Choosing and Using a Telescope
What are the types of telescope you should consider?
Spotting scopes look like one half of a prism binocular. They provide a right-side up, left-to-right image. Spotting scopes are extremely portable and usually provide a sharp image with magnification of up to 60 power. The image is right side up and correct left to right. If mounted on a full-size camera tripod, this is an ideal telescope for home or apartment, viewing wildlife across the lake, etc. It just doesn't look so impressive!
Refracting telescopes uses two lens groups: an objective (in the front) and an eyepiece (in the back). The bigger diameter of the objective, the brighter the image. In small sizes (up to about 3" or 85mm diameter), they are affordable and yield a sharp image.
Reflecting telescopes "do it with mirrors". A large concave mirror at the back of the telescope is the primary optical element. Because it's difficult to make a good refracting telescope more than about 3" in diameter at a down-to-earth price, we recommend Meade's 4.5" reflector scope for serious amateur astronomers. Conventional reflecting telescopes are a poor choice for terrestrial observation. You look into the scope, near the front, at a right angle.
Catadioptric telescopes combine mirrors and lenses to give the light-gathering ability of a large mirror combined with a compact size. Eyepieces or cameras are at the back of the scope. A variation of this is the Maksutov Cassegrain design, such as the Meade ETX.
Astronomical telescopes make upside-down images.
Astronomers don't care,
but when looking at things on this planet it's a pain.
About telescope size: Bigger is better. There are four types of measurements
Magnification or power refers to how much bigger (or closer) something looks through a telescope. It's easy to compute: divide the objective focal length by the eyepiece focal length. For example, a 900mm telescope with a 25mm eyepiece yields a 36X magnification
I find that for viewing images on earth, or looking at the moon, 28X is plenty! Some makers promise high magnification in order to sell telescopes, not to give sharp images.
Telescope mounts: a sturdy tripod is important. At even low magnifications, the wind or the beating of your heart can cause considerable shakiness.
Meade ETX-90EC Maksutov-Cassegrain Astronomical Telescope and Spotting Scope now has built-in computerized drive system.
Most good telescopes are too big. Most small telescopes aren't very good. Meade's ETX-90EC goes anywhere and presents the finest optical images - bar none - ever made available in an ultraportable telescope.
It's a thing of beauty, too. Go to our Meade ETX page
New flat-rate shipping program: Any items up to 5 pounds delivered anywhere in contiguous 48 states for $5.49 (ground delivery, UPS or USPS)
Chris' Camera Center, South