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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

Don't Buy a Telescope!

Here is why:

Most "department store" telescopes are outrageously over marketed; with claims that are misleading at best, and outright dishonest at worst.
  1. The claims for magnification are true but are not of any value. These telescopes will not produce anything but a blur for any magnification larger than about 150X.
  2. The mounts are usually so wobbly that the view through the scope is unstable.
  3. The finder scopes are usually worthless for actually finding anything in the main scope.

What about those really cool Digital Electronic Telescopes that find thousands of objects for you?

Again, I suggest against it. There are several problems with these telescopes:

The biggest problem with these scopes is that they still require that the user "know the sky." For the telescope to find objects for you it must first know where it is in the sky. To do this the user must "align" the telescope on several (two or three) guide stars. If you don't know were Spica or Vega or other stars are then you can't make the telescope find any objects in the sky. You must be able to locate a handful of stars and center them in the telescope manually before you can use the automatic finder features. Expect to still have to do some searching too, all the telescope will do is get you close (unless you are really good at the alignment procedure).

On top of all this, the affordable digital telescopes still have cheesy mounts that are difficult to use; they wobble in the slightest wind, and drift off the object. They still have little light gathering ability and will not produce views that compare with the pictures on the box. Yes, the properly aligned telescope will "find" thousands of objects, but most of these would be difficult to see in such a small telescope unless you are an experienced observer.

Note, the thousand dollar plus versions of the digital telescopes are excellent scopes. Mostly I'm referring to the smaller digital scopes you can find in the department and discount stores from $200 to $400.

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