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Your First Telescope

Ed Ting

Binoculars Maybe?

Your ideal first telescope may not be a telescope at all, but a pair of binoculars. Perhaps you have a pair lying around the house already. Most experienced astronomers keep a pair of binoculars close by, for quick peeks or for scanning the field of view before using their telescopes. The common recommendation is to get a pair of 7X50's, or at least, 7X35's. The first number "7" is the magnification, the second "50" is the aperture of each objective lens, in mm. You want the largest lenses you can comfortably hold.

Many astronomers opt for 10X50's, although you should make sure in advance that you can hold them steady at that power. It seems that the current trend is towards 10X50's, but I still like the traditional 7X50 size.

Finally, there are new "giant" binoculars which can give stunning views of the heavens, if you know how to use them. If someone offers you a view through one of these, by all means oblige, but hold off buying a pair for now. You'll know later if you want them.

OK, so binoculars aren't exciting the way telescopes are. Before I leave the topic, allow me to make a final case for good binos:

  1. Cheap binoculars are much, much more useful than cheap telescopes. Trust me on this one.
  2. Good binoculars can last you a lifetime. As you trade up (or down) your telescopes, you'll still need a pair of binos for quick peeks and scanning. As a result, binoculars tend to be something you only buy once (notice, I said tend. there are many notable exceptions to this.)

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