Raleigh Astronomy Club’s Telescope Buying Tips
Perhaps the #1 question the club receives is asking for recommendations for buying a telescope. We know there are so many choices and the terminology doesn’t always sound like English. Basically, our recommendation varies based upon quite a few factors, so it isn’t as easy as saying “buy this!”
- Who is using the scope and their technical abilities
- Will the scope be used for visual observing only, or perhaps there is an interest in using the telescope with a camera?
- What do you want to see? What are your expectations for the telescope. No telescope, visually, can provide a view like a Hubble photograph.
We run across a lot of really bright kids… But unless they are teenagers they need support. Sending a kid to the driveway with a telescope can do more harm than good. Make it a family activity or parent/child activity to do together!
Things to Avoid
We know this sounds elitist, but we have to discourage many of the inexpensive small telescopes which are often on sale during the holidays. These scopes are fine for viewing the moon and may be OK for planetary viewing. But consider a telescope as a light collector. These smaller telescopes lack the aperture to collect enough light to provide a pleasing view of much else. Also, since they are not on a motorized mount, they are not amenable to taking pictures.
Resources to Pick a Telescope
There are many sources with opinions on the right telescope for you. Here are some of our favorites:
- RAC’s Guide on Buying a Telescope
- Recent RAC posts relating to telescope buying
- AstroNerd’s recommendations (AstroNerd is a RAC member and NASA Solar System Ambassador)
- Cloudy Nights Report on Starting Astronomy: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Still confused? Drop the club an email ([email protected]. Tell us a little bit about what you want to do and we can help point you in the right direction (hint: Either a dobsonian or a simple tracking scope, like a Celestron Nextar).
Can I Buy a Telescope Locally?
Sort of. We see used scopes come up from time to time. When buying a used scope, be sure to do your homework and take it for a test drive before buying. Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, or other local forums are places to look locally. Some local camera stores, such as Southeastern Camera may sell used telescopes. If you know of a local source, please let us know.
NOTE: RAC does not endorse any of these retailers, but some of our members have reported positive experiences working with them)
Most astronomical gear is purchased online.
There are many other general retailers and many more specialty retailers.