A brief synopsis of the conventional wisdom:

  1. Make sure you really want a telescope.  Many beginning astronomers would be better served by a good quality binocular (7×50 or 10×50 are the types most often recommended).
  2. Visit or join your local astronomy club to try out different telescope types and get advice from owners.
  3. Avoid department store telescopes, or any telescope advertised as providing unreasonably high magnifications (e.g., a 675x, 60 mm refractor).  50x per inch of aperture is a good, rule-of-thumb, maximum useable magnification.
  4. Aperture rules–light gathering capability is far more important than magnification.
  5. A steady mount is as important as any other part of the telescope.
  6. Don’t buy a telescope that is so difficult to move or set up that you will seldom use it.
  7. Make sure you have enough money left over to get a few good quality eyepieces or a good barlow lens.
  8. You get what you pay for.

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Author: Michael Mills