Astronomy - Telescopes For Beginners
Updated: Mar 22
So you are interested in astronomy and are considering buying a telescope. That’s great right up until your scouring the internet looking for “telescopes for beginners,” and receive 100 different opinions on this brand and that brand, with this diameter and this length, without an electric motor or fully computerised etc. Maybe you have even stumbled across my simplistic recommended telescopes for beginners page HERE and are still confused!
The point is the options just never end and it is my mission to make buying your first telescope the exciting and simple process it should be.
Now over the years I have owned quite a few telescopes and have had quite a few regrets. My first ever telescope was a Celestron Astromaster 130. For its price tag this was a good telescope and was one which is often found in a “telescopes for beginners guide,” and yet it had its flaws. The mount was not solid and often quite a hassle to use, the telescope itself had to be collimated very regularly and overall it is not one I would particularly recommend. Putting that aside, however, I still had a fantastic time with this telescope. Great right! Not quite.
What you have to understand about astronomy is there is such a vast range of things to explore and after a while staring at that tiny red dot of mars through a 5 inch telescope such as the Celestron Astromaster 130 can become old. Before long you find yourself wondering “hmmm I wonder what a 8 inch telescope would see.” However, you have just spent $500 on a telescope which immediately lost a huge portion of its resale value and while you are over the moon you start wanting more.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast with this telescope exploring astronomy and learnt astrophotography even taking photos like this!
But there was always that thought in the back of my mind of what would a bigger telescope achieve?
Long story short I purchased something which you would not find in a “telescopes for beginners,” guide which was a 10 inch Dobsonian telescope and have not felt the need to upgrade since. In selling my original telescope I lost a little over $250 and had only used it for 6 months or so. That $250 could have brought me a lot more telescope than I got.
The point I am making here is that if you cannot quite afford a larger telescope such as a 8 - 10 inch Dobsonian and are interested in looking at all areas of the night sky in great detail then the best thing to do is wait and keep saving. Dobsonian telescopes are very easy to use, require little if no maintenance, are the cheapest type of telescope you can purchase and are fantastic for casual astronomy.
But What If I Don’t Like The Hobby?
Being a beginner does not mean you can’t go and purchase a large telescope. The only reason people are cautioned from doing so is because of the concern they will not enjoy it and will have “wasted so much more money.” The truth is if you purchase a 5 inch telescope and a 10 inch telescope, keep them for 6 months and then sell them both you will lose almost the exact same amount on both!
So What Do I Suggest
My personal recommendation is to get a 10 inch Dobsonian telescope taking into account the following considerations:
Do you have the room?
There is no denying a 10 inch telescope is large and you are going to want the real estate available to take it too and from locations or move it around your house. If it is a limiting factor you may have to just take what you can get and purchase a smaller telescope. Alternatively if money is not an issue look into more compact telescopes like Cassegrain telescopes.
Is there a lot of pollution?
Pollution can very quickly ruin a clear nights sky and cause bad viewing conditions. If this is the case consider dark areas you can take your telescope and along with that as mentioned above do you have a vehicle large enough to carry it?
Do you want to look at more than just the moon?
If the answer is yes then you are going to want at least an 8 inch telescope ideally a 10 inch scope. If the answer is no then a 5 or 6 inch telescope will serve you just fine.
Are you considering astrophotography?
If so you may want to consider looking into my astrophotography for beginners guide HERE. Astrophotography with a Dobsonian telescope can prove to be very troublesome and is not something I recommend. If you are mainly getting into telescopes for astrophotography go read this article HERE as it will provide you with a large insight into what is an appropriate telescope!
One Final Note
A 10 inch telescope is getting to the larger side of telescopes. As you get bigger scopes you can get more detail and as a result clearer magnification from them which means things can become a little shaky. Telescopes beyond 10 inches become less recreational and more of a professional/big enthusiasts toy and often require very still nights and heavy-duty tripods etc. My point is it can become very expensive and cumbersome to use telescopes exceeding 10 inches.
Along with that, if it is not your first telescope and you can afford it, consider investing in a “GOTO,” telescope which will find planets, constellations, nebulae and stars for you. It CAN make things much quicker, easier and more fun especially with family and friends! The reason I say "can," is that it can actually be quite troublesome to setup a GOTO scope. Once configured however it can make things easier. Overall, it is by no means essential however it definitely makes for a better experience if your willing to set it up properly. I have included a couple of GOTO telescopes in my list of recommended telescopes HERE.
With that, I leave you now hopefully with a straight forward understanding of what you should consider when purchasing a telescope. At the end of the day, there is no one telescope which will fit all however, for the majority of people this guide will work just fine! Click HERE for a list of telescopes I personally recommend which you can purchase off Amazon.