Buying A Telescope

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Choosing a telescope that is going to be right for you requires a little bit of research. We often get asked what is the best telescope for beginners and we always tell people that there isn’t one, there are great beginner telescopes for certain but the right telescope for you is the one that meets your requirements and let’s you look at what it is you want to look at!


First of all, forget about telescope magnification – it’s really not that important. A beginner looking around the market will almost certainly be swayed by glossy adverts on eBay and wonderful looking equipment often displayed in camera stores around Christmas. The temptation to buy a telescope with a promised x700 magnification can be great and when the camera store is doing a very special price it’s hard not to be tempted. Here's our first bit of advice - DON'T DO IT!!!

These include Sky-Watcher, Celestron, Meade, GSO, Vixen, Intes Micro, TAL, and Orion Optics but there are others, if in doubt do not be afraid to ask us.


To help you make the right decision you need to answer the following questions.

1) What do I want to look at, the Moon and the planets, deep sky (nebula and galaxies etc.), or both?

2) Where do I live, am I in an area affected by light pollution?

3) Where am I going to store it, how much weight can I manage, will I need to carry it up and down stairs?

3) Do I plan to travel with my telescope, if so, how much kit can I reasonably transport?

4) What is my budget?   

For looking at the Moon and planets you do not need a telescope with a very large aperture (about 100 to 130mm diameter is ideal) but with a long focal length (about f10) to give you the required magnification. Refractors of this size will be 1 to 1.3 metres in length and can be awkward to use and store. Schmidt Cassegrains (SCT’s) or Maksutov Cassegrains (MAK’s), these catadioptrics or cats are a compound design and are much more compact being about a third of the length of a refractor for the same focal length but do tend to be more expensive.

Refractor         Cassegrain

For deep sky you do not need magnification as much as aperture (150 to 200mm diameter or more) and for this, reflectors (usually about f5 to f8) give the best value for money but again these can be quite long.
For imaging deep sky objects you will need tracking on your mount.
Reflector            Tracking Mount

If you are very light polluted area then you will probably have to forget deep sky (unless you are prepared to travel to dark sites) and concentrate on the moon and planets.

Storing and carrying the telescope and mount is an important consideration and our advice is to handle several types of telescope and mount before you buy as the larger pieces of equipment can be very heavy. This also applies if you plan to transport your equipment to dark sites.

Just as important as the telescope is the mount, a flimsy mount will make even the best telescope virtually un-useable so go for the best mount you can afford, but taking into account its size and weight.


There are two basic types of mount, equatorial and altitude-azimuth (alt-az) the equatorial allows easier tracking but needs careful setting up which can be a problem for beginners.


Computerised GOTO mounts are very popular although they can be quite expensive. The onboard database makes finding objects very easy but they also require some care in setting up.
Computerised GOTO Mounts

Do not rush into buying a telescope but consider your choices carefully and do not be afraid to ask, you are always welcome to visit our clubroom where we can show you our telescopes, explain their workings and offer plenty of advice.

Please note that due to our location within the University visits have to be by prior arrangement. To arrange a visit please email

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