How to pick a telescope?

How to pick a telescope?

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I am trying to find a started telescope for my high school sister and my goals are to have awesome pictures and to let her explore her interest in the stars!

They live in a clear night sky area so Im looking for the best bang for my buck.

Right now I have picked out 3 telescopes, 2 reflectors and 1 Refractor. What qualities should one look for?

How do I compare telescopes to judge which will work best with a camera and is easy to learn?

What matters most for these conditions? Aperture, Focal Length, or the Focal Ratio?

What type of telescope would be best in terms of my goals?

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Choose an Astronomical Telescope: How to Choose Telescope for Astronomy

An astronomy telescope is designed for viewing objects in the sky, while a terrestrial telescope is for land viewing. You can use a terrestrial telescope for stargazing and vice versa, but the quality won’t be the same. If you’re into astronomy, get a telescope that is designed for astronomy.


Aperture is in reference to the diameter of the telescope’s mirror or lens. The diameter size determines how much light the telescope can gather. The lighter the telescope can gather the more objects you’ll be able to see at night.

The more light that is collected the clearer the images you’ll see. While a large aperture is ideal, it’s not practical to get the biggest one out there. The larger the aperture the larger the telescope will be physically and the harder to move.

Telescope Usage

How do you intend to use the telescope? If you’re gong to use the telescope in just one location, then get the largest aperture and telescope possible. But if you like to stargaze at different locations, look for a compact, lightweight telescope that still has a good-sized aperture.

You need to strike a balance between weight, aperture, and portability. The good news is a lot of these telescopes have a sizable aperture while being portable.

What about Magnification?

Magnification is important but not as much as aperture. Do not be fooled by some brands claiming that high magnification is the end-all and be-all of telescopes. But that isn’t true. The eyepiece determines the magnification level and a telescope can have an infinite magnification level if it’s well made.

A magnification level can reach up to 800x, but that really is not needed for stargazing as at that level you’ll just be seeing specs and air particles. Another way to think of this is to use a TV analogy. Sit too close to the TV and you’ll just see pixels.

Bottom line: there is no need for very high magnification if the aperture isn’t big enough to yield a sharp image.

What is a telescope if it doesn’t show you the object you wish to view in a crisp and clear detail? That’s why I believe that the aperture is its most important aspect. To put it simply, an aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s main optical component, which can either be a lens or a mirror.

It is the primary feature which determines both the scope’s light-gathering ability (the image’s brightness) and its resolving power (image sharpness and detail).

When setting out as an amateur stargazer myself, I had made it a point to learn all I could about the aperture of a telescope, and what I gathered over the years was something crucial. The base conclusion was pretty simple though the bigger the aperture, the better. With a 6-inch telescope I was effortlessly able to observe the craters of the moon. But on the other hand, even under the same conditions and magnification, I was barely able to view half that size with a 3-inch scope.

The difference was even more startling when I decided to do some deep space viewing. This is only possible because the surface area of a 6-inch mirror or lens is 4 times that of a 3-inch one, and as a result it collects 4 times as much light, making the galaxy seem bright and vivid.

The Myth about Magnification:

This is something I learned the hard way. Contrary to popular belief it’s not a telescope’s aperture that determines its magnification or power. Any telescope can provide an infinite range of magnifications, as it solely depends on the eyepiece being used.

But it’s not wise to think that a scope with higher power will be able to solve all your problems.

As there are two significant factors that limit the power and image quality of any given instrument, and they are aperture and atmospheric conditions. A mirror or lens is only capable of housing a limited amount of image detail that is why an optimum magnification is needed to see the required detail without spreading out the image light too much.

This is one of the reasons why most professional observers generally tend to use low powered scopes. When looking at faint objects like star clusters and nebulae.

Just as enlarging a picture too much can pixelate it, so too will excess magnification blur out the celestial object you’re trying to view.

Atmospheric Conditions:

Sometimes, on certain nights, even the most expensive and high powered telescope will give blurry images of the moon.

