Every year around Christmas and even throughout the year a question that is asked.
Recommendation for a telescope not incredibly expensive, but more than a toy?
Could you please advise me on what level of telescope to get a family with children as a starter telescope?
This is a hard question to answer since you can get different recommendations depending on who you ask. I would like to hear some of those recommendations from others. Would like to come up with a good guide that could be used to answer these questions. We recommend not to get a telescope from a department store due to quality issues. I have heard some say it would be better than nothing. I like Binoculars as a starter telescope.
Binoculars are always a good way to start out with before getting a telescope.
Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy - for COMPLETE BEGINNERS. Telescopes? Books? Binos? Part 1
For ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS - Part 2 - All about telescopes!
Review of your most HATED telescope - the Celestron PowerSeeker 127! How bad is it, and why?
This is a very good video it covers it really well.
Before buying anything please come out to some of our Club events or meeting to help make an informed decision.
I haven’t watched all the videos, so don’t know if he mentions it or not, but if anyone is interested in astrophotography, not solely optical, then I can now highly recommend the ZWO Seestar S50.
It’s small, light, easy to set up and take down in under 5 minutes, and can capture deep sky objects in a light polluted environment; AND inexpensive! Only $500 right now. The only thing you need besides the scope is a smart phone or tablet to control it and most folks already have one or more of those. You can download the app without having the scope, to check it out. Search for ZWO Seestar in your app store.
The software is easy enough for an absolute beginner to get decent images the first night they take it out. You’ll get better as you use it more, but it’s perfect for a beginner.
You’ll find all kinds of reviews for it online, video and written. It’s for sale at most online astronomy stores, or you can buy it direct from ZWO. I actually recommend buying it from a third party store, as they tend to ship to them before they ship to direct orders for some reason. It’s backordered at the moment, but I’ve read that some who just ordered it have expected delivery times in December. However I wouldn’t count on getting it until the new year.
If you want to view the stars directly through a telescope, then this is not for you. Get one of the optical telescopes recommended above. But you’ll be able to view objects much clearer with the Seestar than an optical telescope. And if you continue the hobby past the beginner stage, you’ll want both optical and an astrophotography rig. For $500, this is an excellent scope to get started taking images! You can get decent images without knowing how to post process right now, but you can save the raw data for when you start learning to process images for even better pictures,
At least 3 club members have one right now, and I think a couple more have them on order. If you want to see one in action, there’s usually at least one at each event these days.
Expectations: Don’t expect your view to be comparable to NASA quality images such as those taken by JWST or Hubble — or even those images created by club members who spend hours imaging and hours “processing.” Set realistic expectations of the views you’ll most likely experience. A book like “Turn Left at Orion” or an online simulator such as this link will give you a pretty realistic idea.
Having said that, prepare to be amazed as you first see the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.
Start: Get out under the night sky as often as you can. The simpler you keep things, the more often you’ll use them. And the more you learn, the more fun you’ll have.
Binoculars: …are a great place to start. Purchase a good pair that you will also use for sporting events, birding, hunting, etc. You’ll likely continue to use them in addition to the telescope you later purchase.
Try BEFORE you buy: (a) Check out at least one or two of the Club’s telescopes first; and (b) Ask your fellow OKC Astronomy Club members to try out what they already have that you might be considering. (A club meeting or member’s nights at CRO can work well for this.) And I love to share!
Here is a good choice for folks that are just starting out in night sky viewing: the Celestron Travel Scope 70mm.
It’s available from almost all Astronomy stores, and Amazon. I haven’t checked the price on all the sites, but usually Celestron keeps the price consistent between retailers. Currently it’s running about $90-100.
I can highly recommend this scope as a beginner’s scope. I used this for about a year and a half after I joined the club, for both personal use and outreach. It’s light, comes with a backpack and tripod, plus a couple of usuable eyepieces (usable, not great). It’s a cheap, easy to use, manual optical telescope that is great for solar system objects and some bigger, brighter DSOs. Easy to add a solar filter to look at the sun.
It’s a great scope to use while you’re trying to decide what advanced beginner or medium telescope to spend more money on.
Combine it with a planisphere and/or an astronomy app for your phone, and you’ve got a great combo.
The planetsphere I like is the Messier Observer’s Planisphere:
It’s available several places, including Amazon. Smaller planispheres are available for less, but I like the big size and all the info that is on it.
A great astronomy app to get is the Celestron Skyportal. It’s a free, lite version of the great astronomy app, Sky Safari. Search for it in your app store.