Choosing a Telescope

Telescopes set up for transit of Mercury
Telescopes set up with solar filters ready for the transit of Mercury
Pic 6: Line of telescopes
Line of telescopes at an observing session

One of the most common questions we get asked is “What telescope should I buy?” It’s not always a straightforward answer – it very much depends on your level of experience, what you are mainly planning to observe, your available observing location and storage options, as well as your budget.

Many great articles are available to help explain the different types of telescope available and pick the best one, so rather than try to rewrite all this advice we recommend you start by reading the following websites:

Royal Astronomical Society – Getting started in astronomy

British Astronomical Association – Starting out

National Astronomy Week – Choosing a telescope

Top Tips from Wolverhampton Astronomical Society

The articles above will give you plenty of information, but here are the top tips from our society to help you decide.

  • Ignore any “toy” telescopes that advertise their incredible magnification power! They will almost always give a disappointing experience.
  • The best telescope is the one you use most often – large telescopes may give better views in some conditions, but are heavy to move outside at night. Likewise, the latest computerised telescope may sound amazing, but many newcomers have been put off the hobby by the complicated initial set up. Sometimes simpler is better.
  • Stick to the well known manufacturers for your first scope, such as Skywatcher, Celestron and Meade (other manufacturers are available, but you can’t go far wrong with these 3).
  • Get a stable mount for your scope – the best scope in the world will be incredibly frustrating to use if it is wobbling when you try to use it. The Dobsonian mount (a basic wooden mount on a turntable base) is cheap, stable and simple to use.
  • Some of the eyepieces that come bundled with the telescopes are not great quality – you can improve your telescope by purchasing upgraded eyepieces, and this is one of the cheapest ways to upgrade.