is to find an astronomy group in your region and ask if you may look though their telescopes.  It’s like choosing a car: everybody has a different taste and you can only discover your taste by trying out different types of telescopes.  Clear skies!