What First Telescope to Purchase?

     This is a question that I get from time to time in an email.  There are actually a lot of option and a lot of things to consider if your looking purchase your first telescope or buy one for your son or daughter. One thing I want to say upfront DON'T buy one of those Big Box telescopes. They are cheap and will not offer the magnification or views that you and your child would want.  You will need to plan to spend from $200 to up to around $600 in my opinion.  There is an excellent article over at Sky&Telescope at this LINK that I highly recommend if your thinking about a first telescope.  Other than that, here are a few telescopes I can recommend.

If your wanting a refractor, I don't think for a first telescope you can go wrong in buying the Explore Scientific AR102 Refractor.  It is currently (it is on sale so the price will go up) $299.99 LINK for a 4 inch achromatic reflector. This telescope will make a planet or the moon have a blue hinge around it unless you also purchase the Baader Fringe Killer filter LINK for $79.00.  It comes with a 8x50 finderscope to help you find objects up in the night sky and then zoom in with your eyepieces. This filter will be screwed into the bottom of your eyepieces.  You will also need a mount, and I recommend the Twilight I mount which is at this LINK for $199.99.  You may want to shop around the Internet and see if you can find the mount/tripod cheaper.  For eyepieces I would recommend the following two (and for any telescope purchases I recommend these two eyepieces):

The Explore Scientific 11mm 82 degree will provide sufficient magnification for objects you may want to see up close. Currently this eyepiece is $159.99 at High Point Scientific LINK. Bottom line, this eyepiece often goes on sale so if your patient and check a couple of times a month you may see it down to $119.99 to $129.99.  Well worth having.

The 24mm Explore Scientific 68 degree eyepiece is a wonderful wide field eyepiece that will allow you to see a wide field in the eyepiece, bringing in objects like the Andromeda galaxy, the Double Cluster, the Orion Nebula and other wide field objects. Great as a finder eyepiece to let you find objects and then put in the 11mm 82 degree eyepiece for higher magnification.  Cost is $159.99 right now LINK though it can go down to $99.99 up to $119.99 (IF I remember right).

Total cost if you buy per above is $899.95.

The other telescope that I would HIGHLY recommend also is the SkyWatcher 8 inch dobsonian reflector for $399.99.  This telescope can provide a lifetime of viewing and allows objects such as in the Messier catalog to really jump out. Now these objects are not color, think black and white and smaller (forget seeing Hubble in the telescope).  This telescope comes with the 8x50 finder, up top, that lets you find objects and star hop using an atlas like Sky&Telescopes Pocket Sky Atlas to find objects. Then you can put in the 25mm or the 10mm Plossl eyepiece. The 25mm gives you a wide field and the 10mm gives you a more magnified view. I still recommend the two Explore Scientific eyepieces, the 11mm and 24mm above, but if your cash tight this scope comes with two plossl eyepieces which can get you started.  You also won't need the Fringe Killer Filter for $79.99 for this telescope.

Total Cost:
$399.99 starter
$159.99 11mm 82 degree Explore Scientific
$159.99 24mm 68 degree Explore Scientific
Total Cost: $719.97

You can thus go for the $399.99 and have a great starting telescope set up.  Pay the $719,97 and your even that must more sweet.  With this telescope, make sure you get a collimation cap with the purchase so you can check collimation (the alignment of the two mirrors) from time to time. It won't need it a lot, but you should check it every three or four months with this telescope.

So there you go! My two recommendations for telescopes if you are wanting to come into the hobby. Check out Sky&Telescopes article.  You can see the difference between a refractor (the AR102) which will cost more to get going initially and is 1/2 the aperture size (4 inch) vs the Skywatcher 8 inch which is double the aperture size and has it all in one package.

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