The question of which telescope is best for the beginner is asked a lot. Here are our thoughts on the best beginner telescope - it really depends on what is important to you! There are many factors, most of which can only be answered by you, to pick the best beginner telescope. Here are some general guidelines to help steer you in the right direction.
Price, portability, what you can see with your new telescope and features such as computerized and GoTo functionality are the common attributes for the beginner to consider.
Price is a very important factor, especially if you are a beginning enthusiast. You may not be sure that you or your family will stick with the hobby for the long run and want an entry-level price just to get you started. Of course, you may find that in no time at all you're ready to step-up to a larger, more feature-rich telescope. Or, your high level of interest in astronomy and desire to have a high-quality, more capable telescope right from the beginning may make the investment in a higher-priced telescope your best choice. No matter your budget - Orion will have the right telescope for you!
The design and size of the telescope has a lot to do with portability and what you can see.
Refractors are the telescope design that most beginning astronomers consider first. A refractor uses a lens that provides a clear, quality view and tends to be smaller and more portable. Refractors can be used for both astronomy and scenic viewing (with a correct-image diagonal). A small 60mm-70mm refractor is one of the most inexpensive investments you can make to get into the hobby. You will be able to see the Moon in great detail, the rings of Saturn, and a cloud belt or two around Jupiter. Smaller telescopes are very portable and inexpensive, but lack the aperture (size of optics/light-gathering capability) needed to see much outside of the solar system like faint nebulae and galaxies.
Some great refractor choices from Orion can be found in the Refractor Telescopes For Beginners category.
If you're looking for the next step up to a more capable, feature-rich refractor, you can explore these Intermediate Refractors.
Reflectors use a primary and secondary mirror to gather light from the universe to your eyes. Mirrors are more economical to manufacture and are available in larger sizes to gather more light and see beyond our solar system. Reflectors are used exclusively for astronomy and tend to be a larger, less portable telescope.
There are relatively inexpensive models that will allow you to enter the realm of deep-sky objects, as well as give excellent views of the planets. A 4.5" to 8" Dobsonian is perhaps the best "bang-for the buck" beginner choice.
With a scope like this, you can see things like the Orion nebula in nice detail, the oval structure in the Andromeda Galaxy, the Ring Nebula in Lyra, and many more deep sky objects. Best of all, these telescopes are big enough in aperture that they will probably last many years before being out-grown.
Of course you can spend more to include computerized capability found in the GoTo and Intellsicope Dobsonians.
Cassegrains make a great portable telescope using a combination of mirrors and lenses. They are very portable, can be used for scenic viewing during the daytime with a correct image diagonal, and are available in larger aperture with less weight to manage.
Here are some great, entry-level Cassegrains for Beginners.
If price isn't quite as much of issue and you want to invest more but still don't want something overwhelmingly large, consider these Intermediate Orion Cassegrains.
As you can see, there are many different types of scopes that can be a great first telescope - consider a few of the factors we've described here before you make your decision and you can't go wrong.
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