Sunday, December 6, 2009

Buying your 1st Telescope

Question: What sort of telescope would you recommend for a beginning astronomer (me) who has a child who is very interested in space?  (She is only 6, so of course interests might fade, but I would like to encourage it while I can).  I would like something decent enough that we can find and see interesting things, but hopefully not too expensive...
Also, would it be recommend to buy one here in Israel, or have it shipped from the states?  (Or even "manually imported" if I can find someone to schlep it...).  Is there a local second-hand telescope market here?


I often get asked that question. I need to work on a more complete  FAQ but here is a quick draft.

First of all, the best type of beginner scope is a pair of binoculars. Any old pair you have laying around the house will give you a better view than your eyes. If you don't already have a pair, you should invest in a quality pair 7x35 or  10x50 pair. (More on what those numbers mean in a future post) [or see the link below] Something like this model  should cost between $50-$100.  

When you are ready for a telescope I highly recommend a 4 and 1/2  inch Dobsonian model. Something like this: Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Orion sells a great Skyquest model for a little more than $200. You'll note that this is a reflector type telescope, not the classic refraction you usually think of. More on the differences in a later post, but you get a lot more for your money with a Dobsonian reflector than any other model.

The 4.5 inch is big enough to get some very nice view of planets and clusters, but it is not too big that it  is a pain to schlep around. It also also very easy for kids (and adults) to work and aim (which is not trivial).

You can bring these  back pretty easily on a plane from the US. I know lots of people who have done it. It is delivered in 2 pieces. The unassembled base, which comes in a nice flat box you can check, and the tube, which you can carry on, and fits nicely in the overhead bin.

You can of course buy it in Israel, but since there is about one store in the country, it costs about twice as much. The Cosmos store is in Ramat Gan. The number is 03-6724303.

If you really have a small budget and are willing to invest in a scope you will probably outgrow quickly, there is a new quality scope the Celestron FirstScope. It is only 3 inches but a quality piece.

For more see also at Sky and Telescope
And some more links at Astronomy Magazine:
    Unlike the advice given in the video above, I do not  recommend a "GoTo" scope for beginners. A good Goto costs way too much and a cheap one will only frustrate you and take much of the fun and education out of the hobby.

    For the 2nd hand market, you can check out the Hebrew Nana astro forum.


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