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OTHER ITA SITES:
Choosing The Right Telescope
Ever since Galileo, people have been pointing telescopes to the heavens and expanding their view of this world by looking outside of it into other worlds. It can be a fascinating and rewarding endevour. You can even meet some very good friends this way as there are usually local star-gazing clubs within reach of almost anywhere in the country that offer plenty of companionship when using your telescope.
But how do you choose from the wide array of telescopes that are being sold today? Well, first of all you need to understand just a couple of basic points about telescopes. One is that magnification is not really the most important characteristic of a telescope. That may seem very strange, but the truth is that the most significant capability of a telescope is it's ability to gather light. After all, what good is a large image that you can barely see?
The light gathering capability of a telescope is usually in direct relation to the size of it's aperture or it's light gathering lens or mirror. Now, you are probably thinking that you just need to get a telescope with the largest aperture possible then, but that is not the case. Somewhere along the line there will be a tradeoff between the size of the aperture and portability. So if you want to transport your telescope at all, you will want to make sure that it is not too heavy and bulky to be mobile. Remember that you will also most likely have to set up and adjust your telescope in the dark if your transport it, so having one that is very large can be a daunting task when you can't see what you are doing very well.
On the magnification factor, you can adjust the magnification of almost any telescope through the use of different eyepieces, so that is not a really important consideration when buying.
It's also important to know that there are three different kinds of telescopes, the reflector, refractor and catadioptric.
The refractor is the kind of telescope that most people think of when they think of telescopes. It essentially has a large lens on the end of a barrel that focuses an image on an eyepiece at the back of the barrel. It's actually a very simple design, but it can also be more costly and bulky than the other styles of telescopes available. It's good for viewing the night sky and long range here on earth, but again, it gets very expensive to produce when you want to see deep space objects.
The next kind of telescope is the reflector, and it uses mirrors to gather the light and focus it on a small eyepiece that is usually located on the side of the barrel. Mirrors are much less expensive to produce than the lenses used in refractors, so the reflector telescope is usually much less expensive as well. It is not suitable for terrestrial viewing here on earth though and it does lose a little light due to the use opf mirrors in it's design.
The final style of telescope is the catadiaoptric which is really a blend of both refractors and reflectors, essentially taking the best of both designs with few of the drawbacks. It is a good all around selection for telescope usage as it is a good choice for both terrestrial and astronomical viewing. They may not be what you expect a telescope to look like but their design is very modern and durable.
Choosing any of these types and styles of telescopes will work depending on what you plan to use your telescope to do, and your budget. The important choice is to embark on a discovery of parts of the universe that you have never seen before.
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