Also, the sharpness viewed can change in a matter of seconds. The fault during such nights does not lie with the scope, but with the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere. Warm air rising from sun soaked asphalt might be the issue as well.

It’s true that large apertures can allow any observer to discern fine details on the Moon or other planetary objects. But regardless of aperture, you can only see more when the surrounding air is good.

It is only with practice that you’ll be able to see more detail in an image. The better your eyes get trained, the longer can it look and wait for the chance of catching a few moments of steady air and more precise image quality.

Size and Power vs. Portability:

Telescopes with large apertures are chosen by observers who want to view specific dim objects like nebulae and star clusters. They want to gather as much light as possible from them so that the resulting image can be bright and clear. These deep space objects are mainly viewed with much low powered scopes than what would be used for the Moon and other Milky Way planets.

Even if you have the budget to go for these expensive, larger aperture scopes, the question of portability always comes in.

A larger than average amateur scope would require a permanent observatory so that you never have to move it. Or the help of others in transporting and setting it up.

Hence, there is always a compromise between convenience and power. It is therefore of great importance to pay attention to the weight of the scope you’re considering to buy.

Happy Stargazing!

As Stephen Hawking’s so aptly put it. “The universe doesn’t allow perfection” the same can be said for these telescopes as well.

They all have their flaws, but I believe their pros outshine their shortcomings on any given day. Each of them are unique in their own way and cater to different user preferences.

So, I leave it up to you to decide which scope can best suit your needs and become the right companion on all your astronomical ventures.

I hope my best telescope guide was able to solve at least few of your stargazing problems.

Choosing an amateur telescope

If you are thinking about buying something of your own choice, you must have an ample knowledge of its facts and figures. Otherwise, all your roaming and searching would go in vain if you don’t find the actual information about it. With telescopes is the same case.

When you decide to buy a beginner telescope you must have an idea regarding your location and then the darkness in the sky. You should also keep in mind the level of observation you want to obtain and how good of an observer are you. The cost of the item must also be known before buying the telescope for long lasting services.

The above factors should necessarily be considered while you are up for buying a telescope. That will then provide a better path to get involved with astronomy and its powerful experiences.

There are some basic key features that every telescope shows, and here we list them in order to give you a basic idea. A good beginner telescope would definitely come with all of these elements satisfying requirements of the user.

How To Pick A Telescope

For some beginner astronomers finding the right telescope can seem like a daunting task. To help beginner astronomers, we have created this simple guide to offer some help on what every newcomer needs to know and ask themselves before purchasing their new telescope.

Let’s start with types of telescopes. There are 3 types of telescopes: reflecting telescopes, refracting telescopes, and cassegrains. What’s the difference?

Refracting telescopes are the probably the most common telescope around. They use lenses instead of mirrors and the eyepiece is located at the bottom of the telescope. It should be noted that images from refractors are mirror images and can be corrected using an erecting prism, but doesn't have a large effect on your viewing experience. Refractors are easy to use due to the simplicity of design.

Reflecting telescopes use a mirror, instead of a lens, and the eyepiece is located at the top side of the main tube. Reflectors usually have larger apertures which mean excellent viewing of faint deep sky objects, but generally, they are not suited for terrestrial use.

Catadioptric telescopes or Cassegrain Telescopes, use a combination of mirrors and lenses. These telescopes usually have a nice modern design and have 3" and larger apertures. Two of the popular cassegrain designs are the Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain. These are some of the most versatile type of telescope with excellent lunar, planetary and deep space observing plus terrestrial viewing and photography, but tend to be more expensive than reflectors of equal aperture.

A mount is an important part of your telescope and determining how easy it is to follow a star while viewing it. There are two basic telescope mountings: Equatorial Mounts and AltAzimouth Mounts.

An Equatorial mount, simply put, allows users to follow the rotation of the sky as the Earth turns. This is a great help when you're trying to find your way among the stars with a map.

The Altazimuth mounts in contrast have a simpler design, meaning they just swing up, down, left and right. You have to move the scope every so often to follow the stars, moons and planets as the earth turns.

