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How To Choose a Telescope

Choosing a Telescope

There are many decisions to make when choosing a telescope. Even for an amateur telescope, there are two major decisions that need to be made right away. After that, you can fine tune your telescope selection to suit your needs and preferences.

First Question: Computer or No Computer?

The first decision to make when selecting a telescope is whether to buy a telescope with a computer or without a computer. That's right, computerized telescopes comes with their own computer built right into the telescope mount. You do not have to supply your own computer. There are advantages either way.

Computer Advantages

The sole duty of a telescope computer is to locate objects for you. This is important, however, since there are literally hundreds of potential objects to observe with even a small telescope. If you are a beginner, a computerized telescope will locate many more objects in a single night than you could find on your own. You do not have to be highly technical, since most telescope computers are user-friendly and relatively simple to operate. A computer telescope is also highly recommended if you observe under badly light polluted skies. Navigating on your own with a star map is tough when you can't see a lot of stars. Lastly, a computer on a telescope can make an excellent teacher for a motivated beginner. I know several excellent amateur astronomers who used the computer in just this way. A computer on a telescope does not have to be crutch or a way to avoid learning the basics of the night sky.

Computer Disadvantages

Computers significantly add to the cost of a optical telescope. If on a budget, keep in mind that you will not be able to buy as large of a telescope if you opt for a computer. This is important because telescope size, not magnification, most determines performance. You should also ask yourself how well you do with computers. After all, a computer on a telescope is no different than any other computer. There can be software issues and headaches that can cut in to valuable observing time.

Perhaps the question to ask is, "Do I need a computer" Learning to find objects on your own without a computer definitely takes longer and is more of a challenge, but many astronomers, me included, regard this as one of the more enjoyable aspects of astronomy. It is hardly something to be avoided, and you will need this skill to some extent if you stay with astronomy. Navigating with nothing more than a star map is tough under badly light-polluted skies but it is a very good option from a dark or only mildly light-polluted site. No computer also means you can buy a larger astronomy telescope to take advantage of your dark skies.

I'll Take a Computer

Okay. If you decide to go with a computerized telescope, you need a bit more information. There are two types of computerized telescopes - motorized (GOTO) and non-motorized. By the way, you do not have to supply your own computer on a computerized telescope. The computers are built into the telescope mounts and comes complete and ready to use.

Before You Buy Your First Telescope