Telescopes & Mounts

There is no "best" telescope for everyone. The one that's right for you will depend on your lifestyle and your astronomy goals. The best telescope is the one you'll use most often. And that will depend on your comfort zone in terms of size, price and ease of use.

The two most important questions are what do you want to see and where will you be observing from? Let's look at the different types of telescopes, and in so doing, some of the important considerations that might influence your buying decision.

There are 3 basic types of telescopes:

  1. Refractors are long, thin telescopes that collect light through multi-element lenses. Known for sharp, detailed, higher contrast images, they are best for viewing the moon and planets.
  2. Reflectors (Newtonian) collect light with a curved, concave mirror. Their large apertures allow them to serve up fine, highly-resolved images of planets and deep-sky objects alike. These scopes are unsuitable for terrestrial (earthly) viewing as they produce an upside-down-and-slightly-rotated image and are designed exclusively for astronomy.
  3. Catadioptrics or compound telescopes (Schmidt-Cassegrain or Maksutov-Cassegrain) use both mirrors and lenses to collect and focus the incoming light. They sport very compact tubes, and give you great all-around performance.

The second thing to consider when buying a telescope is the telescope mount.  Mounts can be divided by there orientation Alt-azimuth vs Equatorial Mounts.  The basic difference is that an Alt-azimuth mount is oriented horizontally and vertically which is great for terrestrial viewing and casual astronomy, while the Equatorial mounts are tilted to the latitude of the observer and oriented toward the Celestial North Pole near the Star Polaris.  Equatorial mounts are designed to track the sky while the celestial sphere rotates at 15 degrees an hour.

An equatorial orientation is required for long exposure film astrophotography.

For further details on Telescopes and Mounts select the following links:

  Telescopes
  Refractors
Reflectors (Newtonians)
Catadioptrics
Telescope Mounts
Aperture vs. Magnification
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