Choosing a Telescope as a Gift
We at the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society (WVAS) believe that if you are going to buy a telescope as a gift,
you should make a good choice that can be used for a lifetime. The price difference between a cheap toy telescope
and a good telescope is not as much as most people think. In addition, telescopes are quite durable. There are many
telescopes that are entering their second and third century of use! Minimal maintenance and care is all that is
generally required for a telescope to last many years.
The smart buyer should investigate the options and know what to look for. A poor choice will result in a telescope
that is hard to use and will end up at the back of the closet. A good choice can be enjoyed for a lifetime and
encourage thought and imagination.
What to look for …. Good Optics, Steady Mount, Ease of use
In looking for a telescope to give as a gift, the things that you want to look for are good optics, a steady mount and a
scope that is easy enough to put together be used. What??? There are a lot of terms used in astronomy and now is
the time to learn some of them.
Some ‘department store’ scopes advertise high power (400x or more). It’s a myth that the higher the power the
better the telescope. Cheap optics and unsteady mounts make these department store scope a bad choice and almost
impossible to use.
Contrary to what many people believe, a lot of astronomy work is done at low magnification. The Moon is an
excellent target viewed by both new and old astronomy buffs alike. We at WVAS observe the Moon for our open
houses at only 50x to 200x. There is a simple reason that we do not observe at higher magnifications. At higher
magnifications, even a slight breeze causes the best telescopes to sway and blur the image. This can cause you to
quickly get frustrated and start loosing interest. Astronomy can and should be fun.
Another reason is that the beautiful twinkling of the stars is caused by the atmosphere. W