If you love astronomy, a telescope can dramatically enhance your stargazing. But choosing the right telescope for beginners can be daunting. A good piece of advice is to start your viewing experience with a high-quality pair of binoculars. Binoculars are easy to use, portable and less expensive than a typical telescope. You'll also get a sense of what you want to accomplish and what kind of telescope will serve you best. Monoculars can also serve as a gateway to the stars.
Once you start shopping for a new telescope, consider a reflecting telescope if you plan to move your viewing platform regularly. Reflecting telescopes tend to be more compact and lighter than refracting telescopes.
Next, understand the difference between aperture and power. Aperture is the amount of light that a telescope lets in, and it controls sharpness. Power is the measure of magnification a lens provides. Power is essentially how close you'll be able to view the objects you're viewing.
Refracting telescopes are the most common type. When people think of a telescope, a refractor usually comes to mind. You'll recognize a refracting telescope by the distinctive long, thin tube that narrows directly to the eyepiece. Some advantages of this design structure include ease of use for sky or terrestrial viewing, excellent lunar gazing, and less maintenance than other types of telescopes. Keep in mind that these telescopes tend to be longer and bulkier than reflecting telescopes, and usually offer a smaller aperture.
Reflecting telescopes use a set of mirrors instead of a lens to gather light and create an image. One immediate benefit of this design is that you look down through a side-mounted eyepiece, which can be more comfortable than looking up into the eyepiece of a refracting telescope. Other advantages include larger apertures for deep sky viewing and bright images, compact and portable construction, and affordability. However, this design usually requires regular cleaning and the mirrors might require adjustments from time to time.
The best telescope in the world is useless unless it's mounted on a stable platform. The most common mount is the kind of tripod you might use with your camera. A dirty lens or mirror will make your images blurry, or even completely obscured. Find a wide assortment of lens cleaning accessories in our assortment, plus check out lens filters designed to enhance just about any viewing environment and protect your lenses from dust and scratches.