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Choosing Your First Telescope
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So, how to begin?

There is no substitute for gaining a rudimentary knowledge of the sky, especially the main constellations and the brightest stars.

No optical aid is required for this, just a basic guide book.

"Turn Left at Orion" is generally considered to be one the best beginner's books, it is full of useful information and simple guides to the night sky.

The next step is to invest in a good pair of binoculars, usually either 7x50 or 10x50.

The first number (7 or 10 in this case) is the magnification, and the second number (50) is the diameter of the front lens in millimetres.

Beginners are often surprised by just how much can be seen with binoculars, and most amateur astronomers carry a pair as part of their equipment.

Indeed, many of the best sights in the heavens are best seen with binoculars.

It is possible to buy more powerful binoculars, but they can be heavy and difficult to hold steady, and require supporting tripods for best use.

Many amateur astronomers use these more powerful binoculars on the basis that two eyes are better than one, and the view through these can be spectacular.


Beware of newspaper advertisements stating things like "6000% magnification!"  This is very misleading, as this simply means that it will magnify 60 times, not 6,000 times!

Eventually, the beginner will want to invest in a telescope.

It is important to note at this point that a telescope is not just an instrument to magnify objects, and it is better to think of a telescope as an instrument which makes faint objects brighter. For instance, it is possible to see the planet Saturn with the naked eye as a bright "star".

A pair of binoculars will show the "star" as a brighter "star", and will also show a bulge near the edges, which is the rings, along with the main moon Titan.

A telescope will show the dot as a disc, the rings, and the gaps within them, will be clearly seen, and several moons will also be visible, and the more powerful the telescope, the more clearly these can be seen.


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