How to Buy an Affordable Telescope

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How to Buy an Affordable Telescope

There is something almost magical about reaching out into the universe around us to explore the mysteries that cannot be seen with the naked eye. A telescope gives the opportunity to explore galaxies, planets, and solar systems that are many thousands of light years away. However, the latest telescopes are highly sophisticated items of equipment, and the best models can be very expensive. Thankfully, the range of used and budget telescopes on the market today means people can experience the thrill of star-gazing without spending a fortune.
There are some telescopes around that are designed for the professional or experienced astronomer, but beginners looking for a basic telescope at a reasonable price have a huge range of options available. The main mistake many people make at first is looking for telescopes with high-magnification capabilities. Telescopes do not work on the premise of magnifying the objects they are pointed at; they are, in fact, designed to capture as much light as possible, and magnification is only part of that process. The size of a telescope's aperture is far more important, and paying for extra power is often a simple waste of money. Indeed, excess power can sometimes create a blurred image in telescopes where the aperture of the lens is not large enough.

Factors to Consider When Looking for an Affordable Telescope

There are three main categories of telescope available on the market today, and they all deliver slightly different results. However, all three systems work on the principle of collecting light and focussing it onto one specific point – the eyepiece.

Refractor Telescopes

The refractor telescope is what most people would consider to be the classic telescope. It is a long, often thin tube that is extremely easy to use. It is versatile, and its simple, sturdy design makes it the ideal telescope for complete beginners. People looking for an affordable option may wish to consider buying a used refractor, as they are extremely hard-wearing, and that means they are less likely to be damaged. There are a number of distinct advantages associated with refractor telescopes.

Simple Operation
 

In most cases, a refractor telescope can be used by a beginner within minutes. The telescope's objective lens remains fixed and in position at all times, and that reduces the maintenance and calibration needed to a minimum.

 

Versatility
 

It doesn't matter whether these telescopes are used to observe deep-sky objects or lunar terrains, refractors are all-round performers.

 

Clarity
 

Refractors work well in areas of low light. The telescopic tube is air-sealed to prevent unwanted air currents from interfering with the image, and refractors are preferred by people who want accurate colour depiction.

 

It is generally more difficult to find affordable refractors than other types of telescope. Refractors are larger and usually more cumbersome than other varieties, and this usually adds to the price of new models. However, shopping around for used refractors should still allow people to pick up a bargain. Despite their versatility, astro-photographers and people interested in deep space should be searching for Newtonian reflectors or Catadioptrics telescopes.

Newtonian Reflector Telescopes

Newtonian reflectors use a concave mirror to bend light from the objective lens to the eyepiece. Light enters the telescope through the objective lens, and it hits the mirror before being reflected to a secondary mirror. Light is then directed to the eyepiece for magnification - if that is necessary. Identifying a Newtonian reflector is easy, as the eyepiece is mounted on the side of the telescope. This type of device has a number of advantages over a refractor telescope.

Price
 

In the search for affordable telescopes, people should probably consider Newtonian reflectors as a priority, as they are usually cheaper per square inch of aperture. However, the telescopic tube is not sealed from the air, so calibration and maintenance is often required.

 

Mobility
 

Newtonian reflectors are generally lighter and more mobile than the other types of telescopes, and that makes them ideal for people who like to star-gaze from different parts of the country.

 

Picture Quality
 

Whilst not ideal for capturing images in deep space, Newtonian telescopes are more than capable of performing for people who like exploring the terrain of the moon and nearby planets.

 

One of the most noticeable drawbacks of a Newtonian reflector is the fact that air currents can distort the images it creates. Whilst many people prefer this system because of the mobility it offers, these particular telescopes are usually a little more fragile than reflectors. It is imperative that buyers of used items check that they are structurally sound, as even the smallest of imperfections can seriously affect the quality of the image. Although there will be some impressive bargains around, Newtonian reflectors require a level of maintenance and calibration that may well put beginners to the art of star-gazing at a disadvantage.

Catadioptrics

A Catadioptrics telescope is very distinctive, as its particularly wide lens gives it a thick and stubby appearance. Light floods into the wide tube via a particularly large aperture, and it is reflected off a large, concave mirror onto a secondary mirror. There are Maksutov-Cassegrain and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes available, but both of them offer very similar benefits and functionality.

Overall Performance
 

These telescopes have adopted aspects of both the other varieties, and their use of both mirrors and lenses makes them suitable for almost all star-gazing requirements.

 

Low Maintenance
 

Not only are these telescopes exceptionally easy to use, they are rigid, their lens is fixed and they are air-sealed – meaning maintenance is kept to a minimum.

 

Picture Clarity
 

It doesn't matter what is asked of Catadioptrics telescopes, they perform well in all circumstances. Whether they are being used for deep-sky observations or studying the surface of the moon, they deliver quality images with the minimum of fuss.

 

Adaptable
 

One of the reasons that this type of telescope represents such an affordable option is the fact that it can be upgraded very easily. Buyers have the option of buying the basic unit before adding to it over time.

 

Such is the versatility and ease of use offered by Catadioptrics, there are not too many arguments against beginners choosing this particular system. However, their reliability and ability to adapt to a number of different requirements make them popular with experienced star-gazers as well. They do suffer from some loss of light due to the position of the secondary mirror, and many people are deterred from buying them because of their unusual appearance.

Buying Affordable Telescopes on eBay

A search for affordable telescopes can begin by typing a search term into the text –entry box near the top of the homepage. However, this can mean users have to sift through hundreds of results that don't meet very specific requirements. Using eBay's category-based search facility allows people to hone their search in order to see only the telescopes that really interest them. Such a search always starts by clicking the All Categories menu near the top of the page. This will then present with a list of categories, and the Cameras and Photography option should be selected, followed by the large Search icon located to the right of the drop-down menu. The page will then refresh, and a new list of sub-categories will be displayed to the left of the page. From that list, the Telescopes and Binoculars link should be clicked, and the link to Telescopes from the subsequent menu should be chosen. There will then be the option of further narrowing the search by selecting one or more of the check-boxes on the left of the page.

Conclusion

There are a number of common pitfalls that must be avoided while shopping for affordable telescopes. However, the main mistake people make is selecting a telescope with magnification capabilities that simply are not matched by the device's aperture. In fact, in the search for state-of-the-art features and extra power, many people can end up paying for more than they need to when more affordable telescopes are often more than capable of doing a great job. The great thing about buying used telescopes is that owners are notoriously proud of their equipment, and they take steps to ensure that their prized possessions are well cared for. Exploring the universe has never been so easy, and affordable telescopes don't necessarily mean people have to settle for poor-quality images.

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