…continuedHow to Choose a Telescope
As the name suggests, a finder assists you in locating celestial objects. All but the smallest scopes need one. Most common is a miniature telescope attached by a bracket near the eyepiece of the main scope. It has a low magnification and hence a wide field of view, and is equipped with crosshairs like a gunsight. Once you align it correctly with the main scope, centering an object in the crosshairs gets it into the main telescope's view.
You need a reasonably big, high-quality finderscope. Look for one that has an aperture (front lens) larger than an inch (25mm) and appears well-made. Dinky, nearly worthless finders are all too common on cheap telescopes.
A popular alternative is the reflex sight, which projects a point or ring(s) of light on the background sky when you look from behind. Many people prefer this intuitively simple option, but you're limited to naked-eye objects because this type of finder has no magnification and no more light-gathering aperture than the pupil of your eyeball. You can, however, still "star-hop" from naked-eye targets to deep-sky objects using the main scope at its lowest power if you have sufficiently detailed sky maps.
Can I Photograph What I See?
Photography of the heavens can be incredibly rewarding, but it's as much an art as a science. The learning curve can be steep, the equipment can get expensive, and getting it right can consume a lot of time. While any telescope will permit you to shoot the Moon, for just about everything else you'll need a scope on a very rigid, well-engineered, and precisely driven mount.
Everything Has Its Price
While it may be tempting, resist the urge to buy the cheapest telescope available. Most of these are poor quality optically, mechanically, or both, and will disappoint. If you've a budget of less than $200, consider good binoculars instead.
That said, quality instruments can sometimes be obtained secondhand that an experienced member of your local astronomy club may be willing to check out on your behalf. Or have you considered building one yourself? If you're gifted with your hands and enjoy working in wood, it's possible to buy the optics and make a top-quality Dobsonian reflector yourself. Again, members of your local club may help.
Even if you have lots of money to spend, don't buy the largest, most expensive telescope you can find just yet. Start smaller and more manageable. If you're just learning to identify the constellations, many of the advanced features of a really expensive instrument aren't likely to be any use to you. And remember not to get something too heavy to set up, take down, and store.
And, remember you need more than glass and metal. Be sure to save some of your budget for additional eyepieces to expand the scope's magnification range, a very detailed sky atlas (essential!) and good guidebooks, and any number of other accessories particularly if you have astrophotography in mind.
An optically superb but massive refractor will be effectively useless if you can't carry it outside, and the largest Dobsonian will not show you the faintest galaxies if the only place you can use it is a light-polluted parking lot in a city.
Consider carefully what you feel to be your primary observing interest, where you're likely to be able to observe, and what is "portable." Weightlifting is good for you, but not everyone enjoys it.
Contactyour local astronomy club, which may have observing nights when you can try various scopes and chat with their owners. Don't be shy. Your local club wouldn't have put itself in our database unless they wanted you to call.
A telescope is a big investment for most people, and the universe is not going away. So take your time. Use binoculars to get familiar with using star charts and guidebooks to ferret out faint, difficult wonders. Doing this will develop exactly the knowledge and skills that you'll need to use a telescope well. When you do buy, you'll then be more likely to make a decision you're really happy with, and you'll possess an effective key to unlocking a lifetime of cosmic wonders.
It's a clear night what are you waiting for?