I’ve been asked several times what telescope I would recommend for a beginner. Personally, I don’t have a very complex scope and am certainly not proficient in the use of the higher end optics. When I purchased my first telescope, I was so anxious to stargaze that I impulsively and naively bought a used Galileo telescope from someone on craigslist selling it for $50. The telescope was a 120mm Newtonian reflector weighing in at around 38 lbs including the tripod:
Properly, it was the Galileo FS120DX 1000 x 120mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope.
I had planned a trip to my favorite stargazing spot in Coudersport, PA: Cherry Springs State Park, a registered astronomy reserve protected from light pollution by the International Dark Sky Association.
For more information (and credit for the photo), read “Pennsylvania’s Dark Secret”
Unfortunately, regarding this particular telescope, things didn’t quite work out as I had planned. The telescope’s tripod shifted underneath my bike and became bent - unusable - en route to my destination of Galeton, PA. However, I was prepared with backup equipment. Alas, my wonderful Meade 9x63 Astronomy Binoculars:
Not like a necessarily needed them while at Cherry Springs due to the immensity of the visible night sky, but they have served me quite well as I use them periodically, keeping them well within reach. Since then, I’ve purchased accompanying solar filters for them via Orion, which have proved an amazing extension of their capabilities, to which I can now use them during the day/night, either to view the thousands of stars beyond urban light pollution or during the day to track sunspots on a much closer star…
…but for those of you who asked for my personal recommendation, what I ended up doing was simply searching for a much more portable and durable telescope which would benefit both me and my son. I couldn’t have purchased a better telescope to serve these purposes than when I came across Edmund Scientifics.
I learned of Edmund Scientifics upon a trip to the North Museum of Natural History & Science located adjacent to Franklin & Marshall College. After speaking to the planetarium coordinator, she recommended the online site after I stated my needs and what I was looking for. Stay curious! Ask questions! If it weren’t for my own active inquiry into this, I may have ended up with different equipment, which may have possibly negatively affected my entire stargazing experience!
Along with the above, the package I purchased came with a weatherproof duffel and an added
accessory necessity, I purchased the tripod. Altogether I paid a little over $400 for it and it’s been an extension of my vision and my mind ever since.
And lastly, allow me to introduce you to you and your telescope’s newest ‘best’ friend, the Clear Sky Chart:
As you can see, this is an astronomer’s noble companion toward planning a successful nightly stargazing session. Clear Sky Charts are more sophisticated weather forecasts, in that they forecast the cloud cover, transparency and astronomical seeing parameters which are not forecast by civil or aviation forecasts. The drawback? This type of meticulous plotting can only forecast outward of 48 hours for a 9 mile radius. Charts for 4,500+ locations are available, which include USA, Canada, parts of Mexico and the Caribbean, along with professional/public observatories, colleges and science centers.
Hope this was useful! Make sure to visit the Deep Astronomy YouTube channel, where astronomer and host Tony Darnell provides a pretty thorough overview on purchasing your first telescope which you will find quite helpful and incredibly informative. As always, stay curious.