The Best Telescope - Part 3: Listen

Once you've explored the sky thoroughly with binoculars, if you're like most people, you still want to get a better look and now you're itching to buy a telescope.

One of the best ways to shop is with your ears.

Part 3: Listen

Talk with people who know about telescopes. Don't believe the hype on websites.

Before you go shopping, visit a local astronomy club if you can. Talk with the folks about their telescopes and find out what they like and dislike about various scopes. Don't ask what the best scope is because you'll get several different answers.

Sometimes, the clubs will have gatherings called star parties where the group gets together to look at objects through their scopes. Ask your group if they hold public star parties (most do).

This can give you an idea of what you can actually see through telescopes.

Don't get your expectations too high. You're not going to see Hubble quality images, even with the best amateur instruments. That's not the fault of the telescope. It's a limitation of our own physiology. The human eye can gather light instant by instant.

But keep in mind that the hazy patch of light you see might be the birthplace of new stars. Or it might be a collection of billions of stars that are millions of light years away. That little white oval with the stripes on it is a planet ten times the diameter of the Earth and nearly a half a billion miles away.

And if you get a chance to see Saturn... well, it's an experience that you'll always remember.

You might even have the good luck to get involved with an astronomy club that has loaner scopes. That way, you can get familiar with the operation of a telescope without making a big investment.

If you do go on social media or websites where amateur astronomers congregate, don't be afraid to ask questions but be armed with a bit of knowledge before you go in (especially the part about not asking what the best scope is).

And don't post a link to a $30 scope asking if it's a good one.

It's not.

That's not being an equipment snob. It's a fact that a company cannot produce a telescope of any quality at that price and make a profit. It will be largely plastic, have low quality optics, a wobbly mount, a sloppy focuser and a world of other problems.

In Part 4, we're going to talk about making that final buying decision and some of your options.


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