…continuedChoosing Your First Telescope
Be An Informed Buyer
Now that you're up to speed on some of the most important concepts and terms, take the time to peruse the ads and product reviews in recent issues of Sky & Telescope magazine. Search for additional reviews and opinions on amateur astronomy Web sites and newsgroups. Then go ahead and call or write to makers of instruments you might be interested in. Their brochures and catalogs should tell you much of what you want to know; if not, call and ask.
However, nothing substitutes for firsthand experience. The best way to acquaint yourself with the wide world of telescopes is to ask to join a local astronomy club's nighttime get-togethers or perhaps attend an even bigger "star party." There, you can try out and ask about a wide variety of telescopes. (Find an astronomy club or star party in our directory.)
You may also be able to buy a used telescope from someone in an astronomy club. Used telescopes carry risks, including undisclosed damage and no warranty coverage, but they can also be spectacular bargains. You can also find used telescopes on the Internet. (Be sure to take reasonable precautions if buying from a private party online.)
Of course, many buyers will want a new instrument. This should be bought from a source specializing in astronomical telescopes. Many camera stores are excellent sources of astronomical products as well.
If you're set on buying new, be prepared to spend at least $200 to $400, and even then you have to be careful to avoid junk. If this is beyond your means, your astronomical aspirations will probably be best served by buying a decent pair of binoculars and a lawn chair. Remember that whatever investment you make should be of good enough quality to serve you well for decades.