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How To Choose A Telescope – For Amateur Astronomers

A telescope is a great investment for those who have an interest in astronomy or simply like to look at the beautiful stars spread across the sky like tiny diamonds. Star-gazing is a great hobby for both children and adults alike. Children can learn a lot by spending a few minutes looking at the stars, from the locations of specific stars to their names and much more. It is a great way to develop an interest in astronomy among kids. Adults of course can enjoy the solitude and the silent beauty that comes with star-gazing.

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If you are just beginning to enjoy star-gazing, it is recommended that you take some time to make yourself familiar with the night sky, before starting to use a telescope. Get a hold of some magazines and books that explain the names of various stars and constellations along with their location in the sky. You can subscribe to the leading astronomy magazines such as Astronomy or Sky and Telescope. Take that book or magazine, or even an e-book on your smartphone or tablet, head out during the night and try to spot the closer stars and other planetary bodies with the naked eye. Get a star atlas to pinpoint what you spot in the sky.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the night sky and can easily point to the location of various stars and constellations, then you are ready for a telescope. Here are a few pointers that will come in handy while you choose that ideal beginner telescope.

The most important feature in an astronomical telescope is the aperture. It refers to the diameter of the light-gathering lens of the telescope, also known as the objective. The bigger the size of the aperture, the more light it captures and since most astronomy is done during night, a larger aperture will be able to capture more light, leading to a better and clearer view of the objects. The aperture is mostly measured in millimeters and sometimes in inches. The ideal minimum aperture that a telescope should have is of 70 mm (2.75 inches), but anything between 100-120mm aperture should be good enough for amateur astronomers. Keep in mind that as the aperture increases, so will the size of the telescope.

The next thing to keep in mind is magnification. While many telescopes are advertised with their magnification powers, avoid getting swayed by the large numbers and do not make it a deciding factor. In fact, magnification depends on the aperture and a bigger aperture will let you magnify objects more. Magnification can also be increased by changing the eyepiece, but without a good aperture size, you will only get to see blurred objects. Depending upon the quality of the optical pieces and the conditions, you can get up to 20x to 50x of magnification per inch of aperture. So to get the best magnification, know that your aperture size has to be at least 4 inches, or 100mm.

Lastly, do not forget to look for a good, sturdy telescope mount to keep your telescope steady while you explore the night skies. A mount will also help you follow a star while you are viewing it, or move with the earth’s rotation to follow the sky.

Another little piece of advice, consider buying a good pair of binoculars ( if you don’t already have one at home) initially. Many astronomers suggest exploring the night sky with binoculars before diving head first with telescopes. Binoculars are not only a cheaper investment but can also teach you a lot about the sky, picking out various interesting celestial objects. In fact, various expert star-gazers keep binoculars handy when they are out to quickly spot something or to scan the sky before setting-up their telescopes.

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Also, join a local astronomy club to enjoy the night-time views a bit more. Such a club would have experienced astronomers and amateurs both, and they can guide you best on the views that you can see from your backyard and also on everything else you might need to successfully watch the stars and celestial bodies.

Well, there you are! These tips should help you choose the ideal telescope and get started with star-gazing, we hope! Browse through our selection of telescopes and you will surely find what you need here at Ryda.

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