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Your First Telescope
"What to expect."

Ed Ting

Next to "What telescope should I buy?" this is the most common question I usually get asked. This is a tougher question to answer than you may think. What you can see depends on a lot of factors, including the type of telescope you bought, the quality of your local seeing conditions, and your level of skill.

Since the quality of your instrument and conditions are largely out of your control, it would make sense to hone your observing skills. Sadly, I don't see this happening much anymore. Observers, eager for instant results, often upgrade to larger and larger telescopes without bothering to learn how to "see" properly.

Seeing well is both an art and a skill. You need to spend lots of quality time with your telescope. The more you look, the more you will see, and the better you will get. As a result, an experienced observer might enjoy deep sky objects in an 80 mm refractor, while a beginner with a light bucket next door is still struggling to find the Orion Nebula.

Astronomy is a patient hobby. Don't be in too great a rush. The cosmos will still be there tomorrow.

OK, now that the lecture is over, here's what you can see with a typical 6" reflector under reaonably good skies:

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