Thinking Of Buying Your First Telescope? GDC Astronomer Mitch Answers One Of Our Most Frequently Asked Questions.
So, you want to buy a telescope?
Getting into amateur astronomy can be one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. Wanting to
get a closer look at what’s up there in the night sky is a dream for many; but taking the leap into
buying a telescope can be quite a daunting task.
How much should I spend?
What are all the different types of telescopes?
Which is the best telescope for beginners?
These are all questions I have been asked countless times and there is no short answer to any of
My personal response is do not buy a telescope…
There is nothing that breaks my heart more than to see people with telescopes that sit in the corner
covered in dust and cobwebs. The reason for them being there is people not wanting to put in the
time and effort to learn how to use their telescope properly. This is usually the result of some good
old fashion retail therapy and putting your covid relief payment to good use.
If you are keen on getting into astronomy, I would recommend starting with a good pair of 10×50
binoculars (a decent pair will set you back around $300-$400).
Granted you won’t be able to make out the rings of Saturn or the great red spot on Jupiter, but there
is so much that binoculars have to offer! You will be able to see plenty of open clusters, globular
clusters, the Moon, some bright nebulae and even the moons of Jupiter!
I would avoid going for “Astro binoculars” if this is your first time using them, these are usually
15X70 or larger. Dedicated astronomy binoculars can be quite heavy and rather unwieldy to use by
hand. Pretty much all astronomy binoculars come with an adaptor that allows you to mount them on
a camera tripod for much more stable use.
If you can stick with a pair of binoculars for 6 months and spend that time thoroughly learning the
sky, then it’s time to move onto a telescope. If you fall out of love with it at least you will have a pair
of nice binos to take to the footy.
“But Mitch I want a telescope” I hear you say.
Well if you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket the short answer is get yourself an 8
inch dobsonian. There are a number of benefits that dobs have over other telescopes that make
them perfect for beginners. The first is price, in terms of dollars spent per inch of aperture you can’t
beat a Newtonian. The second is the mount, this is what dobsonians are famous for. A ground-based
alt/az mount slapped on top of a lazy Susan makes this the most user-friendly option for telescope
mounting, it’s quite literally point and shoot. Finally, the diversity of objects you will be able to see
through this telescope is what sells it for me. Whether it’s the rings around Saturn, the coloured
belts on Jupiter, clusters, nebulae, or bright galaxies; there is such a diverse range of things you will
be able to see.
An 8 inch dob will set you back around $800 brand new, but there are number on the second-hand
market at around the $600 mark.
A word of warning: There are two things that you should never do to your telescope as a beginner.
1. Clean the mirror, even if its dusty. That dust is going to have a marginal impact on the optical
performance of the mirror. If you take to it with Windex you will be doing more harm than
2. Adjust the collimation screws on the bottom of the telescope. Unless you know what your
are doing just don’t, you risk throwing you collimation completely out and rendering your
telescope useless until corrected properly.
In closing there is no best beginner telescope and the recommendations I have made here are purely
my opinion. Get out there and start exploring the night sky!
P.S. if you are really struggling check out our tame your telescope course for some hands on help.