ClearDarkSky.com presents...

Frequently Asked Questions
(Not about Clear Sky Charts)

What telescope should I buy?

Astronomy is one of those hobbies where there is quite a bit to learn before one can safely spend large sums of money with the confidence that you will get a satisfying product.

So, I suggest people don't buy a telescope. (How un-commercial of me.) Instead I suggest attending star parties, joining an observing group or club and looking through many scopes before you spend any money. The best way to find people who will let you look through their telescopes is to find an astronomy club ( USA astronomy clubs, Canadian astronomy clubs ) and go to a local star party ( USA star parties, Canadian star parties). In case you are wondering, star parties happen in almost complete darkness, so high-heels, tuxedos and even alcohol are not called for.)

No really, I want to buy a telescope.

In that case I must warn you that a good starter scope costs at least $500 and looks like a homemade cannon. Less expensive scopes may look very high-tech but are usually less satisfying than a good pair of binoculars, a good book and a astronomy magazine subscription.

On that topic, good choices would be 10X50 binoculars, the book "Nightwatch" by Terrence Dickenson and a subscription to Sky News Magazine or Night Sky Magazine.

Ahem. Back on topic, Please.

Right. The first thing anyone needs to know about buying telescopes is to be suspicious of any scope that advertises magnification or power. Any telescope can be made to magnify at any power. Power is not an indication of scope quality or ability. In anycase, most good views occur at low power.

The second is that there are a great number of different telescopes designs in a wide range of qualities. One telescope cannot do all things or satisfy all people.

However, the most recommended first telescope for a beginning visual (i.e. no photography) observer is a 6 inch f/8 newtonian on a dobson mount.

But a child might find a 4 inch more their size just as some adults might find that they stoop less with an 8". The general idea is to get the largest aperture that you are comfortable using.

The details of the possible choices are vast. Terrence Dickenson describes the choices very clearly in his book "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide". Less readable but free is: findascope.com

I know what I want. Where can I buy it?

Okaaay...

If you want helpful sales advice, pick a local telescope shop. If they don't stock it, they all have the ability to order from manufacturers. If looking up "telescope" in your local buisness phone listings gives you no joy try:

Telescope vendors in Canada
Telescope vendors in the USA

Hey... I'm a child of the internet, and I fear not spam. Where on the net can I buy a used scope?

The most popular places are: But before you buy a scope you never looked through, you should probably know the meanings of the words: dobsonian, apochromatic, equatorial, servo drive, periodic error, star test, collimation and shipping damage claim.

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