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Ott Planetarium - Buying a Telescope

Part 1: Don't Buy a Telescope
Part 2: Buy Binoculars
Part 3: But I Really Want a Telescope
Part 4: A Guide For The Serious Buyer

Buy Binoculars

What do I suggest you get for the budding young (at heart) astronomer?

I suggest that you buy a GOOD pair of binoculars; probably the most overlooked type of "telescope". A good pair of binoculars is a cost effective way to introduce yourself to the night sky. All serious amateur astronomers own a good pair of binoculars. Don't rush to buy a telescope -- learn your way around the sky first. You can also take a some of the money you saved and buy a beginners "sky guide book" and a subscription to either Astronomy or Sky and Telescope magazine. ("Astronomy" is the more introductory of the two, but both are good.) Go to your local library or book & magazine store and look at both and see which one you like the best. Both magazines contain monthly star charts, diagrams, and descriptions that include objects that are good for viewing in binoculars.

What type of binoculars should you get?

For astronomy, the binoculars should be about 10x50 (the 10 refers to the power, the 50 to the diameter in millimeters of the lens, or the ability to gather light) with higher diameters, and hence higher light gathering ability, showing more detail at the expense of weight (use of very large binoculars generally requires a tripod). I'd strongly recommend that you also buy a camera tripod and make sure the binoculars have a tripod mounting screw hole on them or have an (optional) bracket/adaptor so that you can mount the binoculars to the tripod. (Note, you could also use 7X50's but lower magnifications are not as satisfying. 12X50 is also a good choice, powers much beyond 10 to 12 become difficult to hold steady. I have also tried the fancy image stabilizing binoculars by Cannon and they do a nice job but are quite expensive.)

Expect to spend between $100 and $200 for a good quality pair of binoculars. You can start by going to camera stores and looking at their selection. Avoid cheap off brands, the quality of the optics and optical coatings are where they save their manufacturing costs. Generally, the best brands are the same as the brands of high quality cameras and telescopes, e.g., Nikon, Cannon, Pentax, Minolta, Meade, Celestron, etc. Expect to spend about $30 to $80 for a good strong, stable tripod. Finally, expect to spend about $30 for an introductory astronomy guide book and a magazine subscription. In summary, expect your present to cost between $150 to $300. (Note that this is less than many department store telescopes!)

Don't forget other sources too, such as pawn shops which often have both binoculars and tripods for very reasonable prices.

What can you see with binoculars?

You can see: Many books have been written detailing the different objects that can be viewed in binoculars. Any good bookstore will have at least one book specifically about things in the sky you can find with your binoculars.

Don't Buy a Telescope | Buy Binoculars | But I Really Want a Telescope | A Guide For the Serious Buyer

Weber State University > Physics Department > Ott Planetarium > here about us | contact us