H i All;
I was posting an answer to one of the most FAQ's I get from people not into Astronomy and decided to post some of the others here. When I give a talk on beginner Astronomy, I always start with these to clear up common misconceptions. If that's all they remember, I think I accomplished something.
1. Hey, where you pointing that thing? Every one thinks they are the first one to make that joke, like we're a bunch of Peeping-Toms. Usually gets a laugh to.
Then of course there's that "Uranus" thing. Haven't heard that one under 500 times either.
2. What power is that thing? People all think a Telescope just magnifies things that are very far away or very small so we can see them. Although magnification is part of it, more importantly, the Telescope makes things that are very dim look brighter so we can see them. There are Galaxies up there 3 to 4 times the size of the Moon and all the magnification in the world will not show them to you. You need a fat telescope to make them brighter. The fatter the better. Longer will increase magnification, fatter makes it brighter.
3. Can you see the flag on the Moon? No.
I thought you said that was a good Telescope!
There isn't a Telescope on the ground or in space that can see the flag on the Moon. It's not only too small, it's not bright enough.
4. Can you see the rings of Saturn? Thank the good Lord that made me and Saturn, Yes! Saturn is widely accepted as the best object in the sky. I say there are 3 things a person always remembers in their life. The first dollar you make, (since this sight is rated 'G' I'll say) your Wedding Day, and the first time you see Saturn in a Telescope. I've shown it to thousands of people for the first time and the reactions is always the same.
WOW! Amazing! How'd you do that? Is that real? I'm glad the kids no longer say it's "RAD", now it's "Sweet", that's much cooler.
5. What else can you see? Well, if you get a new Telescope, what's the first thing you look at? The Moon. Next? Jupiter. Next? Saturn. Next? Jupiter again. After that, most beginners go for the Messier Objects. There are 110 objects in the Messier catalog. They are most of the biggest, brightest and easiest to find in a small backyard telescope. There are Open Star Clusters, Globular Star Clusters, Nebulas of all kinds and Galaxies.
6. How big a Telescope do I need to see stuff? Any size Telescope will show you something. Of course a bigger scope will sow you more. The smallest scope 60MM will show you the Moon, Planets and about 1/2 the Messier deep sky objects. An 80MM (3.1") will show you almost all the Messier's and much more. After that the sky's the limit.
7. How much was that Telescope? Well it's no big secret how much my telescope was. You can see a picture of it and the price in any Astronomy related magazine. For a good beginner scope you should spend about $300. It's not that big an investment. Of course you can spend as much as you like. But if your not going to get really involved you don't want a $2000 or $3000 instrument gathering dust. A good 80MM refractor or 4 1/2 reflector is a good beginner scope. A little bigger is better but stay within you budget. No matter what you start with, if you get hooked you'll want something bigger later. Then make the serious investment.
Well, that's where I start when I find myself with a large group of interested people. It's lots of fun. Hope that clears up some stuff for all you out there who are unfamiliar with this hobby.