The Best Telescope - Part 1: Stop

I belong to a few online astronomy discussion groups and almost daily someone asks what the best telescope is and they usually want to spend something on the order of $100 to $500.1

So what is the best telescope?

There isn't one.

Or, rather, there isn't just one.

And you're not going to get a great scope in the $100 range. At least not a new one.

This is the first of a four part guide that, with any luck, will help you make an informed buying decision.

Part 1: Stop

Before you even consider buying a telescope, learn your way around the sky. Don't depend on an app on your phone. You should have a basic understanding of which constellations are which and when to find them in the sky.

For this, I recommend two children's books.

Please, don't take this as an insult to your intelligence. If you were learning woodworking, would you start by trying to build a glass front curio cabinet or by building a birdhouse?

It's a lot like that. Start simply.

The books are both by the same author, H. A. Rey, but you don't need to know his name in order to find these books.

One is called "The Stars: A New Way to See Them" and one is called "Find the Constellations." But you don't need to know the titles to find them, either.

Just ask your book seller to help you find the star books written by the guy who created Curious George. That's easy to remember!

With books like this as your guide, learn your way around the sky. Learn which constellations are visible in which seasons (for example, you won't see Orion in the sky in July).2

I don't recommend getting the more complex star atlases for the beginner because they can be overwhelming by giving you too much information.

Don't feel you need to know the names of every star (although knowing the names of the brighter ones is a good idea). You don't need to know how to find every constellation. But knowing a few that are visible in each season will help you find the things you want to see in the night sky.

After you're comfortable with finding some basic constellations, then you might want to consider getting a better view.

We'll look at that in Part 2.

1I live in the United States so my prices are listed in US dollars.
2I live in the northern hemisphere so I may occasionally make a sky reference that may be different if you live south of the equator.


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