If you’re looking to explore the night sky as a hobby and get a fresh perspective on life – a telescope might just be what you need.

A telescope’s purpose is to collect light that enables you to observe objects in incredible detail that you’d miss with the naked eye. It’s designed to reveal, the otherwise invisible and cast light on the moon, comets, stars and even landscapes.

To start off with this hobby can be quite a daunting task with certain questions keeping you from even starting. Not to worry – we’re here to help you make an informed decision and start exploring the universe in all its glory in no time.

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An upside-down image?

If you’ve ever looked through a telescope and wondered why the image is flipped upside down, don’t be alarmed, the telescope is not broken. Similar to a lens or mirror, some telescopes present an image that is upside-down, rotated, or inverted. As humans, our brains automatically reverse what our eyes see. You can attach an image erector accessory to flip the image but you’ll lose some of the object’s light. Besides, in space, there is no up or down, and with most objects, you won’t even know they’re upside-down.

Telescopes to choose from

When the time comes to choose which telescope you need, it’s important to know what your options are and what your aim is. If you’re looking to travel often and set up the telescope in under an hour, you’ll need a compact telescope. If the telescope has a more permanent spot in your home, and you have time for a diligent set-up, you can look at larger and more complex telescopes. Whether you’re aiming for the moon, comets, galaxies or nature-watching – the right telescope makes a world of difference. Over the years, three main types were designed: refractors, reflectors and compound telescopes; let’s take a look at each.

Refractor telescopes

The refractors use a lens system to display the images and they use either Achromat or Apochromatic lenses to limit the effect of chromatic and spherical aberration. The Achromat lenses are designed with two pieces of glass that aren’t colour dependent, offering a more clear and accurate perception. Apochromatic lenses are comprised of up to four pieces of glass, producing superb image quality. It requires minimal maintenance, is simple to focus and the smaller versions are light enough to mount on a camera tripod, making it perfect to travel with.

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Reflector telescopes

Reflectors are built with curved mirrors that reflect the light to show an image, it’s great for close-up photographs and viewing of planets and deep-sky objects like galaxies. When considering the price in comparison to the size, reflectors are more affordable. This is due to manufacturers only having to polish one surface compared to refractors having multiple glass surfaces in their lens systems. 

A defect called “coma” is often found in Newtonian reflectors. This implies that stars at the edge of the field of view can come across as long and thin. By placing the object in the centre of the field, you can reduce this effect.

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Compound telescopes

Bringing both of the above mentioned elements together, compound telescopes combine lenses and mirrors to produce an image. They’re known as the most compact design, usually one-quarter as long as reflectors and shorter than refractors with half the aperture. This makes them ideal when you’re on the move. They are usually sold as complete systems as they feature both elements.

Getting the right mount

Never underestimate the power of having a good quality mount. Just as crucial as the telescope, the mount is what the telescope’s tube sits on and defines how it moves. This determines how stable your view is and if winds come to reduce vibrations, having the right mount enhances your viewing experience. 

The Alt-azimuth mounts offers a simple design that moves up and down (altitude) and left and right (azimuth). 

Often found with reflectors, Dobsonian mounts are quite large yet portable. They’re the least expensive option and are popular under astronomers aiming for the moon, planets and short exposures of bright nebulae. 

With our earth constantly on the move, Equatorial mounts were designed to align with the Earth’s axis and move with a weight-driven clock drive at the same pace as our planet’s spin. You often find these mounts with a built-in motor that help you follow the stars as they move. This makes this mount popular with astrophotography of deep-sky objects. 

One of the most accurate mounts is the Go-to mount. It is a favourite due to its ability to connect to an onboard computer that tracks the targeted celestial object without even having to move the telescope. Its motors are connected to the altitude and azimuth axes and follow the object across the sky. Its database is also stacked with thousands of celestial objects to choose from.

Capture the sky on your smartphone

If you’ve spotted something magical, it’s no longer just meant for your eyes – you can now take a photo of astronomical objects and share it with the world. Simply purchase a smartphone adaptor (if the telescope doesn’t include one) and place it perfectly over the eyepiece. You’ll be able to capture the image through the phone’s camera and even apply optical zoom if required. It’s an art form and might take a bit of practice, but with the right tools and software, you’ll be able to take beautiful astrophotographs.

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Astronomy binoculars

If you’re interested in seeing the moon up close, tracking Jupiter’s four big moons, spotting gas-giant planets or observing Mercury low in the night sky, you can consider purchasing astronomy binoculars.

They’re often more comfortable than telescopes as you can use both eyes to observe and have a wide field of view. The objects are also the “right-side up”, enabling you to find what you’re looking for quickly. With no setup required and easily fits in your bag. This is your most portable option.

To get the full experience of the night sky, you’ll need binoculars with at least a 40 mm diameter across and a magnification of at least 7.

Explore the universe with Celestron

Now that you have a better understanding of what your options are, you can finally get into the fun part of exploring beyond what we can see. If you want to read more about equipment and receive some tips, you can read through Celestron’s blogs.