You and Your Telescope

In This Chapter

V Should you buy a telescope or binoculars?

V How much should you spend?

V Value versus junk: what to look for, what to avoid

V Refractor, reflector, Cassegrain, Dobsonian?

V Navigating your telescope by computer

V Tips for enjoying your telescope

At nearly $3 billion for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, astronomy can be a daunt-ingly expensive pursuit. Fortunately, you don't have to spend quite that much to get started. In fact, you don't really have to spend anything. A lot of observation can be done with the naked eye, and many local communities have active amateur astronomers who would be happy to let you gaze at the heavens through their telescopes. Some veteran amateur astronomers even warn newcomers that they will be disappointed with a telescope unless they first obtain some star charts and guidebooks and make an effort to learn the major constellations, perceive differences in brightness, and learn to explain the phases of the moon. "Learn to use your eyes before you buy a telescope," they say.

There's some real value in this advice. You need at least a little working knowledge of the sky before you can locate much of anything with a telescope. In addition, the type of telescope you buy will depend in part on the type of observing that you want to do, and you won't know that until you have a little experience. So our first piece of advice is to be patient: Don't run out to a sale at your local Mega-Lo-Mart and buy a telescope just yet.

But let's face it—part of the fun of astronomy is making faint objects look brighter and distant objects look closer. To many, a big part of the fun of astronomy is its tools.

In Chapter 5, "The Art of Collecting Light (with a Telescope)," we reviewed the history and basic principles of the optical telescope. Now let's get some hands-on experience with one.

Astronomer's Notebook

We'll talk about light pollution later in this chapter, but let's allow that, for a beginner, it may not all be bad. By blotting out many of the fainter stars, urban lighting certainly simplifies the night sky, making it less dazzlingly beautiful, it is true, but also less dazzling period. For beginners, the simplified urban sky may, in fact, be a good place to start viewing the sky. To many a city dweller, the first view of a dark night sky filled with several thousand stars can be overwhelming, although "go-to" controls (also discussed later in this chapter) now make navigating the night sky much simpler.

Star Words

Aperture is the diameter of the objective lens (that is, the primary or "big" lens) or primary mirror of a telescope and the main lenses of binoculars.

Aperture is the diameter of the objective lens (that is, the primary or "big" lens) or primary mirror of a telescope and the main lenses of binoculars.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know all about the telescopes that can provide a fun and rewarding hobby for you and your family!

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