Planet Four Talk

Thinking of Buying a Telescope?

  • Kitharode by Kitharode moderator

    Some time back I received this message; "Hi. I saw you were online. could you recommend a telescope for me to buy. Many Thanks Joe". Fortunately for Joe this is a question I've been asked before so I already had an answer. It struck me later, however, that there may well be others 'out there' looking for telescope ideas so I've reproduced my answer to Joe here.

    Sounds like you're looking to buy your first 'scope, so I'll work on that theory. Just about the most important part of a telescope is the optics. The other stuff just holds this in place and lets you move the scope about. Therefore, forget motor-drives, computer 'go-to' add-ons and such (just more stuff to go wrong) and put your money into optics.

    Money is a big factor. Roughly speaking, the more you can spend the better, but if you're happy to lose the 'bells and whistles' approach (and I advise that you do) then it doesn't have to break the bank to get something decent, or even very good. If you spend too liitle, you might end up with a duffer and this might put you off astronomy observation - shame. Also, it's hard to sell-on a duffer. If you spend enough on a scope, then it moves into the bracket of resaleable, so if things don't work out you've a better chance of getting some cash back (same applies to guitars). Also, good scopes give exciting views which of course help to motivate us.

    So is there a best option. Well, you might want to forget telescopes for a minute and think binoculars. Cheaper, so you can put more of your money into better optics and a sturdy mount. You get a more '3D'(ish) view - and it's 'the right way up' (astronomical telescopes give an inverted image). They are particularly good for double stars, star clusters, the Moon of course. Like a scope, you can project solar images safely (Never look directly at the Sun) for eclipses and transits. I'm sorry if you know most of this already, but I'd rather say too much than too little for this question.

    A bino and stand of usable quality might be less than £200-ish. I like Russian optics.

    Telescopes - My first choice would be to check out the TAL range of scopes TAL1, TAL 2, TAL3...... which have always impressed me when I've met them. Simple, solid, straightforward, and for me a quality image for the price. Prices used to be from about £350 for the TAL1 and very roughly went up a £100ish through the range. I forget the exact mirror size, I think 3" or 3.5" was TAL1. You'll have to check all this but let's say; TAL1 is 3" mirror £350 TAL2 4" mirror £450+ TAL3 5" mirror £600 etc, up to whatever they do nowadays (10" or 12"?).

    Try hard to 'try before you buy'. Find your nearest astroclub and see what others are using. If you're buying secondhand, this is a good move as long as you have an 'expert' with you, that is, someone who'll know a good scope when they see it, and how much its worth.

    I like TAL's, others swear by Celestron or Meade or others. In the end it's you that's gotta choose.

    For astroclubs near you: Hope that helps.