|Visual Astronomy||EAA Astronomy||Astrophotography|
This guide is intended for beginners looking to buy a telescope. We recognize there are a lot of choices out there and we focus on what works best for our club members considering the Raleigh, NC area.
When preparing to buy a telescope, one of the first considerations is how you plan to use it. Each section below will take you to specific information about that style of observational astronomy. With big gains in technology over the past 10-20 years, operating telescopes has gotten easier, but that technology adds to the cost. No matter what direction you choose, there is still a lot to learn and explore.
A telescope is primarily made up of two parts: The optical tube assembly (OTA) and the mount. The OTA is the part that collects the light and you look through while the mount is what moves the telescope so you can point it as a specific object in the sky.
Prices may not be accurate, and do not include accessories.
Visual Astronomy – Looking through the telescope by putting your eye up to an eyepiece.
Cost: $300 and up. If that is above your budget, consider investing in a nice pair of binoculars and a steady tripod. Smaller telescopes simply lack enough aperture to see more than the moon and a handful of brighter objects.
Pros: Lowest cost. Simplest to set up. The closest to nature.
Cons: Objects are “faint fuzzies” in the eyepiece requiring careful examination. Larger aperture required to see deep sky objects. Some of the telescopes meant for visual observing cannot be “upgraded” for EAA.
Comments: Most people start here, but in our tech-saavy world, EAA is also popular. If you think you want to play with cameras after a short while, look at the EAA category as those telescopes can be used visually as well.
More information about Visual Astronomy
EAA (Formerly called Video Astronomy) – EAA is an acronym for Electronically Assisted Astronomy. In EAA, a camera replaces an eyepiece to view an object in the telescope.
Cost: $800 and Up. Most of the added cost is due to a motorized mount which can track the motions of stars across the sky (otherwise, all you see is a blurry smear in the image). A DSLR camera can be used with a “T-Adapter” or a dedicated astronomy camera – neither included in the cost estimate.
Pros: More detail can be observed and shared. Most motorized mounts have Go-To to find objects. Easier to observe objects, especially for kids and people with eye trouble.
Cons: More expensive. Mount alignment takes some practice. May require a computer to operate the camera.
Comments: It’s easy to dabble in astrophotography once you are comfortable with EAA. Also, many EAA telescopes can be used for visual observing by replacing the camera with an eyepiece.
More information about EAA Astronomy
Astrophotography – Taking long exposure images of the object in the telescope and then post-processing the data.
Cost: $2000 and up ($3000 may be more realistic to start)
Pros: Smaller telescopes can be used. Beautiful images with detail impossible to observe with your eyes, no matter the size of the telescope.
Cons: Additional equipment is often required (guiding, filters, motor focus, etc.) which makes for a lot of wires and a lot of equipment that all needs to work at the same time. Post-processing can be time consuming and may be challenging to learn.
Comments: Astronomy equipment at the lowest end sometimes lack the quality needed for long exposures. The telescope (optical tube) must be free from coma and chromatic aberrations. The mount must have acceptable levels of periodic error. These scopes are almost always under computer control, so additional software may be needed.
More information about Astrophotography