Dave Reneke | Buying the right telescope

THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD: That's the advice to telescope buyers.
THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD: That's the advice to telescope buyers.

What’s on the top of your Christmas list this year? Maybe a telescope?

A lot of people get confused, but the short answer is, buy the dearest telescope you can afford.

Modern telescopes are a compromise between price and quality, and any telescope in Australia under $300 is not going to do any serious work for you.

Buy from a dealer who knows about telescopes, a camera shop for instance, or a telescope retailer.

The best way to get into astronomy is to first learn the constellations and then use a pair of binoculars to find your first ‘deep sky’ objects like planets.

One target that will show tremendous detail even in a small telescope is the Moon. Even a small telescope will reveal a wealth of detail.

You’ll be able to see craters, mountains, ‘seas’, and a number of other fine details.

Remember, the quality of the view you will have through your telescope depends to a very large degree on how much light pollution you have in your area.

As far as beginner telescopes are concerned, there are many junk telescopes out there, but decent starter scopes are not too expensive.

Expect to pay at least $250 for a quality beginner telescope in Australia. 

You can find scopes for around $100 or less but beware, they‘re usually of very poor mechanical and optical quality.

Perhaps the second most important part of a telescope is its mount.

Make sure its smooth, stable, and solid. If you can pick the entire scope and mount up with one hand it will wobble in the slightest breeze and you’ll invent words never heard before.

Better to avoid them.

Really, the best telescope for you is the one you will use the most.

Around $500 is probably a good amount to spend to get a truly decent starter scope and the necessary accessories you’ll need to round out the package.

Visit www.davidreneke.com for free e-books on buying and using a telescope, plus heaps more tips and suggestions.

It is important to keep in mind that most telescopes will not provide huge colour images like those seen in books and magazines so don’t let that glossy box impress you too much OK?