One of the more important features of a telescope is the Aperture. Aperture refers to the diameter of the telescope's main optical component. The size of your telescope's aperture determines how much light it can capture. The more light that is captured the more objects you can see in the night sky. More light also means greater clarity in the images you see. When selecting the aperture of your telescope, be sure to ask yourself where you want to use your telescope. If you are thinking about your backyard then having a large telescope will be great. If you have plans to take the telescope to darker skies, you will need something smaller and more portable, but still powerful.

Now that you know some basics about the different types of telescopes the first question to ask yourself when looking to purchase a telescope for the first time is “Do you know what you want the telescope for? Our suggestion is to do some research and decide from there. Remember that Meade’s Customer Service is always available and eager to assist with helping you decide what Meade Telescope is the perfect for YOU!

How To Pick A Telescope For Adults

Many years ago, before digital photography revolutionized the medium, taking a beautiful shot of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), or even a detailed image of the moon, showing its many craters, rilles and mountains would only be possible if you had a large wallet and access to highly specialized equipment and techniques. For the average amateur astronomer it was entirely out of reach.

With high-end telescopes now being mass produced, new optical designs and most importantly, the digital camera in combination with brilliant new software solutions that dramatically increase the quality of the images, the popularity of astrophotography has increased exponentially over the past two decades. What was virtually impossible twenty years ago is now available to anybody with a passionate interest and willingness to spend long hours perfecting the art of celestial imaging.

Tips and guidance on how to choose your first telescope.

If you are looking at purchasing your first telescope or just researching what is available in the market, here are some simple considerations and rules to help you along the way.

Optical equipment and terminology can quickly become a very complicated subject so we have tried to strip away the jargon and give you a framework to make sure you get the right first telescope.

Decide what you want from your telescope Since there are many models and kinds of telescopes, the best thing is to ask yourself what you need your telescopes for. Are you going to use it just for astronomy, land/sea viewing, bird watching, looking at the view from you deck or some sort of combination? Are you a beginner and want to learn on a smaller model or buy a larger one to grow in to over time? Is it going to be in one place or do you want to transport it around? How much room have you got to store it? Will it fit with the style of the house you have? These are some of the questions you may need to consider.

What is your budget? Telescopes are expensive. Identifying your budget helps in choosing just the right ones for you. However, like any other products, the higher the price is the better quality the product has. For example, you can’t compare the quality of the results of a fifty-dollar camera to a ten thousand dollar camera. The same thing applies with telescopes. Read More…

Telescope Buying Guide For Adults’

The Beginner
Buying a telescope for a total beginner with little or no knowledge about space, the stars or telescopes? Not a problem. Best thing you can do is try a GPS controlled telescope or a fully-automatic telescope. These telescopes are a great way to introduce a novice to backyard astronomy. The fully-automatic telescopes take out the work. Simply take one to your viewing location, turn it on, and the easy-to-use computer will automatically point to incredible celestial bodies that would otherwise take hours to find.

If you’re working within a budget, then we’ve got the absolute best Beginner Bundles in the biz. These packages give you complete space and astronomy with the basic accessories you’ll need — like a copy of the book Astronomy for Dummies — that you’ll need to get started. With a few more bucks, you may try upgrading to a Deluxe Bundle or even an Ultimate Bundle for all the bells and whistles. Read More…

How To Choose A Telescope For Astrophotography

For most beginner astronomers finding the right beginner telescope is an extremely daunting task. The world of astronomy is a fascinating place but the process of finding the right telescopes for beginners can be filled with technical jargon, confusing features and a multitude of options. Telescope mechanics can be quite complex and it is not uncommon for new beginners to find themselves purchasing the wrong scope and becoming incredibly disappointed in the process.

To help astronomers, this guide offers a simple resource for explaining what every newcomer needs to know when purchasing their new telescope.

