The holidays are nearly here. Prismatic bulbs are strung on porches. The radio is saturated with festive tunes.
Do you plan on purchasing a telescope? Wait! put down the eggnog! Read this article and prevent yourself from being ripped off this holiday season.
Avoid Stores With Polished Floors & Sliding Doors
You know what I’m talking about.
Avoid warehouses that supply a large variety of items: cat litter, back scrubbers, motor oil, curling irons—cheap optical toys are typically sold in places that don’t specialize in the products they’re selling.
You can easily distinguish a real telescope from a toy. Toy telescope boxes are visually attractive. Images of breathtaking galaxies or ginormously magnified photographs of lunar craters. False promises are also splattered across their rectangular cardboard sarcophagus: Magnifies 500x! Ultra powerful! Brings Planets to Life!
The truth? I’m glad you asked! Telescope toys are too meager to be capable of offering the views promised on the packaging.
Listen: simply avoid stepping through a large warehouse department store if you want to buy a real telescope.
Research reputable telescope manufacturers. These companies often have sales, and you can purchase quality gear for little cost, especially during the holidays. Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, Celestron, and Meade sell quality telescopes.
Don’t Spend Less Than $150.00
You know what they say (and I hate to say it): You get what you pay for.
This is undoubtedly true for telescopes. From my personal experience—$150.00 seems to be the threshold between a usable instrument and a toy. Sure. There are cheaper telescopes available, but it’s risky business spending less than $150.
Also keep in mind: you’re not just buying a telescope. You’re also buying a somewhat stable mount.
For $150.00, you can purchase an Orion Observer 70mm refractor which comes with an equatorial mount and a few other goodies. Equatorial mount is not necessary.
Some telescope prices fluctuate. At the time of writing this sentence, the Orion Observer 70mm refractor costs $149.99.
- What Do You Want to Observe?
No telescope can do it all. No matter the cost.
Do you want to spy on planets? Get an eyeful of crater? Then you may want a telescope with a long local length. These kinds of telescopes will provide the power needed to resolve planetary detail (Jupiter’s cloud bands or the rings of Saturn).
The Orion Apex 102mm costs about $299.99.
Don’t underestimate catadioptric telescopes. They look small, but they can easily resolve planets and lunar terrain, plus much more.
Catadioptric telescopes are more expensive compared to other similar size telescopes, but their full metal construction and image quality is superb.
The Orion 102mm Apex fits in a small bag and takes up less space than the Orion Observer 70mm refractor.
The Orion Observer 70mm is also a decent instrument and it’s cheaper. The focal length is shorter, however, the telescope is physically longer than the 102mm Apex.
Short-tube refractors are available (400-600mm focal length).
Don’t be fooled by cheap, plastic toys. Now that you’re able to tell the difference between a toy and a telescope—anything you buy will be a gift worth wrapping!