Observing Advice

Observing Advice

Basic Rules of Telescope Acquisition 

1). Ideally don’t buy a telescope until you’ve had experience using binoculars. This will help you become acquainted with the sky, it’s seasons and what you can expect to see from your local site.

2). Ask for advice from someone with experience of using telescopes. Join a local astronomical society! Additionally do your homework. Websites such as CloudyNights have numerous reviews based on practical observing by amateurs.

3). Buy the biggest aperture telescope you can afford. You will not regret it. However think carefully first on how you will use your scope. Permanently positioned at a fixed site or must you dismantle each time?

4). Buy a set of decent eyepieces. This is often overlooked when acquiring a set-up.

5). Buy the best mount you can afford. You do not want to have a disappointing experience because of a wobbly tripod or poor tracking.

6). Set your budget first, then apply rules 3, 4 and 5 together, not in isolation. 


The best performance-for-money system is a Dobsonian-mounted Newtonian reflector.

An “altitude-azimuth” mount (up-down, left-right) is easier to use.

If you don’t want to spend a long time learning the sky, buy a computer-controlled (goto) system but this will be at the expense of all the other features.

To get the background knowledge behind this very basic article, BAS can recommend “Star Ware” by Philip s. Harrington, currently 4th edition. It covers telescope theory and practice. It also reviews different makes and even has a section on binoculars. In addition it also offers advice on extra equipment (beware aperture fever) and DIY astronomy stuff.

A great starting point to buying and using telescopes is to download and read Dr. Jane Clark’s guide to observing equipment.  Dr Jane Clark (FRAS) is formerly the Observing Director at BAS and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

She is the Author of , “Observing and Imaging the Solar System: a Guide for Amateur Astronomers“, Published by Springer, 2014.

Download Dr. Jane Clark’s guide to observing equipment

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