How to Choose a Telescope

This is an exciting time to become an amateur astronomer. Never have novice stargazers been presented with such a vast array of telescopes and accessories to pursue their hobby. Naturally, this brings the burden of choice: the bewildering variety makes it hard for an uninformed consumer to make the right decision.
Whether you’re seriously considering buying your first telescope or just daydreaming about it, this guide will help you narrow your options. First we’ll explore the types of telescopes available, and then we’ll discuss their key features — the size of the primary lens or mirror, type of mount, portability, computerization, and accessories. We’ll also look at the tradeoffs, because every instrument has its advantages and disadvantages. Read More…

Telescopes for Digital Astrophotography

As with picking a camera, picking the best telescope for your needs will depend on a number of different factors:
Experience Level – Are you a beginner or a seasoned expert?
Budget – how much do you have to spend?
Area of Interest – Is there a particular area that you want to specialize in? Do you want to do high-resolution work, or wide-field astrophotography?
Planets – Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn etc. You need a high-quality scope with a relatively long focal length if you want to do high-resolution photography of the planets.
Deep-Sky – Star Clusters, nebulae, Galaxies. You need a fast, short focal length scope for wide-field work such are large nebulae. You need a lot of aperture and focal length if you want to shoot small planetary nebulae and galaxies. Read More…

So You Wanna Buy a Telescope… Advice for Beginners

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a telescope — congratulations! Astronomy can be a life long pleasure, with the right equipment. But what to buy? And how do you not wind up with a room that looks like the above? There’s more equipment out there than ever before. This article will attempt to make some sense out of the seemingly huge selection of scopes and accessories.

First of all, some words of advice: Read More…


Photography is one of those hobbies that you can pour never ending amounts of cash into, there is always something new and shiny to spend your money on. But if you’re into astronomy, or star gazing chances are that you may be interested in Astrophotography (Taking pictures of stars and space). One thing that you will need in addition to your normal photography gear is a telescope and it can be hard for beginners to choose a photography worthy telescope. Read More…

How to choose a telescope

We hear this question frequently from our customers:

“This will be my first telescope, but there are so many to choose from, so I would need some advise about how to choose a telescope…”

Then I would ask couple of questions to make sure we go into the correct direction… The question, “what sort of budget you have” or “how much were you planning to spend” might be not that easy to answer, once you know that some telescopes might not serve you as well as others for a certain purpose…, never-the-less it’ll give me an idea about what types of telescopes to discuss with you… Read More…

How to Pick a Telescope

"Starting out right" and "Juggling Ps" will help you narrow your search from the hundreds of possible choices we carry to the three or four that best meet your needs.

The "Why buy . . . " sections will give you the unbiased pros and cons about the different telescope types to help you further narrow your search.

The "FAQ" section will answer fun questions like "How far can I see with a telescope?" and "How much color can I see?"

The "Terms" section will explain those cryptic technical terms and specifications that the manufacturers assume everyone already knows, but which may be new to you.

We have developed and refined this copyrighted information from practical experience in selling telescopes for well over 35 years and from our years of observing experience, as well (starting as far back as 1952 in one case). Several major telescope manufacturers have used this information to train their employees and new sales reps. It is used, with permission, by several universities and numerous high schools as a basic text in observational astronomy courses. This information has helped tens of thousands of people pick the right telescope for them. We hope it can do the same for you.

We have tried to make the information as complete as possible. If there's something this section doesn't explain, however, feel free to call or e-mail us and we'll do our best to get you an answer.


The Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is the most common type of hybrid. This means that it is a combination of both the refracting and reflecting telescope.

The Schmidt-Cassegrain is a mixture of a large aperture with a long focal length.

Since reflecting telescopes suffer from short focal lengths and refractors don’t have large apertures, this item seems almost too good to be true. It is real but there are some catches. Foremost, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes can be much more expensive than the other types of telescopes.


  1. Garret

    Lovely answer

  2. Phelps

    Sorry, I too would like to express my opinion.

  3. Kazrajar

    I join all of the above. We can talk about this topic. Here, or in the afternoon.

  4. Clovis

    It's a pity that I can't speak now - I'm late for the meeting. But I will return - I will definitely write what I think.

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